Teeling in Dublin

For our second tasting we taxied across town to Teeling Distillery, the one that actually produces and distills in Dublin.  Yes aging is done outside Dublin, but the making of the product is done in town. Aging is expensive as it consists of hundreds of barrels sitting in warehouses doing nothing more than gathering flavours and tannins from the wood over extended periods of time.  

One can argue that the real magic of whiskey is in the aging and the place where the product is aged, the terroir, to go all wine-maker on you and there may be some truth in that. Jack Daniel’s tastes like water from their spring and the countryside around Lynchburg TN, where that particular product is aged.  Scottish Whiskey aficionados claim that Islay tastes like Islay, while those along the River Livet say the highlands flavour comes through. Wine snobs are certain they can tell if the vintner was left-handed or right-handed from various characteristics they claim to taste from a swig of ski-doo pack wine from Hamilton.  

We call bullshit across the board.  We test for three things in total. Our palates test for two;  1) Does it taste good? 2) Do I want some more? The third characteristic is more a physical reaction  3) Why are my ankles not working any more? (See point 2) A simple formula that has never led us astray in +20 years of skilled-professional/gifted-amateur level drinking.

The Teeling Distillery also has a long history as well, but has risen essentially from a closed distillery in the family, with inventory, to a fully working shop that triple-distills their products in pot stills.  Do watch the video on their website for a nice appreciation of their craft. The tour was ideal, the guide being well-schooled and knowledgeable about the process and the craft. Being in a working distillery, it’s noisy and hot but well worth the trip.  The tasting flight was different from Jameson’s, as all of Teeling product is pot-still made, the three stills being named after the daughters of the founding brothers.

Tasting notes: Does it taste good?  Hell yeah. Do I want more? Hell yeah.  Are my ankles still working? Yep, fine, as with any tasting flight, there isn’t enough actual product to cause ankle impairment. Between the two, Jameson’s and Teeling, which would I prefer?  The answer is yes.

 

Jameson’s in Dublin

Scrim and I like whiskey.  Scottish or Irish, no matter.  We have also tried the Japanese offerings, but have stopped short of tipples from places like Cyprus or Madagascar.  We’re certain the offerings are tasty, but it is much like looking for real Southern Fried Chicken in Taiwan or Egypt:  If you find it, it won’t hit the mark.

Jameson’s has been distilling whiskey since shortly after the earth cooled and matures the product for a minimum of three years plus a day to be called Irish Whiskey. There are literally thousands of stories about the golden nectar, both Scottish and Irish and we won’t be retelling them here. Suffice to say Jameson’s is the purveyor of a lot of Irish Whiskey.  

The Jameson’s distillery in Dublin is not an actual working distillery any more. Being in the city, land is expensive and to age Irish Whiskey you need a lot of land for the warehousing and aging of the product.  However, the tour is in the former location, where a reasonable percentage of the original works are preserved and presented to the visitors.

There is a tour, telling the story of the company.  Scrim got to sit in the recreation of Jameson’s office as part of the tour.  There is also a tasting of various kinds of Jameson’s products led by someone who has at least memorized the spiel.  Yes, you are presented with a flight of column still and pot still products, but the quantity for a tasting is never much more than a tablespoon or so of each.

You would have to take fifteen tours in a row to get shit-faced and frankly, getting shit-faced isn’t the objective. The objective is to appreciate the history and savor some of the product, nothing the differences between them and developing an appreciation for the art of the distiller.  We did. 

Tasting notes from the tour?  Jeez but they make good hooch!  The slightly longer tasting notes comes back to how the original liquor is made, before it hits the barrel.  A column still is very much a continuous process of distilling the mash to create the first strike.  This is almost exactly how vodka is made, as the objective is quantity of production.  Pot stills are batch processes, in that the still is loaded with mash then heated and run until all the mash is boiled off, less the lees that always remain.  Clean the pot, load it up, do it again. 

There is a difference in the product that you can really only discover tasting different types back to back.  The pot still product, after aging is a more complex flavour to my mouth.  Jameson’s has kept one of their original pot stills around on display in the courtyard, so you can see the scale of the thing. 

Which is better?  It depends on your taste and what you like.  Any of the Jameson’s products are eminently drinkable.     

Dublin Again

The Paramount Hotel, our digs for two nights, is in the Temple Bar section of Dublin, meaning it is a tourist destination.  To quote our taxi driver on the outbound trip “Temple Bar is full of damned tourists and is shiite if you want to see the real Dublin”  Oh well, we already had reservations, so we stuck with our plan. The taxi driver was right, it was shiite. The hotel was originally either a whorehouse or was fifteen different slums bashed together and called a hotel.  There was nothing wrong with it, except getting to your room meant walking in ever changing directions up and down tiny flights of stairs at odd angles in strange directions in some kind of triangle pattern.  Temple Bar is the neighbourhood and it is somewhat famous from books and movies, which also means it attracts tourists looking for something memorable.  By comparison, the Byward Market in Ottawa, or the Distillery district in Toronto would be equivalents, meaning lots of shops, restaurants and bars interspersed with historical structures.

We dined that first night at the Porterhouse Pub, simple fare, as we were tired from our trip across the Irish Sea and retired comparatively early, still on boat time mentally.  This was disturbed at 0600 by the sounds of kegs. Bars, of which Temple Bar has hundreds, require beer. Beer is transported in steel kegs. Empties must be removed and full ones delivered each morning to keep the thirsty patrons at bay.  We lay there, half dozing and hoping the sound would cease, allowing us to nod back off on a Monday morning. No. It would seem that Monday is the prime delivery day and 0600 the prime delivery time, for at least a friggin hour. Bang, clank, rumble, Bang, clank, rumble.  Repeat until you wish to do someone harm.

If we’re going to be up, then at least we can eat, so we adjourned to a joint just across the street that said it had breakfast.  Pinocchio’s was the name and yes, they did have breakfast. You could have toast and coffee. Groggily we agreed to toast and coffee, then noticing a large fiberglass Pinocchio head over in the corner, glaring at us the whole time.  Why an Italian pasta joint would have a fiberglass Pinocchio head, football mascot sized is the first puzzle. The second puzzle was why do you advertise breakfast if all you have is toast?

Our first stop was luggage.  Rob’s rolling bag decided after the miles of travel to blow a handle.  The telescoping handle wouldn’t retract any more, so rather than sacrifice his bag to Air Canada in a couple of days, we found a luggage store and obtained a new bag.  Since my contribution at this point was to stand around and look handsome, I figured I would help the staff load in a shipment of a couple of pallets of bags that were kindly dropped off in the road in front of the store. 

Across the street from the hotel was a place we both noted in our brains for sensible reasons.  If we returned home without some kind of treasures for our beloved partners in life, from an epic trip to the UK and Ireland, then we might as well just chain concrete blocks to our necks and drown in the River Liffey now and skip the flight home.

Being practical men we recognize that art is always appreciated.  We adjourned to Fab Cow and perused their wares.  Francis Leavey is the artist and one of the pieces of his that I had seen before was his single line drawings. They’re stunning pieces and getting to meet the artist is something you should always try to do, because then you understand the nuance and inspiration behind the work.  We bought modestly, because of luggage room, but we bought direct from the artist, which is always better.

Francis Leavey is a fascinating artist with a background in Chinese medicine and longish stays in China, as well as study of his art at a very deep level.  We compared notes, Francis speaking from how art reflects culture and me speaking how culture is reflected in food.  Eclectic and kind is the kind of mix one likes to be near.

Liquor was next on our list, Dublin being home to two magical distilleries, one that actually produces in Dublin and the other that has converted their old digs into an excellent display of the history of distilling in Ireland.

First stop, Jameson’s.

 

Rescue By A Cab

Trains in England are a little different from Canada. In Canada if there is a station there are people there and there are cabs and phones etc. At least for the parts of Canada I’ve seen.

In England this isn’t always the case. We catch the train from Holyhead to Crewe and manage the change to the Wrenbury train – more of a truck on rails serving the smaller communities.  Three cars, comfortable enough, with a diesel engine that they wind up to 1200 rpm, then release the brakes to roll away.

Getting to Wrenbury there is nothing there, barely a station, no people and no phones. So we are two Canucks stuck in the middle of Nowhere with rolling luggage.

Cell phones point the way and we begin to walk, I’m fat, I don’t like walking, I complain a lot. We carry on for short while and I being looking on the phone for a cab from Wrenbury. Nope. There are no cabs in Wrenbury. We continue the walk, there are cabs in Nantwich and in Whitchurch that service the area but, as optimists, we figure we can cover the rest of the journey. Plod, plod, plod one foot in front of the other moving slowly forward. I scan my phone again, should we just call and have a cab get us. Plod, plod, plod ever on like true Canadians without complaint.

A car passes and then another and finally a taxi enroute somewhere else.  We flag it down, it is divine intervention. No. The cab has a passenger and is on it’s way from A2B – can we share for the short while? Some discussion and then a discussion. Rescue, they will take us up the main road to the marina. A few quid pushed in the hand of the passenger at the end ensures all are happy and we’ve made it to the marina.

Just in time for the health and safety briefing we are duly trained on what to do at locks and where to find things on the Lapland Bunting.  It isn’t any more complicated than a recreational vehicle that floats.  We will post more later about life on a narrowboat, but for the time being, we find the pointy end and the arse end, two somewhat informal nautical terms.

Our next stop, since we’re both running on only a few hours sleep, is to regain some strength for our mighty toils on the waterway.  A short stroll into Wrenbury and we find The Cotton Arms Freehouse, a CAMRA-award winning Pub and Kitchen.  The sign outside says it all “Children and Dogs Welcome”.  Real ale and roast beef dinner with some of the locals who welcome us to their village.

One small issue we had the foresight to plan for was provisioning.  The marina provides you with fuel, water, a boat and the equipment to operate the boat.  They do not provide provisions, meaning things like food.  We both like food and consider food to be almost as important as drink, air, or spouses.  You decide which order these should be in.      

We wander a little further into Wrenbury, finding the local convenience store and obtain important things like coffee, milk, bacon, bread, cheese, hummus, croissants, butter and crisps.  And liquor, specifically a blended malt scotch whisky called Sheep Dip.  Neither Scrim or I are abstemious, so yes, there is drinking on the boat, but both Scrim and I are responsible boaters.  Drinking is only permitted after we dock for the evening.  Or if it is really, really chilly.  Or if the name of the day of the week has the letter Y in it.  

A long walk back to the boat and we sign off the documentation adding our own uniquely Canadian touch to the registration number of the boat.  Lines off and the Lapland Bunting is pointed in the direction of Wileymoor Lock. 

We are underway.

 

 

A Pipe, a Fall and a Whiskey Tasting

Being in Dublin there are certain things that must be accomplished, especially when one is only slightly strapped for time.  Rob Scrimger is a pipe smoker and he enjoys a good pipe.  Peterson’s of Dublin makes good pipes, world renown pipes if truth be told, and we would be remiss if we didn’t go to the source of all goodness.  Just off Grafton Street, their shops stock a stunning array of samples of a pipe-makers arts.  Scrim knew what he wanted and in less than a handful of minutes, a Model 999 was obtained from the manufacturers.  A few moments later a bowl of tobacco was ignited and was duly enjoyed by Rob.

The Fall is not just a season, it is also an action.  The two of us, looking lost and confused on Grafton Street after sampling the wares of McDaiid’s Pubic House (Have a Guinness in Dublin they said, you’ll enjoy it they said) we were walking along when the ground suddenly leapt up and bit one of this party.  There were no injuries aside from a momentary feeling of stupidity, but many offers of assistance and concerns for our well-being from the nearby inhabitants.

There was another retail requirement:  A black wool turtleneck sweater from Marks & Spencer to join others in my drawer.  An M&S was duly located and after a route march to the Men’s department, two examples were obtained with only a moment’s hesitation.

In order to get over trans-meridian circadian disarrhythmia, it is important to get your body on to local time, meaning eat the meal that the local time says to eat.  It being close to noon local time (but still 0700 for our bodies) we had to attend the Porterhouse Pub in order to have lunch, a chicken thing and some IPA.  The photo mural in the Gentlemen’s was worthy of the visit, as well as a sensible selection of beers.

We then availed ourselves of the Whiskey Museum, an hour long tour of the history of Irish Whiskey history and manufacturer, followed by a tasting of four types of Irish Whiskey with an almost-learned tutor guiding us through the nuance and subtleties of Irish Whiskey.  For the uninitiated, or the uncaring, you can always use the term ‘notes of vanilla and caramel’ in tasting as you stare off into middle distance, pausing thoughtfully, perhaps swirling your glass to examine the whiskey-equivalent of legs (called the ‘tears’) in a nuanced manner.

If you are served a glass of Pumpkin-spice intimate wash, you can still use the thoughtful pause and the hesitant “I get notes of…hmmm..vanilla.  And a hint of caramel flavours..with spice, and warm notes…”