Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Whiksy Live Dublin

      Well it's been quite a couple of weeks for Irish Whiskey. Verging on historical with momentous new releases and announcements. IDL with 2 fabulous new and much welcomed Single Pot Still offerings and Cooley with the re-introduction of their tradition of distilling Pot still also.

      Just when we were catching our breath Saturday 14th of May saw Whisky Live arrive into Dublin. This is the first time that Whisky Live has been hosted in Dublin and possibly the first time that there has been a dedicated whisk(e)y expo in Ireland. It was held in the round room of the beautiful & historic Mansion house built in 1821 and located in the centre of Dublin. The event was officially opened by the Dublin Lord Mayor Mr Gerry Breen who is not unknown to have a glass of the golden nectar himself. So it was with great interest that he attended this event in his official capacity. He was presented with various bottles from a multitude of Industry representatives. I think I may run for the position next year just for that alone.

Dublin's Lord Mayor Mr Gerry Breen officially opens Whisky Live Dublin

      I was there on two levels. Firstly on a personal level to taste all the sumptuous whiskey on display and secondly wearing my official Irish Whiskey Society (IWS) shirt and manning the stand for a short while to try and entice people to join. The IWS stand turned out to be very successful. People seemed quite surprised that there was a Society for such shenanigans but all thought it was a great idea and we got a great reaction. Drinking is very much a pub orientated past time in Ireland a few would have thought of whiskey in a more structured way.  Through all the efforts of the IWS Volunteers we were able to extol the benefits of such a society and garner some real interest around the wonderful past time of whiskey and whiskey tasting.

 The Irish Whiskey Society's Stand


     However the real work of the day was tasting the whiskeys on offer and chatting to all the industry guys. I've been at a couple Whisky Live in the UK and the Dublin effort was definitely on a par in the organisation stakes if slightly smaller but hey whiskey is not that big in Ireland... yet. All the major Irish brands were represented, Bushmills, Connemara, Jameson, Kilbeggan, Midleton, Tullamore & Tyrconnell. So too were strong brands like Greenspot (Mitchell's), Knappogue Castle, Powers & Redbreast. However it was also good to see some of the new kids on the block putting in good representations to the Irish Public. Brands like Inis Turk Beg, Irishman, Slane Castle, Wild Geese & Writers Tears. These are brands that the public will largely be ignorant of so a big well done for turning up. It is through events like these that we maybe able to awaken a more general passion of whiskey in Ireland aside from the bog standard pub fare.

      It was not all Irish though and we had a nice easy selection of scotch distilleries too. No heavy handed Islay's were really present (Except maybe a few Independently Bottled ones), possibly the Irish palate needs to be broken in gently? What we saw though was some of the more approachable brands of Auchentoshan, Benriach, Bowmore, Edradour, Glen Dronach, Glen Garioch, and the 3 sisters of Hazelburn, Longrow & Springbank. Not a huge selection as far as Scotch goes but a good start for the Irish market. We also had  Signatory and Duncan Taylor stands who independently bottle various different distilleries, mainly in single cask offerings, which are always very welcome. Then bringing up the reargard for a bit of variety we had Nikka Japanese Whisky & Jefferson's Bourbon for good measure. All in all not a bad selection for what is a new style of event in a yet to be exploited Irish market. Irish Distillers had great stands that were very striking and a totally new set up for the new Single Pot Still series of Redbreast, Greenspot, Midleton SPS & Powers John's Lane SPS and it was probably the best looking stand at the event, I wonder did that have something to do with the whiskey... However all exhibitors made the day and the over set up looked good.  All offerings through out the fair were then on sale at the Celtic Whiskey Shop (CWS) stand which was wonderful. Nothing worse than finding a cracker and not being able to buy it there and then.

Celtic Whiskey Shop or Aladdin's Cave?

      What was evident at Whisky Live was the enthusiasm of all the exhibitors and the willingness to chat about all things whiskey. I hope to follow up some conversations with articles in their own right at a later date. More over there seem to be a very interested public who seemed to be enjoying the warm and relaxed atmosphere of this particular Whisky Live. Everything seemed to move at a nice pace and there was very little over crowding at stands which always is a bonus. We had the usual live cooper demonstrations which were quite interesting for most novices even though I did see a few surprised glances when unsuspecting WL goers with their back to the proceeding heard the clang of the coopers hammer. There was also a separate  chocolate and food stands with whiskey pairing opportunities.

As to the whiskies ... there was nothing that I tasted that I disliked but there were some I liked more than others. Cooley had released a Tyrconnell 11 year old sherry finish especially for the event and for my money a far superior version of the regular 10yo Sherry finish, I am guessing that extra year has paid dividends but then I tend to like my sherry influence a bit heavier than some. Powers John's Lane was another highlight and was delighted to relieve the Celtic Whiskey shop of two of these. Lastly was a young Signtory Bunahabhain which really impressed me, definitely on my list to get one next time I'm in the CWS.

My overall impressions of Whisky Live Dublin is that is was a great success and a thoroughly enjoyable experience so here's to hoping that it will be back in the future.

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