Pat Nolan Blog

From Barley to Blarney with The Dead Rabbit


 …. But someone has to do it!

…. But someone has to do it!

The owners of the ‘World’s Best Bar’ The Dead Rabbit in New York returned home recently to launch their new book From Barley to Blarney, a Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland.

Authored by The Dead Rabbit’s Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry together with fellow Irish native and Irish whiskey expert Tim Herlihy, the book paints a portrait of 22 of Ireland’s distilleries and their bottlings, 50 of its renowned pubs and recipes for 12 original Irish whiskey cocktails, all extensively photographed.

The 272-page hard-bound book, which includes a history of whiskey-making in Ireland as well as attractions to visit, chronicles the trio’s fact-finding trips and is the ultimate travel guide for whiskey enthusiasts, pub lovers and Hibernophiles.

To research the book the trio conducted two month-long whirlwind tours in a VW bus driven by Jack’s father, travelling over 4,000 miles, visiting 111 pubs and every single working whiskey distillery on the island.

“We’re constantly asked for our recommendations of where to go in Ireland, what to see and what to do,” explained Sean, “This book sums up our collective wisdom and was truly a labour of love. Ireland’s experiencing explosive growth in both distilleries and whiskey and we wanted to capture this unique and historic revival.

“In the early 1900s Irish whiskey accounted for 60% of world whiskey sales. Having completed this book, we can say its best days are still ahead and a visit to the Emerald Isle is definitely in order.”


The book’s portraits include:

  • a distillery in a castle estate where rock royalty play
  • a distillery producing 60 million litres a year
  • the world’s oldest distillery dating back to 1757
  • a distillery with a distillery museum on site
  • a distillery in a long-deconsecrated church with stained glass windows
  • a distillery crafting just two casks a day
  • a distillery in a relocated historic cowshed reassembled brick-by-brick.

How many of the above can you identify?

The wellspring of innovation captured in the book includes adding different grains to the mash (like wheat and rye) and using casks that formerly held beer, fortified wine and other spirits to impart additional layers of complexity. Furthermore, producers are experimenting with non-Oak casks such as Chestnut.

They also found distilleries bringing back barley provenance and adopting the use of organic barley, with some producers now even going so far as to distill only one farmer’s barley at a time.


111 pubs in 29 counties

The trio visited 111 pubs – their personal favourites, as well as others that surfaced through extensive research and social media inquiries. These included spirits grocers, whiskey havens, hidden gems, pubs famed for live Irish music and traditional pubs with a modern spin. In the process, they explored 29 counties and recorded 120 hours of interviews with distillers and publicans.

The daily routine included visiting four pubs a day and one to two distilleries as well as revisiting the pubs in the evening to see them in action [my heart bleeds… ed].

The group was welcomed with open arms and was treated to an insider’s perspective on distilling and a preview of experimental liquids.

The pub portraits covered in the book, include:

  • a pub from 900 AD, possibly the oldest bar in the world
  • the pub where JFK sank a few pints when he was a thirsty journalist
  • an unforgettable pub that only opens once a week
  • a pub where guests can get a belt made while waiting for their pint to settle
  • a pub where the ashes of a devoted Texan customer are interred in a Grandfather Clock
  • a pub with a collection of 500 whiskeys
  • a pub with a sloping floor which allowed the occasional flood waters from the River Shannon to gracefully escape.

For further information, visit

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