Friday, May 19, 2023

Announcing the Spirit of Wicklow Awards. A Celebration of the Garden County by The Powerscourt Distillery

Whiskey press releases

Featuring: Powerscourt.

Announcing the Spirit of Wicklow Awards

A Celebration of the Garden County by The Powerscourt Distillery

The Powerscourt Distillery has announced a very special Award celebrating Co Wicklow, “The Spirit of Wicklow”.The "Spirit of Wicklow" awards aim to celebrate the “Extraordinary Spirit” and uncompromising mindset of Wicklow and its people. Cooperation is seen every day in Wicklow communities, businesses, services, craftsmanship, culture and our connection to the unique and beautiful landscape. Nominations are now open at

Caroline Gardiner

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Speaking about the Awards, Caroline Gardiner, Head of Marketing, Digital & Communications said,  “ As an Enniskerry native, I couldn't be prouder of our unique & beautiful Garden County and the abundance it has to offer. We are delighted to mark this seminal moment for the company with our “Spirit of Wicklow” awards, acknowledging the amazing support we have received since founding The Powerscourt Distillery. The campaign aims to celebrate the passionate and inspirational mindset of Wicklow and its people, seen every day in all aspects of our communities”.


There will be plenty of opportunities to make your “Spirit of Wicklow” nomination across the four categories over the while nominations are open. The categories are:

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There are four categories of awards, each of which relates to Powerscourt Distillery’s Brand Values. The categories are:


·       The Spirit of Wicklow Community Award

·       The Spirit of Wicklow Sustainability Award

·       The Spirit of Wicklow Arts/Sports/Culture Award

·       The Spirit of Wicklow Enterprise and Innovation Award



Nominations open from April 28th to May 30th 2023.

Nominations can be made from outside the County, but nominees (individual or group/business) must be either Wicklow-resident or working with a Wicklow-based entity.


The Awards Winner in each category will receive a specially commissioned Award made from hand-chosen Wicklow Oak from Kiln Dried hardwoods Dromont and created by local craftmanship by Ian Robertson, known for his bespoke handmade Wicklow wood pens , a luxury hamper of Wicklow Produce, including a selection of exceptional Fercullen Whiskeys.


The overall winner, as chosen by the judges, is someone who embodies the Extraordinary Spirit of Wicklow and will receive, in addition to the category prize, a €2,000 bursary to be awarded to a charity of their choice.


Further details, along with how to nominate, can be found at




press release

Limited-Edition Single Pot Still Whiskey Finished in Virgin Garryana Oak Barrels

Irish Distillers, maker of some of the world’s most loved whiskeys, is thrilled to announce the launch of METHOD AND MADNESS Garryana Oak Edition from its experimental Micro Distillery in Midleton, Co. Cork Ireland. A world first in Irish whiskey, this new release is a traditional single pot still whiskey finished in Garryana Oak casks that pushes the boundaries of Irish whiskey.

Created in 2017, the METHOD AND MADNESS brand is dedicated to exploring new mash bills, distillation techniques, and wood finishes in the world of Irish whiskey. The Micro Distillery serves as a blank copper canvas of innovation and experimentation at Midleton where whiskey masters and apprentices come together to develop curious and intriguing liquids to showcase to the world.  

METHOD AND MADNESS Garryana Oak is exceptional in its use of Oregon white oak, which is rare and distinctive for its tough and dense wood properties. Masterfully created by the talented Micro Distillery team and Wood Innovation specialists at Midleton Distillery, the whiskey was triple distilled at the Micro Distillery from a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley, and matured in ex-Bourbon American oak casks, before being finished in casks made from virgin Garryana oak from the rainy Pacific Northwest for between four and 12 months.

The Garryana oak brings a unique richness, complexity, and spiciness to the whiskey and is considered to have an elevated phenolic aroma profile and higher tannins, which contribute to a distinctive array of flavours. This exquisite expression offers aromas of smoked applewood, treacle, and golden raisins, with notes of black pepper, coffee cake, clove spice and malted barley.

Crafted using Quercus Garryana, a species of white oak native to the Pacific Northwest, this limited-edition embodies the distinct character of the region's environment. Garryana Oak is the only native oak in Washington and British Columbia, and the principal native oak of Oregon. This particular species of white oak is known for its tough, durable wood, and its use in barrel-making is a relatively new development.

Celebrating the launch of METHOD AND MADNESS Garryana Oak, Finbarr Curran, Maturation Lead at Midleton Distillery, said, " METHOD AND MADNESS Garryana Oak is an expression aligned with the brand’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of Irish whiskey. The Micro Distillery has always been about experimentation and the use of Garryana oak is just the latest example of our innovative spirit and dedication to producing unique and exceptional whiskeys."

Mairead Callanan, Wood Maturation Technologist, adds: “The Garryana oak barrels have added a unique dimension to the traditional single pot still whiskey, offering a distinct flavour profile and a taste of the Pacific Northwest's terroir.”

METHOD AND MADNESS Garryana Oak will be available for purchase from May 19th, 2023, in Ireland, UK, Global Travel Retail, and online at the RRP of €95. Its US debut can be expected in late 2023.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Smoked applewood, treacle, golden raisins
Taste: Crushed black pepper, coffee cake, toasted wood
Finish: Clove spice, malted barley, coffee grounds

Wicklow Wolf ranges far and wide. All 32 counties and exports to Italy, France and the Nordic countries.

Wicklow Wolf ranges far and wide. 

All of Ireland and exports to Italy, France and Nordic countries.

The honey trap! Latest in Locavore series from Wicklow Wolf

The Wicklow Wolf craft brewery brewery was co-founded by Quincey Fennelly and Simon Lynch in 2014. The location then was in Bray. Now, in the new facility, near NewtownmountKennedy, there is a team of five brewers working under two ex Brewdog employees, John the production manager, and head brewer Andrew. The total number employed is 27.

Quincey told me on my recent visit to the Den they realised early on that they needed professional help and it was Pete, a brewer from Colorado, who got them really up and running.

Not just a sunny day player. Simon restringing hops at the brewery

Not a bad result, to date, for what Quincey,  the CEO, thought would be something of a hobby. But Wicklow Wolf did it so well that their beers can now be found in all 32 counties in the island. Exports go to Italy, France and the Nordic countries, so far! Elevation Ale is their “flagship beer”, followed by Mammoth and Tundra.

They have been brewing here in the purpose built 17,000 sq ft brewery since late 2019. “It is home to our Braukon Brewhouse, in-house packaging lines, hop garden and our Taproom."

The cool part of the taproom

What efforts do you make to be environmentally friendly and sustainable?

Quincey says the solar panels on the roof have been a great investment. “In summer, we take nothing from the grid.” And their electricity charges overall are down by 35%.  I think Quincy and Simon have every reason to be very happy with progress so far!

We met Simon as he tended to the hops at the brewery as the rain lashed down. Not too much to see right now (mid May) but the plants are heading in the right direction and soon “there’ll be a wall of green there.”

Quincey (r) and Yours Truly in The Den

And not just in this little patch. They grow most of their hops on a couple of acres offsite. Simon (on Facebook) declared: “We want to showcase products from farm-field to glass and as a horticulturist we have the in-house skills to be able to add something special to tell a different story.”

“We’ve plans to grow more of our own ingredients in the near future in addition to our own hops, to be as sustainable as possible and do things in a way that has little impact on the environment.”

The rain was heavy that day but being out in the open has compensations for Simon: “Being out in nature in the Wicklow hills! People who work Monday to Friday only get the opportunity to go walking, orienteering and cycling in the Wicklow hills at the weekends whereas my work is there which is great. Although not so wonderful on the days when the weather turns nasty, but when you love what you do it’s not always as difficult.”

Energy costs reduced substantially thanks to these panels.

Simon was restringing the hops at the brewery when we called but all the others had to be done too.The hops will take some time to flourish over the summer, before being harvested in late September, hand picked and added to Locavore Winter 2023, giving a floral, earthy character to the beer, a true reflection of the Wicklow terroir.

How is your brewery connected to the local area?

Well, there’s the hops for one thing. They use local ingredients whenever they can. I always look forward to the latest in the Locavore series and indeed had their Spring 2022, a Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale, as my Beer of the Year last year. Just enjoyed the 2023 version and it is another good one. It a Honey Hefeweizen.

Local, as you know, is always at the heart of the series, and this is brewed with locally sourced Wicklow heather honey from the hives of “our friends in OpenHive” and using wheat grown in the field behind the brewery. The classic flavours of the style are enhanced by the taste and aroma of the fantastic Wicklow heather honey that adds a floral sweetness to the beer and, of course, a taste of Wicklow. Get your hands on it if you can and then watch out for the summer edition and see what they decide to put in that!

In the wild, a pint of Elevation ale in Lynam's Bar in Laragh.

Look out also for their new collaboration with Lost and Grounded Brewers. This India Pale Lager, called Running with Wolves, is dry hopped with Idaho 7 and Huell Melon "to create a savagely refreshing modern style lager”. It is pretty damn good as I realised while sipping a sample at the Den.

Their impressive tap room brings in visitors to the area. As do the brewery tours. Scheduled tours are held every Saturday afternoon in Newtownmountkennedy. “Take a guided tour of our brewery, followed by a guided tasting of some of our beers right in the heart of the brewery.” More info here .

A new favourite (theirs and mine), India Pale Lager

And they also have founded a social running club that will focus on getting “our members out running on some of the fantastic trails that Wicklow has to offer and of course finishing with a well earned beer. Every run will be organised with a running coach who will be on hand to offer any advice and support to our members.” More on that here

All in all, they put a lot into the local area but Quincey is quick to point out that “in return, we get great local support.” And I could see that in the first pub I visited in Laragh where two of the taps had their Elevation Pale Ale and Tundra Tropical IPA available. “I’ll have one of each please!”



Core beers?

The Elevation and Tundra are two of their core beers, also known collectively as the Alpha Pack. Others included are Mammoth IPA, Apex Oatmeal Stout, Wildfire Hoppy Red Ale, Arcadia Gluten Free Lager, Eden Session IPA, Avalanche Juicy Pale Ale, Raindrop Mixed Berry Sour, and Moonlight Non Alcoholic Hoppy Ale.

How do you choose which styles of beer to brew?

Quincey :“It is a collective decision… We don’t always go for the obvious crowd pleasers, we offer a wider selection, that Honey Hefe  for instance and the hop lager you are drinking. We offer quite a variety and don’t always get credit for that.”


When did you switch to cans?

“We did start with bottles and still use them in some situations. We decided to make the overall switch to cans when we moved here in late 2019”. I told Quincy that I had enjoyed a can of sake in a Cork Michelin starred restaurant recently and wondered why Irish restaurants rarely offer beer in cans. He reckons many Irish restaurants are a little behind the curve in their hesitancy. “Lots of fashionable restaurant in London do cans,” he said.

Water. Hard or soft?

It is soft here and suits most of our beers”.

Finally. What’s your typical day like?

“Full of variety.” Lots of meetings of course. And then he was off to have a chat with a visiting brewer from Bulgaria! Never a dull moment in the Wolf’s Den.

Links to my previous posts on Irish breweries

Mescan Westport

An Irish Meaderie

Thursday, May 18, 2023

A dry Furmint! Yes indeed, here's one from Diwald, Austria's organic pioneer. And a Rioja white Maturana

A dry Furmint! Yes indeed, here's one from Diwald, Austria's organic pioneer

And below, a Rioja white Maturana, another rarity

Diwald Furmint vom Löss Trocken 2021, 12.0% ABV 
€21.00. Diwald Furmint stockists: Urru, Bandon/ Mannings, Ballylickey/ McCurtain
Wine Cellar, Cork.  Mary Pawle

Producers Diwald, always reliable, tell us “Eisenhut is the warmest vineyard in our village. It is 100% south-facing, with burnt loess soils. The site gets its name from the ironstone which can still be found here. Furmint requires a long ripening period, which is why the Eisenhut site was practically predestined for it.”

Importer Mary Pawle is delighted to have this listed again after last year’s absence. “Grapes from a 100 year old Tokay selection, late picked before botrytis. Matured on full lees for 8-12 months. With aromas of Williams Pears, it offers firm acidity. A unique wine.” 

Furmint? You may well ask. It is perhaps best known as the varietal used in Hungary’s famous dessert wines Tokaji Aszú but can, as here, be used to produce a dry wine, though the picking time is crucial. 

Colour is a light gold with micro-bubbles clinging to the glass. Aromas are gentle, sweet notes, sour notes. And that tartness and sweetness plus that acidity feature on the palate. Just swirl it around in your mouth and you get the full show before a dry finish. The acidity is reasonably bracing, not unlike some Txakoli wines, so the advice is to take it easy, sip rather than gulp.

The time of harvest for Furmint depends fundamentally on the weather conditions, as this “diva” of a grape is quite prone to rot, according to Diwald: We pick the grapes from a 100-year-old Tokay selection – we pick them late and without botrytis, and then ferment them with a small quantity of whole berries. The wine is left to mature on the full lees for 8 – 12 months, sometimes in stainless steel, sometimes in wood, whatever the vintage allows. Furmint is quite a character: it offers firm acidity, aromas of Williams pears and its typical notes of honey. Always individual, stubborn and fascinating!

The wine is organic and vegan friendly. Diwald have been “organic pioneering’ for more than 40 years, having started in 1976. The grapes have been hand-picked and spontaneously fermented. The label features a drawing of a pair of ground squirrels playing ball, I think!

Wine Folly suggest pairing it with herb-crusted poultry or fish, also try it with sushi and Chinese dumplings.

Highly Recommended.

A Rioja White From The Ancient And Obscure Maturana Blanca

Valcaliente Blanco Reserva Rioja DOC 2018, 14%, 

€21.00 (New to portfolio, not widely available yet) Mary Pawle 

Not too sure that I’ve ever drank wine made from White Maturana grapes before. The grapes are ancient, obscure, according to “…wines are usually light-bodied, with high acidity and flavors that range between citrus and more exotic quince-like fruit tastes…”.

The Regulatory Council of the Rioja DOC say it is the oldest grape variety to have a written record in Rioja. It is mentioned in a text dating to 1622. 

“The most outstanding characteristics of Maturana Blanca are its low pH and high acidity, high tartaric acid levels and low potassium levels. These characteristics compensate the high alcohol levels that this variety can reach.”

This unconventional white by Valcaliente has a deepish golden hue. The aromatics are rich with scents of exotic fruit (banana, lychee), apple too. It is smooth on the palate with those strong fruit flavours prominent especially at the finish where its acidity comes into play and balances it up to a degree, leaving a slightly bitter finish of mid length. 

Quite an unusual wine. And the producers recommend pairing it with creamy, blue and semi-cured cheeses, white meats and, "especially indicated with seafood paella". “Can be enjoyed alone or with good company,” they say. Looking for something different? This could be the one! Well worth a try.

It has been aged in Bordeaux French oak barrels for one year (according to the website) and matured in bottle during a minimum of one year, “obtaining a perfect white Reserva".

Viura is the top white wine grape in Rioja and Maturana is down and distant in third place. For all that, Grapes & Wines say both Maturana grapes (there is also a red) are regarded in Rioja "as of high quality”. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023


The annual Redbreast Dream Cask release is now upon us.

A limited-edition single pot still Irish whiskey with Ruby Port, Bourbon and Tawny Port influence is revealed as the sixth iteration in the Redbreast Dream Cask Series.

Redbreast Irish Whiskey, produced by Irish Distillers at its world-renowned Midleton Distillery in Co. Cork, is excited to announce the release of its highly anticipated sixth edition in the Dream Cask series, Redbreast Dream Cask Port to Port Edition.

Designed and crafted by Master Blender, Billy Leighton, this limited-edition 27-year-old single pot still Irish whiskey is a true masterpiece, bringing an innovative twist to the Redbreast Dream Cask family. Enlisting the support of Blender, Dave McCabe, the pair knew that only the most exceptional aged whiskeys would be capable of creating the perfect sixth expression in the series to preserve the coveted Redbreast Dream Cask legacy and reward loyal Redbreast advocates.

To create this exquisite whiskey, Leighton and McCabe carefully selected two casks from the Midleton inventory. After starting their life separately in bourbon and ruby port casks and ageing for 27 and 28 years respectively, the two exceptional whiskeys were then married together for a final three-month maturation period in two tawny port casks, creating an extraordinary liquid, worthy of carrying the Redbreast Dream Cask name.

Leighton notes: “The two single pot still whiskeys which had been maturing separately were already an outstanding pairing, but the marrying period in the tawny port casks elevated the expression to new heights. The tawny port influence adds notes of baked goods, toasted nuts, and sweet almond, overall making for a complex, full bodied final liquid.”

This unique new release is the first in the series where none of the fortified wine cask influence is derived from a sherry cask. However, the Redbreast DNA still shines through with a strong bourbon influence and the style of ruby port used. Both are then further enhanced by the elegant contribution of the tawny port casks.
Dave McCabe added: “The traditional Redbreast style is mostly associated with the influence of sherry. Saying that, we took inspiration from the popularity of the port cask inclusion in Redbreast 27 Year Old, and decided to push the boundary a little bit further. By using two types of port casks for this year’s Dream Cask, we created a whiskey with a medium spice intensity along with distinctive wine driven characteristics.

We felt a three month finish in the tawny port casks was the optimal time needed, adding new layers of complexity to the whiskey. At the same time, we were conscious of preserving the individual characteristics that these two liquids had gained from their original maturation journeys.”

In March 2023, after an extraordinary journey, the final liquid was bottled, marking the sixth iteration of the series. Standing as a testament to Leighton and McCabe’s dedicated craftsmanship and vast knowledge, Redbreast Dream Cask Port to Port Edition is a captivating, full-bodied Irish whiskey, that provides a complete sensory experience with a complex nose, taste, and finish that any whiskey lover would be thrilled to experience.

Available through an online ballot hosted on Redbreast’s online members’ club The Birdhouse opening on May 22nd at a RRP of €580. A ballot will also be held at Whiskey Live Dublin, where one person per session will have the opportunity to purchase a bottle of Redbreast Dream Cask Port to Port Edition, along with an overnight stay in Castlemartyr Resort for two, transfers to and from Midleton Distillery and a behind the scenes experience at Midleton Distillery with the Redbreast blenders.

Bottled at 56.3% ABV, the casks yielded 870 of the 500ml bottles, each presented in a keepsake book, made from recyclable cardboard, detailing the latest instalment in the Dream Cask journey.

Tasting Notes
Nose: An intense burst of flavour with cassis, stone fruits, and citrus peel to the fore while notes of dried figs and dates along with sweet black cherry slowly tip toe into the medley of flavours. The heavy and medium pot still whiskeys add vibrant and robust aromas of white pepper and clove spice while herbal notes of lemon verbena and thyme weave amongst the nutty praline and baked confectionery that the port seasoning brings to this exquisite whiskey.
Taste: Luscious and textured with medium spice intensity and a balanced oak tannin contribution. Toasted almonds and cacao nibs with a mild earthy character are complemented by the dried fruits and red berry compote. The pot still spices build adding a mild heat of chilli flakes while the influences drawn from the ruby and tawny port continue to provide an abundance of flavour, working in tandem with the toasted European oak.
Finish: Rich and lasting, with the pot still spices the first to slowly fade allowing the wine seasoned oak and fruits to have the final say. 

press release


La Cuvée Du Chat Is A Super Beaujolais. "Top notch Beaujolais at its most gluggable"

 La Cuvée Du Chat

 Is A Super Beaujolais

JC Chanudet La Cuvée Du Chat, Vin Du France, 2020, 12%, 

€28.95 Le Caveau, 64 Wine, Greenman Wines, Bradleys Cork

"Top notch Beaujolais at its most gluggable"

There is a perceived wisdom that it is good idea to rub a furry animal a day, that owning a pet reduces your risk of heart disease. You may not be able to get your hands on a cat or a dog that quickly - you may not want to -  but this gorgeous wine with its smooth silky mouthfeel could well have an even better outcome for you!

Baudelaire’s cat, the one in the poem, may well have had  “un dangereux parfum” but, while nasally and orally tempting, Chanudet’s La Cuvée du Chat has nothing of menace about it at all. Jean-Claude and Marie Lapierre are highly regarded in organic and natural wine circles (if not necessarily in the wine administration circles) and this bottle shows exactly why.

One word you don’t see on the label is Beaujolais even though this 100% Gamay comes mainly from a cru area. Vin de France indeed! Some table wine for 29 euro, this super Beaujolais.

Colour is the typical light ruby. Pleasant, even modest, aromas of cherry and raspberry. But, like the cat of the poem, it does have something of a sexy backbone. Life in the old cat yet, the fruit harvested from vines of 80 years of age.

Superb soft and deep flavours, nice acidity too and a persistent finish. Eminently digestible, easy drinking, full of palatable pleasure and Very Highly Recommended. 

Sediment noted by the way, so might be worthwhile decanting as young wines often are. As it turned out, the sediment was practically negligible.

The label illustration by Maurice Sinet (died 2016, aged 87) always brings a smile. He was better known as Siné and was a columnist for Charlie Hebdo

The beautiful Gamay grapes from these venerable vines are handpicked in October, after which carbonic maceration with natural yeasts occurs in an enamel tank with some pumping over to stimulate activity. The wine is then moved to foudres to rest on lees before finally being bottled with minimal SO2.

Importers Le Caveau continue: After all of that effort we end up with a super supple and velvety wine on the palate with juicy fresh red berry, cherry and blackberry dancing on the tongue. Top-notch Beaujolais at it's most gluggable.

And why no Beaujolais on the label. Because the winemaker Chanudet, like his late father-in-law, has never bothered to obtain “biologique” certification, even though he operates his vineyard organically. He has said that it is not up to the organic winemakers to write “Organic wine” on their labels, but rather to the others to indicate “Chemically-produced wine.”