There are few historic parallels between Fields and Saint Patrick, but we must draw your attention to one: besides other good deeds, the saint was fabled to have driven all snakes—symbols of the devil—from Ireland.
No need to address the scientific points of the legend—better the practical ones: the Irish needn’t have a snake about to enjoy a wee dram, and the drams they put in the bottle are among Whiskey’s finest. (And don’t be deceived by my last name; my mother was an O’Brien, by way of a Kelly, so somewhere there’s a bit of the old sod in my soul. And glass.)
An Ireland trip, to taste any (or all) of these below worthies in their native Irish air is in order. The last 15 years or so have seen a Renaissance in Irish Whiskey production, with some long-closed distilleries reopening or going to open.
Take the tours and your St. Patrick’s Day parties might last a month or more.
Dublin Has Always Delivered
If you’ve made it to the Emerald Isle and are dry, slake your thirst at Teeling, in the heart of Dublin. Teeling has been a name in Irish Whiskey for a mere 250 years or so, and rose anew as the first operating Dublin distillery in 40 years, offering a couple of tours.
While you are dashing about Dublin, don’t forget Roe & Co., another born-again old name in Irish whiskey. Their tours include a Whiskey blending workshop and the Flavours Experience, instruction in cocktail making. They even have a virtual tour, if you don’t want to leave your pajamas.
Here’s a Brotherhood, a cocktail I’ve made at home with Roe’s nice blended Irish:
The standard recipe calls for 1 ½ oz. of the good stuff, but I always like a Whiskey-forward cocktail, so I’d push it to at least 2oz. in your mixing glass, add ¾ oz. Benedictine, ¾ oz. Grand Marnier and ¾ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice; stir, pour into a coupe, add a twist. Tangy and tart simultaneously!
County Cork Is Aptly Named
My mom did make it to the land of her ancestors, but my own trip is still in the “must go—soon!” category. St. Patrick’s Day is a reminder that time and plans can slip away. But all of the famed Irish distilleries will wait for you—after all, some have been there for hundreds of years.
If you ever worry that your supply of Irish Whiskey might run out, take a trip from Dublin to Midleton in County Cork. There, the world’s largest pot still (31,000+ gallons) will reassure you.
Though it has many worthy rivals, my favored Irish tipple is Redbreast 12-year-old. Redbreast has several releases, some older, and more dear on the pocketbook, but the triple-distilled cask-strength 12, which employs both malted and unmalted barley, is a honeyed joy.
Try it neat or with a single cube: no snake will dare approach you.
The Jameson tour in Midleton (there’s also one in Dublin) is well received, grounding you in Midleton’s old distillery fixings and its new. Jameson’s been making the stuff since 1774, so they know their recipes.
By the way, if you need to add a bit of kick to your Whiskey cuddle, Jameson’s Cold Brew is big and good; sweeten to taste, or not.
The Old Guard
Back, way, way back when I was a high school lad, and I used to boost liquor out of the neighborhood store, I discovered, after much stomach-wrenching experimentation, that I favored Whiskey more than the other animals of the Spirits world.
I didn’t have a polished consciousness of quality back then, but I accidentally made the acquaintance of a few esteemed Irish liquors, Bushmills and Tullamore Dew being the most prominent and learned to love those serendipitous discoveries.
Once I gained the good sense (and legal age) to start paying for my pleasures, the experiments continued—though I’m still waiting for all my ships to come in to delight in the full range of high age-statement Spirits.
Bushmills has had a distillery on its Antrim site since 1784, and their tours will let you gawk at their huge pot stills for making their blends and single malts.
Tullamore too offers a tour—in Tullamore of all places—that reveals the blending arts and then lets you taste that art directly.
One Irish I am looking forward to tasting is Writers’ Tears. When the words just won’t come, that’s a dram to keep a sad writer company. If you’re in County Carlow, take one of their Walsh Whiskey tours—they make all three Irish styles: grain, pot still, and blends—no matter what you write, they’ll set the right glass on your desk.
But just say no to green beer. It was never effective against snakes anyway.
Here’s to you and your comrades on St. Paddy’s Day!