On St Patrick’s Day, look beyond Guinness: the best Irish alcohol, from craft whiskey to posh poitin
17 March 2017 • 9:51am
T op, and indeed bottom of the morning to you, it’s good to be Irish. To be sure, there’s a lift in the Irish lilt, and we’re not talking about sales of totally tropical soft drinks because as Dublin helps haul the country from the economic mire, the Emerald Isle is enjoying a resurgent spirits industry.
All of which means this St Patrick ’s Day deserves a little more consideration. and ignoring the fact that leprechaun outfits still rank highest on Google searches for St Patrick’s fancy dress, we feel an appropriate way to celebrate is to sip some genuine products of origin.
To that end we suggest a mixed bag of distillates that will slake your thirst on the 17th, celebrate the heritage, embrace the resurgence of the island and ward off snakes.
It’s a subject of mass debate, but some historians credit Irish monks with the invention of whiskey. Whatever you believe (and for the purposes of this feature, we believe they did) the Irish certainly enjoyed a useful distilling industry until the 19th century.
A host of factors did for the Irish though, including temperance, both domestically and in key export markets like America and a decision to turn down the column still, the efficient divice that the Scots embraced for grain spirit. By the 20th century distillery numbers plummeted from 2000 to a handful, Ireland suffering a huge spirit set back. But it is now on the mend.
Historians credit Irish monks with the invention of whiskey Credit: Alamy
A cross the country you’ll now discover new distilleries popping up, with the likes of Glendalough. Blackwater and Rademon Estate representing an ambition that could promise much in the coming years. Jameson and Bushmills will be more familiar to drinkers, brands that navigated their way through the distilling turmoil. Elsewhere the rebirth of Cooley provides another empathic emblem, now owned by the Suntory group the company has the financial clout to compete internationally.
C ooley was set up by John Teeling and the family owns the Teeling Whisky Company, the first whiskey distillery to open in Dublin in 125 years. Amongst the gems there is their single malt, incredibly priced considering it offers up whiskeys aged for up to 23 years and a complex maturation combination in sherry, port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon casks. Available from the Whisky Exchange for £39.95.
Dunville s Very Rare 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey and Roe Co. Whiskey
I f you’re after a northern Irish single malt then try Dunville’s Very Rare 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey from the Echlinville finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. Available from Master of Malt for £44.62.
For something sweet and suitable in a long drink, try Roe Co. A blend of whiskey from around the island, matured in first fill American oak for a sweeter profile with a touch of ripe pear. Roe Co will eventually find a home in a new distillery being constructed in the power station at St James’s Gate, home to the Guinness Brewery available to pre-order on Master of Malt (see recipe from Delahunt below).
Rademon Estate Distillery presents Shortcross Gin, an excellent exponent of the spirit with plenty of juniper and some woody notes, balanced by a burst of fruit. £39.95, Master of Malt .
Shortcross Gin, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Glendalough
T he Shed distillery will launch a pot still whiskey in the future, for now they bide time with Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, vapour infused oriental lemon and lime, fresh grapefruit and gunpowder tea. £31.50, Master of Malt .
G lendalough has seasonal varieties, the last we tried was the nettle watermint, clover flowers, ground ivy, heather, rosehip, meadowsweet, rosemary, blackberries and sloes. £39.45, Whisky Exchange .
In its original form, an illicit and potent poitín could prove more addictive than good craic and left more than a few Irish eyes bleeding, but new producers are using the traditions as an impetus to make safer liquids.
Ban Poitin and Glendalough Poitin
A mongst them is Bán Poitín, pronounced ‘born’, distilling from potatoes farmed by themselves, making it a true home-grown hero, Bán Poitín. £35.45, Whisky Exchange .
Glendalough also produces a selection, one rested in sherry casks for a richer profile. £32.45, Whisky Exchange .
Irish Cream Liqueur
Coole Swan is a useful bet for lovers of a liqueur. Fresh cream, Irish whiskey to fortify and Belgian chocolate in the mix makes for a rich and delicious sip of substance. Vanilla in the middle and a touch nut sticking out on the finish, it’s a perfect after dinner drink. Coole Swan £19.95, Whisky Exchange .
Delahunt is one of the new wave of restaurants and bars currently dialling up the drink and dining quality in Dublin. They serve this cocktail using Roe Co.
Roe Co. Honey Blend
- 20ml Roe Co.
- 2 spritz of honey and unsalted butter wash with Roe Co
- 1 drop of poppy seed tincture
- For the spritz of honey: Melt 150g of unsalted Irish butter with 200ml of Irish Honey. Once melted, pour it over 700ml of Roe Co, freeze it for a couple of hours until the fat solidifies and can easily be skimmed off. Then strain through a coffee filter.
- For the tincture: Place 100g of crushed poppy seeds in 300ml of Ketel One Vodka. Let them rest for 7 days and strain via a cheesecloth.
- Serve neat in a rocks glass.
T he Thinking Drinkers are drinks experts and comedy performers. They return to the Edinburgh Fringe with a brand-new show this August and have a monthly tasting residency in London’s Museum of Comedy. For all dates visit www.thinkingdrinkers.com