Showing posts with label gin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gin. Show all posts

Monday, January 21, 2019

Pearse Lyons Whiskey Lifts Liberties. More than a distillery


Pearse Lyons Whiskey Lifts Liberties
More than a distillery

We begin our tour in the graveyard of the former church of St. James, now home to the Pearse Lyons Distillery. Here in the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties we end with a sip of the golden Pearse Five-Year-Old Single Malt, the design and packaging inspired by the former church, now restored and with a unique blue glass spire. In addition, there is also a genuine old pub, McCann’s, on site and some of the tours end there for a drink. 

The late Pearse Lyons on video frame
When you have finished the tour, having heard how Deirdre and Pearse Lyons took over the rump of the old church and the overgrown graveyard (where up to 100,000 had been buried over the centuries) and transformed it, you realise that this is much more than just a business venture, more than a distillery.

We are here for the whiskey of course and our tour allows us quite a tasting, beginning with The Original. This has been raised in US barrels (from the Lyons Town Branch distillery in Lexington) and the vanilla shows. It is a lovely whiskey, citrus and smoke on the nose, sweet, light and a little smoky as you sip.

Our patient guide at this stage is James and he has all the answers telling us that our next whiskey, the Distiller’s Choice is a 3 to 9 year old blend of no less than seven Irish whiskies, 6 sourced by Mr Lyons plus their own malt whiskey (ex ale barrel, Lyons also have a brewery Alltech). 

The Lyons distillery is quite new (though they had set up their equipment in Carlow for a few years before opening here in St Jame’s), hence the sourcing. The blend is perfect, again a touch of fruit (including citrus) on the nose, smooth and sweet and very satisfying indeed.

James was quite enthusiastic about the third whiskey, the Founder’s Choice, a 12 year old single malt. Again fruity on the nose with herbal notes too, sweet, oaky, herbal and spicy on the silky palate and finish. No wonder it is James’s favourite!

Number four is the Cooper’s Select, 42% like all the previous drinks. This a blend of 80% Single Malt and 20% Grain and has spent four years in Sherry cask. Dried fruit and coffee on the nose and that rich combination continues on the palate. This is an after-dinner drink and a very nice one too! But if you fancy it, you’d better act quickly as they won’t be producing this exact drink again.  James: “When it’s gone, it’s gone”.

Yeast at work
The future is represented in more ways than one in our final Pearse tasting, the Single Malt. Its bottle shape is different to the previous four and will be standard for Pearse whiskey in the future. The standard within is exceptional. This by the way is all their own malt, raised in first and second fill Bourbon casks. 

“It is the first five-year age statement Irish whiskey to appear from a new distillery in the whole of Ireland in more than 25 years. Presented in 4,000 individually numbered bottles, this limited release 5-Year-Old Single Malt was produced on two small-batch copper pot stills, and aged in bourbon casks.”

It is sweet, oaky, peppery. Still  young, yet full of promise, all very encouraging indeed. And it was also a bottle that I bought before I left!
James, with the Single Malt

Had an enjoyable taste of their Ha’penny Dublin Dry Gin, a small-batch, pot distilled gin featuring 13 expertly selected botanicals including Geranium, Dandelion, Lavender and Blackberry – all of which would have been growing in the nearby Phoenix Park in Victorian times when the bridge was built. The Ha’penny series also features a whiskey.

The counter where we tasted is set up in the church under a stained glass representation of a cooper at work. The stained glass windows are amazing; one commemorates the area’s connection with the Camino to Santiago di Compostela, another depicts how Irish Whiskey is made; the fourth shows the natural ingredients grown for “uisce beatha”. Amazing how the warm amber light from the windows fills up the distillery interior, reflecting on the copper stills and the Caen stone pillars. 

Outside though, the work is continuing and will continue for a long while to come, as our excellent tour guide Bernard told us. Many a story has emerged from the graveyard and no doubt more to come, all exciting much interest locally and further afield.

The headstones shed light on the trades that The Liberties welcomed in the past. Tradesmen and women who worked as coopers, distillers, linen merchants, shoemakers, bakers, bishops and soldiers have all found a resting place here at St. James’ Church alongside many members of the Lyons family. 

The graveyard is next door to Guinness property and one of the more prominent graves, right up by the wall of the church, belongs to Sir Haldane Porter, an assistant managing director of Guinness at his death in 1944.

The oldest person buried here is Florence Walltropp, 105 years old at her death. They also found five leaded coffins, always a sign of a contagious disease; these five are of one family believed to have decimated by the 1832 cholera outbreak in Dublin.

And the Golden Triangle? At one time, close to 40 distilleries were in operation in Dublin, nestled in a one mile radius around here, better known as the “Golden Triangle.”
Cooper at work
The four big distillery players at the time were George Roe and Company, John Power and Son, William Jameson and Company and John Jameson and Son. Today, the Pearse Lyons Distillery is playing a leading role as the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties makes a remarkable revival.

A visit here is Very Highly Recommended. For the whiskey yes but it is, after all, much more than a distillery. Read more here

* Pearse Lyons greets all visitors during an introductory video to the tour but sadly the great man died last year. He will be missed for a long time and will be remembered whenever a person from the Liberties, or indeed a visitor on his or her way to the distillery, spots the distinctive blue spire.
also on this Dublin trip:
The Little Museum of Dublin

Sunday, January 13, 2019

É a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar. Spirits from the Bog by Micil Distillery.


É a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar. 
Spirits from the Bog by Galway’s Micil Distillery. 

You can take Poitín out of the bog but you can’t take the bog out of Poitín. During Tuesday’s very interesting tour of the Micil Distillery, upstairs at the Oslo Bar in Galway’s Salthill, Pádraic Ó Griallais told us that Bogbean has long been associated with Poitín and they use it as a botanical in their smooth and delicious Micil. Their gin is worth checking out too! 

The distillery and its products - there will be a whiskey in the future - are named after Pádraic’s grandfather Micil, a legend of the bog and its Poitín. Micil is ninety one now and still enjoys a bottle of the spirit every week, shared of course!

Later, Pádraic told us a yarns about Micil. We’ll call this Tús a Phota, the first of the pot. Tradition deigned that the first drop from the pot (still) would be set aside for the “others”. These others were vaguely defined, might be the little folk, maybe dead relatives. 

So normally, while operating in the middle of the bog, that first sup was left in a little container at the edge of the operation (illicit) and, normally, was never touched. But then, one night, the first offering was taken, behind Micil’s back. And so was the second. The third though was still intact as dawn broke. In the near distance, Micil saw a human form lying on the turf. Turned out to be a neighbour who had emptied the two jugs but couldn’t take the high alcohol and fell asleep before he could make good his escape.

Micil had over time "distilled" the three prerequisites of drinking: é a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar. That the drinker should be able to pay for it, able to drink it and able to hold it. The native language here at its most precise.

The Mac Chearra family trace their association with distilling back to 1848, to another Micil, Pádraic's great-great-great grandfather. Pádraic is the sixth generation and has many tales to tell, including escapades involving the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Garda Síochána. Poitín has been legal since the late 20th century and, in 2008, Irish Poitín was accorded (GI) Geographical Indicative Status by the EU.

One generation after another of Padraic’s ancestors made Poitín, illicitly! He himself doesn’t admit to anything illegal of course but does say he picked up a lot from his grandfather. By the way, Micil is the first distillery in Galway since Percy’s, whiskey producers, who last operated in 1911. Pádraic dispelled the theory that Poitín is made from the potato. Theirs, like most, is made from grain and comes in a dark bottle (like much alcohol in the good old days, it was for “medicinal purposes”!).
Pádraic and some of the old gear, plus a few sods of turf and a sack of grain

We’d been talking but also tasting, neat first, and then with ginger beer (Fever-tree) in Micil’s take on the Moscow Mule. It is amazingly smooth, much more of a body than you’d get with vodka. By the way, I’d prefer to sip the Micil on its own rather than with the ginger beer. The again, if I had all day, I might have found a happy medium!
Bogbean

Then Pádraic produced another Poitín, their Heritage Edition, the only one hundred per cent Irish peated spirit, 80% barley and 20% oats. It is quite viscous, he pointed out, the legs slow to clear, the only spirit using peated oats in the country.

The nose is earthy, spicy, lightly smoky. Much the same on the palate, the peatiness there too but not at all dominant. “Very akin to a single malt,” he said, “Very approachable.” We agreed. Do look out for this exceptional drink.

And now we were on to their Micil Gin, a complex gin. It does have the essential juniper but this is “very West of Ireland” and contains local botanicals such as heather flowers, bogbean, hawthorn berry and bog myrtle (used in previous times instead of hops). Juniper, of course, is used and other more traditional botanicals include Coriander (for its citrus), Orris Root Power and Angelica Root Powder (both for their fixative properties), orange peel, lemon peel, caraway seed, cardamon, elderflower and elderberry. The final result means that Micil is somewhat sweeter than London Dry Gin.

It is an excellent gin. You don’t need too much else in the glass with this one. “Micil does the talking itself,” says a rightly proud Pádraic. The distillery is a relatively new adventure. Indeed, up to recently, its space was the place where all the fabulous Galway Bay beers were being produced. Now Galway Bay Brewery have moved to another location in the city and Poitín and gin have moved in and, as he wrapped up the weekly bottle for Micil himself, Pádraic said whiskey will soon make it a trio of divine, if not holy, spirits. Let us pray we are all able to pay for it, are able to drink it and also able to hold it.

Read more about the Micil Distillery here.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Dockland's Post-Christmas Delights


Dockland's Post-Christmas Delights
Curry

Amazing how the Turkey and Ham (and the spiced beef) seem to overstretch their welcome every single Christmas. Time to get out and about and away from the many variations of that particular diet and no better place to head to than the beautifully decorated Dockland on Lapps Quay. Open from 2.00pm (on the 28th December) and we arrived soon afterwards to a warm welcome and a meal that was right on the money.
Broccoli Caesar Salad

Don’t get me wrong  - you may have lots of meats here. They offer Toulouse Sausage and Clonakilty Black pudding among the starters, Lamb and Steak among the mains. But definitely no turkey!

There’s Baltimore Shiitake with all the little trimmings and also a West Cork Crab crepe offered on the Bites to Bigger Bites list. On a previous visit, I had tasted the Chargrilled Broccoli tender stem Caesar Salad with toasted hazelnuts, parmesan crumble, and parmesan cheese (€6.00). This was every bit as good, as tasty, as I remembered.
Aubergine, Mozzarella

And CL also had a winner in her Roasted aubergine, Macroom Mozzarella,  tomato fondue bake, parmesan, pesto (also six euro), juicy and delicious, another lovely “Bite” in this attractive space.

No less than eleven choices (meat, fish, duck included) on the Mains List, pork belly too and fish cakes. The Dahl took my fancy: Spiced lentil and sweet potato Dahl, spinach, basmati rise, poppadum crisps, yogurt (16.00). Superb, a lovely mix of flavour and texture and quite a feed too.

Our other mains was the Thai Green chicken curry, basmati rice, cucumber mint salad (18.00). This has been well tried and tested here and was spot-on, nicely spiced, no shortage of top notch chicken and overall quite a treat.

At this stage too, Beth’s Picpoul de Pinet had proved itself a terrific match to both the mains. Happy New Year to Dockland, to Beth and Harold and their terrific staff. Service was once again terrific - it wasn’t that mighty busy in mid-afternoon - but we enjoyed the smiles and the chats as always.
Dahl
Hadn’t noticed this before but they do have an excellent gin list here, a good mix of Irish and imported. The offer includes Dingle, Blackwater and Gunpowder. Most local of all is Cork Dry Gin and that comes with Rosemary, Lemon, and Fever-tree Tonic (9.00). 

Tanqueray, Hendricks, and Beefeater are among the imports. And here too you’ll find the Botanist. This Scottish gin is a favourite of mine and here they offer it with Lavender, Lemon, and Mediterranean Fever-Tree Tonic (10.00). Bottoms up!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cask Launch for Monkey 47 Sloe Gin. A Quartet of Delicious Drinks from Cocktails HQ

Cask Cork Launch for Monkey 47 Sloe Gin

 A Quartet of Delicious Drinks from Cocktail HQ

Monkey 47 is a German gin from the Black Forest and the 47 bit gets in because they use an amazing 47 hand-picked herbal ingredients to make it. The Sloe gin was launched at Cask last Monday and, yes, the sloes came from the famous forest as did the spruce tips which are added later and there were a few on display in McCurtain Street. 

Andrew Dickey, Brand Specialist at Irish Distillers, welcomed us and introduced us to the Monkey 47 story and the Sloe gin, the star of the evening. Cask's Andy Ferreira was given the task of constructing the menu and, as ever, he did it very well with a suite of four cocktails. He also had a simple gin and tonic in a solid Monkey mug and warned us to try that too before leaving.

Andy praised the sloe gin as being "very adaptable" as he introduced the first drink, King Louie's Punch (Monkey 47 Sloe, Italicus, Myrtle leaf sherbet, Jasmine, and Prosecco. Thought I was getting something to warm me up (it had very cold outside) but this was a cold drink, a big piece of ice in the middle of the bowl. Cold and dry but very nice indeed, served in a china cup.

Cask
The generous folks at Cask were now dishing out nibbles and small (some not so small) bites and we were enthusiastically tucking in, while not forgetting to try those cocktails. Our second one was a tall glass of Pear of Cheetahs (Monkey 47 Sloe gin, Monkey 47, Verjus, Spruce and Pears Soda). The gentle introduction continued here, easy sipping.

The next one was more arresting though. Coffee Mr. Nilsson? consisted of Monkey 47 Sloe, Green coffee, and Lustau Vermouth and had a kick from the coffee, also a bit peppery. One to note.

My favourite soon followed. It was titled Final Call Miss Baker! (Monkey 47 Sloe, White Port, Ancho Reyes, Sweet Cicely Tincture). I had been looking forward to that and it didn't disappoint at all, very enjoyable indeed. And, of course, we finished with that gin and tonic in that big mug! There are some suggestions for more cocktails in the press release below. Cheers!

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN MONKEY MADNESS WITH MONKEY 47 SLOE GIN

From the makers of the botanically-curious Monkey 47 gin, comes a new instalment, Monkey 47 Sloe Gin. Monkey 47’s practically obsessive quest for quality meets myth and legend in Monkey 47 Sloe Gin, which is as versatile as it is quaffable.
 
Final Call Miss Baker!
Aromatic and complex, with huge fruit and juniper notes, Monkey 47 Sloe Gin uses blackthorns or sloe berries, which are harvested after the first frost and macerated for four weeks to let the sediment settle to the bottom. The hydropress process, which protects the berries, then takes place, with the results filtered several times before being put back into the original macerate. Water is added and then in just six weeks, Monkey 47 Sloe Gin is ready to be enjoyed in whatever tipple you fancy, either hot or cold.

The liquid’s mix of earthy, tangy juniper, with rich sweet red berries, and hints of almond delivers Monkey 47’s penchant for exceptional taste, especially when presented in the signature serve; in a hi-ball glass filled with ice, topped with bitter lemon or Sicilian lemonade and garnished with a lemon wheel.
 
G&T in a mug!
Be transported to the Black Forest in winter with Monkey 47 Sloe Gin hot serve, which fuses this nutty and tart gin with Crème de Cassis, cranberry juice, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup and hot water, bringing exceptional pleasure to the palate. Or relish Monkey 47 Sloe Gin in Sloe and Sherry Win the Race cocktail, complete with Fino sherry, Cherry Heering, lemon juice and sugar topped with bitter lemon or Sicilian lemonade, served over ice in a highball glass.

Monkey 47 Sloe Gin is versatile, masterfully handcrafted and distilled in small batches. This liquid is the result of the alchemistic art of distillation that Monkey 47 is renowned for, and is available from leading bars and off licences nationwide, RRP €55. Share your experience on Facebook, follow the black monkey on Instagram or express your joy in 140 characters or less on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Suntory Roku Gin. Six Japanese Botanicals.


Suntory Roku Gin, 43% abv, €45.00 at 34 O’Brien’s Off Licences and O’Brien’s online  

6
There’s a whiff of the evergreens when you nose this, floral and citrus notes also. Clean and fresh  on the palate too, the aromatics still pleasantly at play. Quite a backbone of savoury notes too as you realise that this well-balanced gin is a good one, one that lives up to its premium tag.

With tonic (Fever tree regular), the nose remains clean and fresh. Give the mix a bit of time and more of the flavours and aromas of this nuanced gin emerge before a dry lingering dry finish, a touch of tannin at the finalé.

Roku means six in Japanese and six, including the Kanji symbol, is all over the hexagonal bottle. Indeed, there are six Japanese botanicals inside: Sakura (cherry) flower, Sakura leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea (green tea), Gyokuro tea (refined green tea) and Sanshō pepper. And each, delicately embossed, has a side of the bottle to itself.

“Each has been harvested at the peak of its season to extract the best flavour, and distilled to fully embody the blessings of nature.” Four distinct types of pot stills are used in a process unique to the "Liquor Atelier", the specialised craft distillery for Suntory spirits, whereby “the botanicals are distilled separately according to each feature of botanicals to extract the best flavour and maintain their individual characteristics. For instance, the delicate scent of cherry blossom is drawn out through vacuum distillation in stainless pot stills, whereas the deep flavour of yuzu is achieved by distillation in copper still pots”.

There is of course a big nod to the gin tradition so juniper berries, coriander, angelica seed and root, cinnamon, cardamom, bitter orange and lemon peel are also in the mix.

I’m certain the mixologists will find many applications for this excellent gin. Roku themselves offer just one recipe. They believe that the warm, pungent flavour of ginger further highlights the unique quality of the Japanese botanicals and so they give us the the Roku Gin and Tonic, their Perfect Serve that “evokes the style of Japan”.


  1. Use six thinly sliced sticks of ginger
  2. Pour 5cl of ROKU into a measuring glass.
  3. Add the ginger sticks and ROKU to a long glass filled with ice and tonic water.
  4. Enjoy!
I've tried this GG&T a few times and it is indeed very enjoyable. I tried re-using the ginger sticks in the next glass as well and it seemed to heighten the partnership in this Perfect Serve. Or was that just the second glass effect?


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ornabrak, a ‘distinctive and rare’ Single Malt Gin


Origin Spirits launches a ‘distinctive and rare’ Single Malt Gin 

100% Irish Malted Barley | Five botanicals | Five times pot distilled | 43% Alc.


Ornabrak is the name of the new Irish gin launched at Cask on Monday evening by creator Patrick Shelly. The name ‘Ornabrak’ is derived from the Gaelic ‘Eorna Braiche’ meaning Malted Barley. And the malted barley is a major key here.

Patrick, creator of the successful Kalak vodka, admitted to initially being "not keen to do gin", his personal preferences tending towards whiskey or wine. But then he began to think: "What can we do with it? Most gins have a base spirit of 95% alcohol, a highly industrialised one." 

Patrick and his company, Origin Spirts, were determined to make their own base spirit and so they turned to Irish malted barley, explaining that Ireland is one of the best places in the world for malted barley. They had followed much the same approach with the Kalak vodka, "bringing bright flavours and terroir. It is now one of top ten vodkas in the world so we must be doing something right."

The gin base of 100% Irish Malted Barley is copper pot distilled no less than four times. Then the botanicals are added and it is distilled again, all at the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen. "Very few drinks are distilled five times," said Patrick.

"So we had this beautiful base spirit. How do we get botanicals to match? We started with a palate of 30 and gradually narrowed it down to five, chosen to complement rather than overpower."

The process was meticulously carried out over 36 distillation trials over 12 months, and with input from some of the world’s best bartenders. And the five selected to create a complex and floral single malt gin were Juniper Berry, Douglas Fir Needles, Garden Angelica Root, Lemon Verbena Leaf and Lemon Peel(a little). The pine needles come from West Cork and are used instead of the more normal coriander.


Now Patrick is happy with his gin:, “Ornabrak is one of very few Single Malt Gin’s being produced around the world and its creation was slightly more complex as we needed the malted barley’s richness and creaminess to shine through, while creating a harmonious balance with the botanicals .  

Well that was the talk. Time now to walk the walk. In truth, we had been appreciating the new gin even before the talk, thanks to Andy and his team at Cask. Patrick reminded us that "a lot of our markets like it neat. It’s not G&T everywhere".

I did sample it neat but mostly we were mixing, and mixing with the best, staying Irish as the tonic was the Classic Poachers. Oisin was there on behalf of the County Wexford company who have established themselves as a leading tonic (other mixers too) in a short space of time. "I love your gin,” he said to Patrick. "And have been fortunate to work on your cocktails since you presented your single malt approach to gin and the execution has been excellent." 

Vesper time
And I think we all agreed as we enjoyed the smooth and complex flavours, the long and persistent finish. And we weren't quite finished as the Kalak Vodka and the Ornabrack made a joint appearance in a James Bond style Martini. You can make your own Vesper, recipe below. Well worth the effort as it is a stunning combination, just sip and enjoy the aromas and flavours.

 Cocktail: The Single Malt Vesper

An Irish take on the Classic Vesper Martini

40ml Ornabrak Single Malt Gin,
10ml Kalak Single Malt Vodka,
5ml Lillet Blanc

Stir with ice and garnish with a lemon peel swirl.


The Bottle
The Ornabrak bottle was inspired by vintage apothecary and perfume bottles, and the label by Victorian botanical illustrations. Each botanical was custom illustrated for Ornabrak by one of Ireland’s leading botanical artists, Lynn Stringer. Lynn is a former gold medal winner at Bloom, has exhibited her works at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Botanical Art show in London and has provided illustrations to the acclaimed Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. Lynn is currently chair of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists

About Origin Spirits

Origin Spirits was founded by Patrick Shelley in 2013 and its has since launched Kalak Single Malt Vodka and Kalak Peat Cask Single Malt Vodka. Ornabrak is the first gin produced by the company. Patrick previously worked in the international luxury goods market, holding senior positions with LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) in France, UK, Germany, Austria, South East Asia, and Russia where he had the opportunity to represent some of the world’s top wine & spirits brands, such as Hennessy, Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Krug, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Belvedere.


To Buy
Ornabrak Single Malt Gin (43% alc.) will be available in independent off licences throughout Ireland from 28th May. RSP: ca. 49€.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Excellent Lunch at Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder


Excellent Lunch at Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder
Fill your own bottle

Three of us visited the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder in Killarney for lunch last week. And not one of us tasted a drop of whiskey! Despite being surrounded by 100s and 100s of bottles from Ireland, Scotland, United States and the rest of the world.

Actually, it can be quite difficult to make a choice on the spot. My advice would be to check out the many whiskies on their website and make a short list. Then you’ll be ready for action.
Not just whiskey

You can use that same website to make a reservation too for your food and even for their whiskey masterclasses. I used it last week and it worked like a dream, as it had on earlier occasions.

Of the three, one was a Killarney resident and had not been here before. I reckon they have a new fan, well impressed with the food. By the way, while browsing the listing, my eyes spotted the Blackwater Distillery's Gin with Barry's Tea.
Blue cheese & pear

I had that in mind for a lunchtime tipple and our server said, yes, they had it and that it was proving very popular. I had missed out on it during the Christmas lunch and was delighted to get a taste, even if I had to share it!

You may eat as much or as little as you like here in this friendly place, anything from soup of the day to a substantial pie. Speaking of which, one of our choices was the very tasty Chicken, Leek and Mushroom pie (11.00).
Chicken, leek & mushroom

I was on the look out for a dish I had througoughly enjoyed on a previous visit: the Lamb Liver, with streaky bacon and slathered in a delicious onion gravy and served with sourdough toast.

This time, with no sign of the lamb, I choose the Roast Barbary Duck Salad (11.00). The duck is warm and very flavoursome and is served with a fresh and crunch salad of Apple, Fennel and Celery and also a mustard vinaigrette. Recommended!
Duck salad

CL was also well pleased with her pick: Pear and Blue Cheese Salad (8.00) which combines these classic ingredients in a slightly innovative and tasty way. The pear is sliced. It comes with pickled walnuts and watercress and those nuts were quite outstanding. Again, the salad, just like mine, was excellent, well prepared.

For details of a previous visit, a little more whiskey involved, click here.  

Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder
93 New Street, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Tel: 64 663 5700

Take your pick!
The Yew Tree at The Muckross Park Hotel
36 Hours in Killarney, inc Killarney Brewing

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Glendalough Gin. The Wild One


Glendalough Gin. The Wild One
Gary (centre), with a St Kevin's pose, welcomes us to Glendalough

Glendalough Distillery who, like St Kevin, are soon (well maybe within a year or two) about to move to a permanent home with a great view over the area, use foraged botanicals in their core gin, the Wild Botanical Gin, know all about timing.

Whether in the wood or the mountain or in the distillery itself, timing and that personal know-how is crucial. Both their forager Geraldine Kavanagh and their still-man Rowdy Rooney have that know-how in spades as we found out during a mid-week visit.

One of the founders, Gary McLoughlin, greeted us and introduced us to Geraldine who already had a car load of foraged stuff. She would lead us on a walk through the wooded Glendalough estate and we filled our baskets. Soon, I knew I was in the “wild” when a doctor fly - haven't seen one in years - bit me. Saw quite a few after that but no more surprises.
The still-man

We passed a few beech trees and were interested having been earlier introduced to their Beech Leaf Gin. It is a limited edition with a “beautiful colour” said Gary. Geraldine: “There is just a small window between late Spring and early Summer when the leaf is at its best, when they are soft and good.” 

No point in adding them to our baskets now. But we did add wood sorrel, honey suckle also known as woodbine, and wild blueberries (also known as bilberries or fraughan). Timing again came in to with the latter as their season is just starting and we didn't get that many. On the other hand, the elderflowers are at the end of their season and the wait is on for the berries.

By the way, the sorrel is from the same family as the shamrock. And another note: the Booze Travellers, who visited Glendalough, had a lot of fun with the fraughan (with the word, that is) and you can see it on video here
Geraldine leads us out

Geraldine was “always an outdoor girl, always into wild food from the hedgerows. Wild plants have a better immune system.” After a wild food hunt in May 2011, a bountiful summer, she started doing tours in season and that led to her starting her wild food business. Soon she moved to alcohol finding it “a lazy though interesting way of preserving.

A few years later, Gary and his partners bought a still and started making poitín. “We always had whiskey in mind as well and gin of course. But we always wanted to do something different, something interesting. Why not use the bounty of Wicklow, we thought”. And that was how they linked up with Geraldine.

All four partners, though from differing business backgrounds, “have a great passion for the industry” and now all are full-time with the distillery. “It’s been an exciting journey,’ said Gary. “We are now into 36 countries and growing. Our Irish foraged gin opened doors and it’s just go, go, go.”

 One of the aims of the distillery is “staying true to the tradition and heritage of our ancestors”. The most famous of those was St Kevin who features on the bottle. Kathleen of the Spirits figures somewhere in the legends of Kevin and no surprise that distiller Rowdy named his still after her.


“It is a hybrid,” he told us. “It combines pot and column, a wonderful piece of kit, functional, versatile and pretty!” The initial spirit is made from Irish grain and most of the botanicals, including many of the foraged ones, are added as the process begins. The more delicate botanicals, such as rose petals, have their own later place in the process, and their aromas and flavours are gently extracted by vapour.

The main botanicals in gin are pretty well-known. Glendalough’s juniper is foraged and comes from Macedonia. Their high quality coriander is farmed in Bulgaria. The third main ingredient is Angelica Root from Poland; it has a flavour binding quality (not scientifically proven!) and adds its own natural earthy flavour. Orris root is another common ingredient, dried in the Morrocan sun for five years, and is “very expensive!”.
And as the process comes to an end, the importance of timing features. Rowdy uses his experience plus his smelling and tasting skills to determine when to divert the heads and the tails and leave the liquid he’ll use in the main receptor. “Unlike some, we don't reuse heads and tails. It’s a no brainer for a premium product.”

Rowdy told us he was looking forward to the day when they set up on their new site, a hillside that we would see after lunch. He can't wait for their new garden where himself and Geraldine will grow lots of wild things, “including juniper”. Garry and his partners have indeed very exciting plans for the site and the excitement is building even though its early days. But 2014 was early days too!


Before a lovely lunch at the Wicklow Heather, we enjoyed a gin tasting, going through the four seasonals. The refreshing Spring with gorse (lovely aromas and flavours) and other ingredients (including dandelion). Summer with elderflower predominant, pine, roses, woodruff, lemon verbena and fresh lemon. Get the picture!
Kathleen of the Spirit

In Autumn it is berries, heather, rose-hip, yarrow and crab apples. Seasonal for sure. Winter is earthier, sloes, haws and a little warming spice, a great cocktail gin!

And then we had the pride of Glendalough, the Wild Botanicals Gin, “a gin for all seasons” according to Gary. “Its nose has the freshness of spring, on the palate you have summer flowers and autumn fruits and then the winter spice. Try it with Poachers Tonic.” We did and we could see why it is going down so well at home and abroad. But Glendalough won't abandon the seasons series. “Seasons are brilliant and we will always do them.”
Tasting the seasons

St Kevin's gaff;
the small one!
Their gin range has a few more. I earlier mentioned the Beech Leaf but Gary obliged us also with tastings from their Dillisk Gin and their Sloe Gin. The sloe had remarkable aromas and Garry advised trying it with a little apple juice.

So lots of fun and enthusiasm at Glendalough but lots of know-how as well. Let the journey continue, the story spreading from the lovely hills and lakes of Wicklow to wherever the spirit leads them next. 

The picture on the left shows where St Kevin retreated when his original site became too crowded with fans. He lived in a cave here, the small one, not the large one.