The Spirit of the Irish
by Sheila Swerling-Puritt
A number of years ago it was my good fortune to be invited to tour Ireland with some of my very favourite colleagues. I was enchanted by the north with its rugged landscapes. From the amazing geological feature called the Giant's Causeway I could see the shores of faraway Scotland against the skyline. The beauty of the south, with its rolling green hills and sheep for days, took my breath away.
And oh, the food! England and Scotland, eat your hearts out. While Irish fare was not fancy with lots of sauces to cover the dishes, I don't believe I have ever eaten such wonderful gifts from the sea. The Irish home-made bread was the biggest treat of all. Each village had its own style and I would have gladly eaten their staff of life instead of cake any time.
While many folks adore Guinness, I would rather just write my phone number in the dense foamy head and see what life offers. We were offered abundant good ale and, of course, hearty Bushmills Irish whiskey, which, along with traditional Jameson Irish whiskey, has long enjoyed a steady presence on my bar.
Whiskey has been produced in Ireland longer than it has in Scotland. Although blessed with intense flavours and aromas, Irish whiskeys tend to be lighter than their Scots counterparts because the barley malt that goes into them is less likely to be peat smoked, and because Irish spirit is often distilled three times (as opposed to twice in Scotland) for greater purity.
I recently discovered a range of spirits from the award-winning Cooley Distillery, the only independent Irish-owned distillery on the Emerald Isle. The company was founded in 1987 by Irish entrepreneur John Teeling. Capitalizing on roots going back to 1757 (through Locke's, the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland), he has resurrected the distillery and produces several premium brands of whiskey, including versions of the once-renowned Tyrconnell and Locke's. St. Patrick's Day may be past, but these spirits belong in your glass all year round.
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, 700 mL for $32.95, is a high-quality malt and grain blend with a malty nose, sweet, mild fruity taste and a spirity bite.
Locke's Irish Whiskey, 700 mL for $34.95, blended from malt and grain spirits, is very malty, smooth and satisfying with some heat on the finish.
The Tyrconnel Single Malt, 700 mL for $46.95, is a pot-distilled single malt, pale and elegant with honey notes and a gentle citrus tang.
Locke's 8 Year Old Single Malt, 700 mL for $64.95, contains some peated spirits. It's creamy and delicate from its floral fruity nose through its honeyed roundness and delicious smoky persistence.
Irish aficionados and big spenders should keep an eye out for the Connemara Peated Single Malt at $64.95, an Islay Scotland clone for lovers of a smoky dram; Connemara Cask Strength Single Malt at $84.95, the only Irish whiskey produced at natural strength, around 60% alcohol and brimming with aromas and flavours; and Connemara 12 Year Old Single Malt at $124.95, Cooley's oldest and rarest whiskey and a spirituous gem.
For those of you who prefer your Irish whiskey in a mixed drink, I'd recommend a relatively inexpensive spirit with coke, in a sour, as part of Irish Coffee, or spun into a hot toddy recipe.
Or how about this cocktail named for James Joyce, the Irish writer:
- 1½ oz. Irish whiskey
- ¾ oz. sweet vermouth
- ¾ oz. triple sec
- ½ oz. fresh lime juice
Pour all the ingredients into a shaker ¾ full of ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
For more information, you can contact Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org.