Irish Whiskey Tasting in Killarney

The days and weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day always bring back memories of my trip to Ireland. Two of the most memorable experiences on my trip was the Irish Whiskey tastings I had in Dublin and Killarney. While I like Scotch, and Scotch or bourbon-based cocktails, I was unfamiliar with Irish Whiskey until I traveled to Ireland. And now, I am a big fan and have a small collection of Irish whiskeys on hand at home – always ready to mix a drink or pour a dram to savor on its own.

I first learned about Irish Whiskey at a tasting in Dublin at the Jasmine Bar at the Brooks Hotel. Brendan Vacations arranged the tasting for for me and my friend Lisa Niver of We Said Go Travel. You can read what I wrote about that experience here, and what Lisa had to say here.

I so enjoyed the tasting in Dublin that when I traveled to Killarney later in my trip, Brendan Vacations arranged for me to have a another tasting at my hotel, The Malton. This tasting put me over the top, and I fell head over heels for Irish Whiskey and whiskey in general. Now when I travel, either locally to a bar for a cocktail, or overseas for a vacation, I want to peruse the whisky/whiskey menu, see what is on offer, and sample something new.

Similar to my experience in Dublin, the tasting was at the hotel bar. I was introduced to Jerry, who asked which tasting I would like. There were several options on their bar menu, and as whiskey was still new to me, I asked him for his advice. Eventually, he poured these three whiskies to try: Greenore Single Grain, Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt, and Knappogue Castle Sherry Finish 16 Year Old Single Malt.

Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue

Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue.

As Jerry and I talked during the tasting (the bar was not very busy), he explained how the aging in different barrels changes the taste of the whiskey. And to prove his point, showed me these bottles from Tyrconnell.

Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey tasting at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland.

Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey – each aged in different casks, producing different tastes.

The same whiskey is aged in casks that previously aged madeira, port, or sherry. The whiskey on the left was aged fourteen years in a single cask. Jerry shared micro-pours of these so I could compare how aging in the different casks produced different tastes in each one. I also learned that Tyrconnell is the name of a horse, and the distillery was founded in 1762 (as noted on the bottle).

Another whiskey Jerry introduced to me was Red Breast. Known as the “priest’s whiskey,” it is so called because it is more expensive, so only priests could afford it (I believe this was decades if not a century in the past when the people of Ireland were so poor that life as a priest provided a stable income – or at least enough to purchase Red Breast).

RedBreast Irish Whiskey - aged 12, 15 and 21 years - tasting at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

RedBreast Irish Whiskey – aged 12, 15 and 21 years

Here the difference was not the type of casks that aged the whiskey, but the length of time that the whiskey was aged. I really enjoyed the Red Breast whiskey – it is very smooth (and I might have purchased some at the Duty Free in the Dublin airport on my way home).

I asked Jerry about the difference between bourbon, Scotch whisky, and Irish whiskey, and he challenged me to a blind taste test – to see if I could tell the difference. I surprised myself by correctly identifying each one – there are distinct taste notes to each. And while my preference now is for Irish Whiskey, I still appreciate bourbon and Scotch whisky – I think it is safe to say they are all in the same spirit family!

Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey, the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey

After I finished the tastings and micro-tastings of the whiskeys, Jerry prepared this cocktail for me – the Lembuca. He created it and said it won an award at a cocktail competition. It features my other favorite spirit – gin!

The award-winning Lembuca coctkail with gin by Jerry at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Bartender Jerry’s award-winning cocktail, the “Lembuca”

Punchbowl Bar cocktail menu at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland - Lembuca cocktail with Bombay Saphire Gin

The cocktail list featuring Jerry’s cocktail, the Lembuca

I thoroughly enjoyed this Irish whiskey tasting and all that I learned from Jerry. If you can see the display cases behind us, I barely scratched the surface – there are so many different whiskeys to sample. The bar also included an excellent selection of Scotch whisky’s, so there is something there to suit everyone’s taste. And, if you are not sure of what to order, or what you like, ask the bartender. Jerry was a wealth of knowledge, and he was more than happy to answer my questions.

I highly recommend an Irish whiskey tasting on your trip to Ireland. Even if there is not a “formal” menu for this, you can easily create your own tasting by ordering a few drams at a bar and comparing them as you sample each. You might be surprised by what you like!

Irish whiskey tasting at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Posing with Jerry behind the bar – look at all those bottles of whisky and whiskey!

My whiskey tasting was arranged and paid for courtesy of Brendan Vacations, but the opinions about the tasting and the whiskey are entirely my own.

Have you tasted Irish whiskey? Do you have a favorite or a whiskey you would recommend I sample? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

https://kierareilly.com/2017/03/16/irish-whiskey-tasting-in-killarney/

The Garrick Bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Sorting through my photos from my day trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, a year ago, I found this image of The Garrick bar on the corner of Chicester and Montgomery Streets in Belfast.

The Garrick pub on Montgomery Street, Belfast.

The Garrick pub on Montgomery Street, Belfast.

I was rushing back from visiting the Titanic Museum, trying to find a bite to eat in the city center before I caught the last train back to Dublin.

Leaving the museum, I asked for walking directions back to the city and recommendations on where to eat. The very friendly woman at the museum provided a few suggestions, one being a great place for Mexican burritos. I wonder if it was the shop right behind the street light that she suggested? I did walk up to the window of a burrito place, peeked inside, remembered that I live in California and can have excellent Mexican or Cal-Mex food every day at home, and moved on to the next item on my list – sampling Short Cross Gin. That isn’t available in California!

My friend Mrs. O Around the World had suggested Short Cross, and as Mrs. O is a fellow gin lover, I needed to listen to her advice. I saw The Garrick and decided to stop in for a gin and tonic.

I did not have much time before my train, as the walk back from the Titanic Museum took some time as I enjoyed the late afternoon sun after experiencing a rainy start to the day. I went inside The Garrick and asked the bartender if they carried Shortcross – they did – and in short order I was drinking Shortcross Gin, “Northern Ireland’s first premium craft gin,” per the Shortcross website. It did not disappoint!

Shortcross Gin and tonic at The Garrick, Belfast.

Shortcross Gin and tonic at The Garrick, Belfast. (Note the top of my head in the center of the mirror).

The bar was somewhat full, and I wish I had more time to stay and mingle (and have another Shortcross), but I needed to catch the train as it was the last one to Dublin. I quickly paid my tab (£1.95 for the tonic, £4.95 for the Shortcross = £6.90), and gathered my things for the train station. When I stepped outside to take a photo of The Garrick, I noticed the quote on the side of the building:

“A nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise.

A nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind.”

A sentiment we should all keep in mind, but particularly apt, perhaps, for Belfast and Northern Ireland. In searching for the source of the quote today, which seems to be unknown, I came across this post from David Ross, who visited Belfast again in July after twenty years away.  He provides an interesting perspective of what visiting Belfast was like during, “the troubles,” assuming you would visit, which many people did not, and what the city is like today, when he returned.

While I do not have his perspective, I do hope that I can return to Belfast, and Northern Ireland, and spend longer than a too-short day-trip exploring. A visit to the Short Cross Gin distillery would definitely be in order!

Note: I traveled to Ireland with Brendan Vacations, but my day-trip to Belfast was planned and paid for by me.

 

 

Cocktails for Fall and Winter

The winter chill in Southern California has subsided for a bit, but cooler temperatures and rain are forecast for this weekend. I often look to the internet to find new cocktail recipes made with the spirits that suit the season. Here are the recipes I discovered and am adding to my cocktails repertoire.

Hot Toddy

While suffering with a miserable cold in December, I searched for Hot Toddy recipes hoping that this hot drink might provide some relief. This recipe posted on Liquor.com by top bartender and mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout features a video on how to make it. I liked the lemon twist with cloves as it gave the drink some cheerful color.

INGREDIENTS:

PREPARATION:
Fill a mug with boiling water and let stand for a minute or two to warm. Meanwhile, stick the cloves into the lemon twist and set aside. Empty the mug and fill about halfway with fresh boiling water. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the prepared lemon twist and stir. Add the lemon juice and whiskey, and stir again.

Irish Cider

Over Thanksgiving, I was looking for a drink that included whiskey. As I happened to have some apple cider on hand, this Irish cider recipe fit the bill, especially since Jameson Irish Whiskey is one of the key ingredients! It was created by Bill Ward at the Dream Downtown hotel’s Marble Lane bar and restaurant in New York City. The recipe was posted over two years ago in this NY Daily News article on Irish whiskey cocktails for St. Patrick’s Day by Gina Pace; it looks like Marble Lane has since closed.

Cocktail cider

Irish Cider – using seasonal snowman glasses!

 

Irish Cider

Created by Bill Ward at Dream Downtown’s Marble Lane

  • 1½ oz. Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • ¾ oz. Blackwell’s Rum
  • ½ oz. apple cider
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. agave syrup
  • Ground cinnamon

Combine the cider, lemon juice and agave and simmer until it’s reduced by about one-quarter to one-third. Let cool. Put all ingredients into an iced cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass and top with ground cinnamon.

Blackberry Fizz

Shortly before New Year’s Eve, I read Spencer Spellman‘s post on 7 Easy Champagne Cocktail Recipes. Spencer is frequently posting drool-worthy cocktail photos, and this Blackberry Fizz recipe intrigued me since it included one of my new favorite spirits, gin!

Instead of champagne, I made our fizz’s with Cava and served them on New Year’s Eve while we were enjoying a quiet evening at home with the dogs. I really enjoyed the mix of the gin and cava, and with the blackberry and lime mixed in, I think this would be a perfect celebratory drink for the warmer months as well.

Cocktail blackberry top

Spencer Spellman’s Blackberry Fizz – the blackberries and lime garnish make for a colorful, festive cocktail.

Spencer Spellman’s Blackberry Fizz

Quoting Spencer:

This may just be my favorite champagne cocktail on the list. Alright, so perhaps that’s because it’s one that I came up with. But it’s really so delicious, refreshing, and fruity. Additionally, it’d make a great summer champagne cocktail for making in batches. Because everyone likes champagne, right? You’ll want to first muddle the blackberries in a cocktail shaker good enough to break up the berries and release the juice. Next you’ll add the rest of the ingredients (except for the champagne) with ice to the shaker and shake. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with champagne.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • .75 oz. agave
  • .75. oz. lime juice
  • Several blackberries, muddled
  • Champagne
Cocktail blackberry ingredients

Making the Blackberry Fizz with Bombay Sapphire and Cava.

 

Candy Cane-Kahlua Hot Chocolate

Believe it or not, winters in Los Angeles can be chilly. When the temperature dips into the 40s and we turn on the heat, it is a perfect time to make hot chocolate. I wanted to make something a bit more involved than regular hot chocolate, and since we had not had any Kahlua in a while, I searched for hot chocolate and Kahlua recipes and found this by Natalie Migliarini on Delish.com.

I love the addition of the candy cane – perfect for all the candy canes that you receive for Christmas and never end up eating. I served the hot chocolate in my Christmas markets mugs from the Christmas market in Budapest and the Schloss Schönbrunn Christmas market in Vienna. It pairs perfectly with my home made sugar cookies for a decadent dessert.

Cocktail hot chocolate

Candy cane-Kahlua Hot chocolate served in mugs from European Christmas markets.

Candy Cane-Kahlua Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 candy cane
  • 3 tbsp. sipping chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 oz. Kahlua
  • whipped cream
  • candy canes

Directions

  1. In a saucepan over low heat, warm whole milk and heavy cream.
  2. Add 1 candy cane and stir until melted.
  3. Stir in sipping chocolate and vanilla extract.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in Kahlua, and pour into glass.
  5. Garnish with whipped cream and candy canes.

Do you have a favorite winter cocktail? Share the recipe or a link in the comments below.

Travel Treasures: Gin and Whisky from Fortnum and Mason in London

During our trip to London this summer, we visited Fortnum & Mason, the classic English department store with warrants from Her Majesty the Queen and His Majesty the Prince of Wales. Fortnum and Mason is popular for their afternoon tea, although we did not take tea there, I wanted to show Dave’s mom the store, especially the main floor with a seemingly endless selection of teas, biscuits and candy.

We explored the main floor, then ventured upstairs to the makeup, perfumes and accessories. Perfumes were on display in an upside-down chandelier, which I thought was quite creative.

Perfume display at Fortnum and Mason

Perfume display at Fortnum and Mason

And the hats, or fasteners, were beautiful works of art.

TT Fortnums hats

I particularly liked the blue one with gold feathers.

TT Fortnum hats 2 editBrowsing the handbags, I saw these beautiful purses by Launer and thought they looked familiar. It turns out Queen Elizabeth is a fan!

Launer handbags. I wish I took a picture of the two-tone styles - they were my favorite!

Launer handbags. I wish I took a picture of the two-tone styles – they were my favorite!

Eventually, I wandered down to the food hall in the basement, and asked about gin, specifically gin that I would not be able to find in the United States. Immediately, the sales clerk suggested Short Cross Gin from Northern Ireland. I had already purchased some Short Cross when I was in Ireland earlier this year, so I asked for additional suggestions (Short Cross is quite good, and I do recommend it!).

TT Fortnum Gin 3The sales clerk offered me a taste of some of the gins on offer, and another shopper joined me in sampling the gin. We were tasting different gins and comparing what we thought of each – it was nice to try the gins before purchasing any and to see the subtle differences in each brand. I decided to purchase Hammer & Son Old English Gin – I liked the look of the bottle as it was packaged differently than the other gins. I think it might be available in the United States, but I liked it so why not purchase some when it was right in front of me?

As you can see, there is quite a selection of gin to choose – going to our local liquor stores here do not offer this selection! I saw Plymouth Gin on the bottom shelf here – I purchased some of the Plymouth Sloe Gin when I was at the Plymouth BlackFriars Distillery in April (read about my visit here).

Some of the gin at Fortnum and Mason

Some of the gin at Fortnum and Mason (the Plymouth Gin and Plymouth Sloe Gin are on the bottom shelf on the left and the Hammer & Son Old English Gin is also on the bottom, fourth from the left).

TT Fortnum Gin 1

Even more gin!

While enjoying the gin samples, the sales clerk asked if we liked whisky – of course we do – and would we like to sample some? We tried some straight, and then he added just a drop or two of water to our cups, which provided a different and deeper taste. We were having quite a lot of fun – soon another couple joined us. The Highgrove Organic Single Malt Whisky was to my liking, and I purchased a bottle.

As the Fortnum’s website describes it:

This single malt whisky was selected and bottled exclusively for Highgrove. The whisky is distilled from Scottish organic malted barley, grown in Inverness-shire and matured in a single, numbered, first-use Bourbon cask.

It was closing time at the store, so our tasting came to an end, the clerk wrapped my bottles in Fortnum and Mason tissue and sent us on our way.

These bottles made it back to Los Angeles, tightly packed and cushioned in my checked luggage. I have yet to open them but when I do, I will remember the lovely tasting experience at Fortnum and Mason!

Travel treasures gin and whisky

A Visit to Black Friars Distillery and the Home of Plymouth Gin

Today, June 13th, is World Gin Day. I had no idea about this important date until I saw my friend Ana’s picture of a Gin and Tonic on Instagram (Ana is also known as Mrs. O Around the World). While traveling in the UK, Spain and Portugal this spring, I tried many different gins and thoroughly enjoyed it. Given that today is a special day for gin, I thought I would highlight one of my recent gin experiences.

While on a tour of Britain in April (Insight Vacations’ “Best of Britain”), our group took a half day trip to Plymouth. Most of the morning was spent on a boat tour of the harbor to provide us a visual history of the importance of this port city. After the harbor tour, we had about an hour to walk around and explore on our own. I stumbled upon the Plymouth Gin distillery and decided to step inside.

Here is a brief history of the Black Friars Distillery, where Plymouth Gin is made, from their website:

The building dates back to the early 1400s, with the most intact part of the distillery, the Refectory Room – a medieval hall with a fine hull-shaped timber roof built in 1431, being one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth. It is thus protected as a national monument and is one of the city’s most precious heritages. The Distillery buildings were formerly a monastery inhabited by the Black Friars. In 1536, at the time of the Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries, the former home of the Black Friars was put to a variety of other uses including being the town’s Marshalsea or debtor’s prison. It was also the first Non-Conformist meeting place and a billet for Huguenot refugees who fled France for Plymouth. The Pilgrim Fathers even spent their last night in England here in 1620. It was from the distillery they made the short walk down to the harbour to set sail on the Mayflower on their epic voyage to start a new life in America, where they founded a new Plymouth. The Mayflower ship forms Plymouth Gin’s trademark label today. Black Friars is indisputably the oldest working gin distillery with records of a ‘mault-house’ on the premises going back to 1697. However, it was in 1793 that Mr Coates joined the established distilling business of Fox & Williamson and the distilling of Plymouth Gin began. Soon the business was to become known as Coates & Co, which it remained until March 2004.

How interesting to learn that the Pilgrims spent their last night here before departing for America! Unfortunately, there was not enough time for me to take a tour; but if you have the time, there are several options offered, including a Master Distiller’s tour in which you can create and distill your own gin recipe!

The Black Friars Distillery, where Plymouth Gin is made, in Plymouth, England.

The Black Friars Distillery, where Plymouth Gin is made, in Plymouth, England.

When I stepped inside the distillery, I bumped into fellow travelers Laurie and Linda. I convinced them we needed to try some Plymouth Gin, since we were at the source after all! We went upstairs to The Refectory – the bar was beautifully lit, and well stocked with other fine liquors besides Plymouth Gin.

The Refectory bar at Plymouth's Black Friars Distillery

The Refectory bar at Plymouth’s Black Friars Distillery

I decided to try the Plymouth Sloe Gin, as I saw that downstairs in the shop, and it looked interesting – and different from the gin I have previously tried. If you can not read the photo below, this is what it says, “Made to a unique recipe that was discovered in notes made by our Head Distiller in 1883. Traditionally enjoyed as a winter warmer when pursuing country sports, now widely used in cocktails, long drinks and as a great accompaniment to cheese. Try it with… Sharphams Brie Style, Quickes Cheddar, Vulscombe Goats Cheese, Devon Blue.” That sounds right up my alley to try this with cheese!

Plymouth Sloe Gin, according to the bartender, it is only available at the distillery.

Plymouth Sloe Gin, according to the bartender, it is only available at the distillery.

The Plymouth Sloe Gin is made by steeping sloe berries with the gin. It has a reddish-pink color. I asked for Fever Tree Tonic, another recommendation from Ana, and the bartender said that is the only tonic they serve!

My Plymouth Sloe Gin before adding tonic.

My Plymouth Sloe Gin before adding tonic.

I tried the gin on its own at first, before adding the tonic. It had a lovely fruity taste, and I enjoyed it so much I decided to purchase a bottle to bring home – especially since our bartender said she thought it was only available at the distillery! She mentioned that she had been in New York City recently, and she found Plymouth Original Gin regularly available. I have since seen it here in stores in Los Angeles, but not the Sloe Gin.

Enjoying a lunch-time gin and tonic.

Enjoying a lunch-time gin and tonic.

We all enjoyed our drinks, and then rushed back to the coach for our next stop.

Tonight, in honor of World Gin Day, I will make some cocktails before dinner. I think a Sloe Gin Fizz with my Plymouth Sloe Gin, straight from the source, sounds just about right on this chilly, June Gloom day in Southern California.

Cheers!

Let me know your favorite gin drink or if there are other sloe gins I should try!