My love affair with primarily Irish Whiskey started around 10 years ago with the purchase of the Michael Collins Single Malt in a tall tapered bottle this began my journey. It would progress to me visiting the majority of the major distillery’s in Ireland followed by some of the small craft distillers such as Dingle whose production values and ethics I have grown to admire.
From this single bottle my collection has grown to include over 80 miniatures from Irish Distilleries, American and a couple of Japanese offerings. What I didn’t expect to happen however is that this obsession would grow to include full size bottles, associated glassware and books ranging from the history of Irish Whiskey, the distilling and production of whiskey and most recently bringing specialty books in from the USA on the subject of pairing spirits with food. I equally didn’t expect that now when I go on holidays abroad I have to seek out local distillers to see what they do differently I could not even make my first ever trip to USA last summer without seeking out craft distilleries to see was there more to American whiskey and bourbon that just Jack Daniels this began a fresh journey and discovery of American whiskey and a crusade to converts people’s aversion to American product due to Jack Daniels.
I guess what was to really change this from a hobby to something to pursue a career in was a brush with the big c a couple of years ago this afforded me the time to re-evaluate what I wanted to do in my life in terms of either pursuing my third level degree in law or do what is going to make me happy. I got into reading up a lot on whiskey, tasting a awful lot of whiskey styles including a strange finished over sheep dung offering from Iceland and eventually to combining my two biggest loves Whiskey and Food.
This combination of my two biggest loves has led me to go to two of the biggest whiskey shows Whiskey Exchange in London and Whiskey Live in Dublin as well as the new Whiskey Social in Belfast. However, the funny thing is I find myself going around these shows babbling about food combinations, mentioning these to the various brand ambassadors and them looking at me like I was completely mad. However when they saw what I was trying to get it for example your peated whiskey or scotch been balanced out be a nicely cooked steak, venison, your sweater ones like Tullamore dew XO, Penderyn from Wales or Tipperary Red Wine to go with deserts. A nicely aged whiskey with fish either to enjoy as a drink or a cure like those from a coastal area like Silkie and then your top shelf likes of Middleton just to sit back and enjoy on its own or to celebrate an occasion like you would champagne. I began to look less nuts as they appreciated what I was saying and bringing some out of the box thinking in what is becoming a vastly competitive market.
Therefore I started this piece out by asking what inspired me to enjoy the drinking of and collection of whiskey and you will probably notice from above the majority focuses on my enjoyment of the craft, art and drinking of whiskey with little emphasis on the collecting of apart from my initial mention of my miniatures, full size bottles etc. The reason for this is my primary focus is on the enjoying of the item and food pairing. In saying that I have found myself collecting certain bottles and like I explain to my many friends my collecting focuses on whiskeys which are of the value 3 figures, the reason been is that 3 figures is that for me this is a huge investment financially and assuch the signify something special such as Middleton Barry Crocket Legacy, the completion of the Michael Collins collection. I like to collect the unusual and stranger bottles with the My Lovely Horse from Father Ted bottle been my most recent and strangest acquisition to date.
In summation therefore I will never lecture someone on whiskey for the main reason is that everyone’s pallet and budget differ. The fact that everyone’s tastes differ is what makes this subject so enjoyable because no one person is wrong this leads to interesting discussion one example been someone telling me Proper 12 is better than Middleton and interesting proposition for sure but one I disagreed with in the strongest terms but I parted from the person as friends. All I will say is please have an open mind to the journey you will find certain styles you like or like me with peated whiskies such as Connemaraones you don’t equally though you may find ways to enjoy these like combining with food. Most importantly be adventurous and open to trying new things the market is constantly evolving with experimentations like finish in tequila cask or a cask made up of staves from various others becoming common or people changing the ratios of grain types or like I mentioned above the utilizing of resources like sheep dung. If you keep an open mind, then the possibilities are endless as there will always be something to learning or try and that is part of the fun.
I hope this gives an insight of my love and passion for what is a beautiful craft and art and will maybe explore some of the themes touched on above in future posts