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My Whiskey Journey

My whiskey Journey started in Limerick as a small boy. My Grandad would have a ‘ball of malt’ with my dad when we would go to visit. Discussions and stories would be told around the fire and we would always leave feeling happy having reminisced on some good stories and jokes from Mick (Grandad).

As I grew older, still a small boy, I understood that grandad liked Redbreast, it was easy for me to remember as it reminded me of robins, he also frequented Green Spot and Yellow Spot. They were the only two available at that time in the early nineties to early noughties.

Quite a few years later, sitting by the fire in my dad’s house, we sit back and drink Jameson. At that time, I didn’t understand whiskey, all I knew is that dark caramel coloured substance warmed me up when I felt cold and made for an awkward tasting toothbrush the next morning.

Fast forward to 2019 and I bring my dad to the Ireland and All Blacks game in the Aviva stadium. After the game we find ourselves off-piste at the Ferryman, hoping to find a friendly green bus to bring us back to Kildare. We killed some time in the Ferryman, ordering 2 pints and a drink for Mick, first a green, then a yellow. We both shed a tear.

I was having a coffee with Nigel one day and we got chatting about whiskey, he tried to justify and explain his Dingle addiction. His method being to see a distillery’s tastes and trends evolve over time as you collect and sample each expression as the line grows. That discussion set off a flammable spark in my mind, one night late at night, I couldn’t sleep and was recounting the conversation. I fell hard out of that bed, down the rabbit hole, very deep.

I love the local ethos, so I searched the word “distillery” on Google and looked at the map and worked my way around Ireland until I saw something interesting that I could get stuck into. In my novice snobbery, I refused to consider the large operators like Middleton or Tullamore - the latter being my local - and it had to be the distillery’s own distillate. So, I reviewed everything and landed on West Cork. Over time I acquired pretty much their entire range. Starting with Bourbon barrels and ending with Peat Charred cask finish Glengariff series expressions.

Nigel then got me involved in a few L Mulligan tastings, he thought it would be a good way to start into whiskey, to understand the flavours and tastes. My first was the Pearse Lyons tasting, this included some new make which made me appreciate the variation in flavours along the line. I settled on my favourite being the Distiller’s Choice for its smoothness. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. Nigel even offered me a bottle but wouldn’t take the west cork in return.

As I built up my stock Nigel sent me some samples and this really set me up. He sent me Powers Gold Label, Bill Phil, Dingle, Dair Ghaelach. We did a zoom call as obviously we were still in the man caves at this stage, he explained the Dair Ghaelach story, the Dingle one and then he thought me how to taste and nose whiskey.

My next endeavour was a Powers tasting, the rep from Middleton was sitting beside a log stove fire which had 2 of the new bottles resting on it. The setting made it magical. We tasted everything from Gold Label, Three Swallows, LVA, Johns Lane, Signature and I think a special cask procured by L Mulligans. This was my utter breaking point. Talking online with the L Mulligan crew and listening to their discussion about the various nose of some whiskeys and then tasting up and down the line comparing and contrasting, I was blown away.

I got the biscuit notes, the vanilla, the caramel, I just needed more. The next morning, I went out and bought a bottle of Gold Label and a bottle of Three Swallows. A bit of a naught to 60 moment. I am an impulsive person though!

Overtime we did further tastings; we even did an 8 tasting sample I pulled together from my West Cork selection. Seemed like a great idea, Nigel had tasting measures at 35mls that I sent him, whilst I had the bottle and a glass. Didn’t drink much West cork for a long time after.

By now, it’s in the run up to Christmas 2020, I had a decanter on my shelf which I hadn’t used. I was watching Billions on Sky and set about wanting the decanter filled, so I got some Powers in the new bottle, which is sleek, but is not as classy as the old bottle. Powers Gold Label has been the stable in the decanter since and its never allowed to sit empty.

I met Nigel in the office just before the Christmas break, masked, probably a good thing as I asked him some stupid whiskey questions, which he just had to answer! He gave me 2 Glencairn glasses as a gift, you guessed right, from Dingle. I had been drinking my Powers with an ice cube since the tasting and I could never get the same smell or taste as I did in my original tasting of Powers. I had to try out the glass the minute it was safe to do so when I got home from work. A large Gold Label. (Middleton really need to change the colouring on the new bottle from orange to gold, that’s another days argument).

With the Glencairn, with no ice, I got all of the vanilla, the caramel, the biscuit notes, everything that I adored the first time I tried it. The nose complimented the taste, and It was a game changer. Since then, I only ever drink in that glass so I can get the experience every time.

In the run up to Christmas I bought my dad, some Green Spot and Blue Spot, dispatched with German efficiency from Mitchells’, sacrilegious to buy it anywhere else. I had bought him a Yellow Spot during the year for his birthday, so the band was nearly together.

On St Stephens day, I went to my parents for dinner, I brought the two glasses, dad thought I was

mad. We poured a Green Spot in the 2 Glencairn’s and a standard tumbler. Huge difference. We toasted Mick and worked our way along the line, finishing on Blue Spot. My first ever cask strength whiskey that I liked. We both loved it, the depth, the wood, the nutty notes. Discussed the taste at length and whether Mick would approve. We toasted Mick again and lamented the spot tradition and we both look forward to my dad’s birthday in April as I have the Red Spot on the list for him.

That’s a whistle stop tour of my whiskey journey, from zero to having arguments with my whiskey friends about what we smell or taste. It’s late now, I’m off for something peated and to check my bank account to see if I can squeeze in a bottle of Blue Spot before pay day.

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