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.     

Return to Dublin

After returning the Lapland Bunting in Wrenbury, we did the wise thing and hired a taxi to get us and our luggage to Crewe.  We overnighted at a hotel near the train station in Crewe and did enjoy at least one hot, all over, plentiful showers to soap away nine days of boating.  Yes we had our own rooms. Then a longish walk to a pub for Sunday Roast and a chance to sleep in a real bed, with reliable electricity.

Overnight, the Irish Ferries did not disappoint us.  Our ferry, the Ulysses, was running with no issues. We would be getting to Ireland, without a five hour layover in a hateful holding pen in Holyhead, unlike our outgoing trip.  Skies were clear, winds were pleasant and the local news was filled with reporting of the damage caused by Storm Callum two days before. We did not avail ourselves of the complimentary copy of The Sun to see who’s titties would be featured on Pg. 3.

Again to a Virgin train, with their talking toilets and fine service, we train to Holyhead, then stroll the 90 meters to the Ferry Terminal to embark, stopping for a coffee at the same place as our outbound trip.  This time, instead of the insane, we were merely accompanied by someone who needed a major adjustment to their prescription medications.  Either the UK is filled with crazies, or we just seem to attract them.  Perhaps we look too Canadian?  Or, they behave that way because they are trying to speak in Welsh.  For those who can, congratulations, but for the rest of it, trying to pronounce the words correctly hurts your mouth.

  

A shuttle bus boards the ferry and we seek out the Club Class forward.

The Ulysses was at one time the largest car ferry in the world and plies the Holyhead to Dublin route for Irish Ferries.  On our outbound journey we saw not much more than a quick tour with our objective being sleep after a hellish flight over to Dublin.  Plus, it was a dark and stormy night and nothing much to see of the Irish Sea. This time was different.

Club Class is reasonably plush, with free food and not free beer, but the particular joys of wide windows at the bow of the ship to allow you to see where you’re going.  Food and beverage obtained, we settle in to see the Irish Sea.

We followed another ferry from Holyhead, also transiting to Dublin, the Stena something or other, which launched a few minutes before us.  The safety briefing was conducted by the ostensible Captain of the ship, who near as we could discern was the Irish equivalent of The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob, with the same sonorous voice and deliberate intonation.  Perhaps he was hired for his public speaking traits, not his seamanship, as his comment regarding muster stations included “If we are sinking, you unwashed proletarians had best get the hell out of my way, or I will kill you with my bare hands”

One thing we have noticed on this trip is that the majority of positions of the ‘service’ industry are occupied predominantly by members of former Soviet Union countries, working away from home in more prosperous environments than their home countries.  All pleasant and polite of course, with a willingness to serve well.

Captain Sideshow Bob kept the Ulysses well-aimed at the green stripe on the horizon and eventually we hit land, fortunately at the actual Irish Ferry Terminal in Dublin.  This made unloading much easier, but the signage was now in Celtic as well as English.

Taxi to the hotel, the Paramount, near Temple Bar and we unpacked for two nights

 

Food And Drink I – Pub Fare

One wag has described navigating the Shropshire Union Canal to Llangollen as a slow pub crawl on a boat.  Public houses seem to proliferate in the middle of nowhere next to the canal, ostensibly serving locals (Population of the village, 11 people, 1,400 sheep and 24 dogs) but in reality are there to provide a comfortable place for boaters to pause and refresh.

During high season when the canals are clogged with holiday-makers, business must be very good, but in the off-season, perhaps not so much.  Our trip, essential the first two weeks of October, is considered on the cusp of the off-season, as it can be cold, rainy and damp, sunny, or a blizzard, depending on the vagaurities of the UK Met. Office and their reading of the entrails.

Pub fare is the subject of much discussion among those who are self-proclaimed experts as to what is and is not actual pub fare.  Perhaps they know, or perhaps they are talking out their arse, but we do know what pub fare is not:

There are no micro-greens involved in or near pub fare

Peas of some sort must be served, or available to order

Gravy is a food group

Chips must taste like potato, not starch tubes and be served hot enough to scald

Yorkshire puddings are also a food group

No pub fare will feature a 50p sized piece of ‘artisanal’ salmon with an eggplant slice the size of a book of matches and cost £45, especially if served by someone wearing a wool hat named Campbell or Daffyd

There must be local, real ale.

You must be offered, or have readily available ‘brown’ sauce, which we know as HP

Vinegar must be malt vinegar

An appetite is required

Pub fare is not complicated food by any means.  Roasted meat, a couple of veg, potato of some sort, gravy and more often than not, Yorkshire pudding, especially if it is the Sunday roast special.  It is home-style cooking. Where else could you get cold, hand-carved real leg-of-pig ham, a small salad (instead of chips) and hot peas and carrots with palate-melting hot mustard except in a pub, or at home.  Portions are generous and you find that your membership in the clean-your-plate club is always threatened by the size of the meals.

When it comes to beverages, the most common accompaniment is ale.  Real ale, quite often brewed within a few miles of the pub, reflecting the local tastes and desires.  You will see taps for Heineken, Peroni or other commercial brews, but the most common is the hand-pulled pint of what is local and what pairs perfectly with the food.

Which is exactly what you want.

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…”