After four consecutive years of being named Connaught Whiskey Bar of the Year, Garavan’s in Galway finally won the overall ‘Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year’ award at the recent Irish Whiskey Awards.
Dublin-based Teeling Distillery won the ‘Irish Whiskey of the Year’ for its Teeling ‘The Revival Single Malt Volume IV’. The distillery also received a Gold Medal for its Teeling Brabazon Bottling Series 2 in the Irish Single Malt Whiskey (12 Years & Younger) category.
The 20 categories covered make the awards, held in the Jameson Distillery in Dublin’s Bow Street this year, one of the biggest celebrations of whiskey in the world.
On the night itself, the Awards promoter Ally Alpine from the Celtic Whiskey Shop explained the complexity of the judging process which involves 67 blind-tastings by tasters from all over the world “24 of whom are at the awards tonight”.
The Awards, now in their fifth year, were judged in blind tasting sessions by members of the Celtic Whiskey Club, the Irish Whiskey Society and the Cork Whiskey Society. Overseas members of the Celtic Whiskey Club also had the opportunity to purchase sample packs and vote without having to travel to Ireland.
Members of the trade were responsible for judging the white spirit categories of Gin, Vodka and Poitin as well as the Beer and Liqueur categories in a separate tasting session.
The event’s charity partner Mary’s Meals feeds over 1.2 million children a day and recently fed its one billionth child. The cost of one ticket, €46.80, will feed three children for a year.
With all tickets sold out to members of the trade in advance, the spirituous gathering was addressed by Bernard Walsh, Founder and Chief Executive of the Walsh Distillery in Royal Oak, County Carlow, who talked of a second Golden Age for Irish whiskey.
But the former Chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association also pointed to Irish whiskey’s pitfalls.
“Irish whiskey is one of the most regulated products in Ireland and one of the most regulated whiskeys in the world,” he warned, giving no uncertain nod in the direction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’s proposed restrictions on alcohol marketing.
Nevertheless, he found the cross-industry support to be found across the spirits distilling community to be unique, “… unheard of elsewhere”.
The evening proceeded on to become quite a night with some notable wins.
Jameson won two awards for Jameson Black Barrel as the Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP under €60) and Jameson Makers Series – The Cooper’s Croze for the Irish Blended Whiskey (RRP over €60).
Dingle Distillery, a new entrant last year, won both the Irish Vodka and Irish Gin awards while R&A Merry & Co in Clonmel was awarded a Gold for its Irish Liqueur Merry’s Salted Caramel.
Louth-based Boann Distillery debuted with two Gold Medals for The Whistler Single Malt 7 Year-Old Cask-Strength and Single Malt Aged 7 Years.
The awards have become an important date in the whiskey industry’s calendar, commented Ally.
“Unlike most international awards this is a non-profit-making operation that relies on the support & generosity of the producers, my staff and whiskey enthusiasts,” he stated on the night, “The event will also raise enough money to feed 330 kids every day for a year which is an added bonus.”
Drinks Industry Ireland was the event’s media partner.\
A full list of the Overall Award Winners can be found at Garavan’s: Whiskey Bar of the Year.
Getting the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year Award gives Paul Garavan and Darren Green a great feeling of pride about what they’re doing.
“It keeps everything we’re working on afloat” explains Darren, “for example staff training – it’s good, too, that it’s from our peers and it’s good for the staff to get this award.”
The Award has already added a bit to the bar’s usual custom, he says.
“It has always been busy thanks to the tasting flights that we do and it gets good passing trade too” he says of the third generation pub, “and for us it’s stepping up as people recognise that whiskey-tasting can be conducted as a group rather than as individuals.”
To Darren, the ideal whiskey pub doesn’t just have a good selection of whiskeys.
“In any trade in which you provide a service, you must know what you’re selling to your customers,” he says, “Whether whiskey-tasting or just having a couple of pints, you want the customer to leave having had a good experience or having learned something new.”
Whiskey-tasting in Garavan’s is carried out from the point-of-view of staff being knowledgeable.
In addition to on-site marketing, the pub also makes use of social media.
“We’ve been getting a bit of recognition because of the Awards for the last few years from the local newspapers and magazines,” adds Darren, “A lot of tourism trade has also come in via word-of-mouth.”
Whiskey tastings can comprise five base platters ranging from €12 to €15 inclusive to the Grand Master Flight of rare vintage whiskeys that costs €95.
And now there’s the pub’s new ‘collaboration platter’.
“Only released this week – and due to get a big push – is our new collaboration platter which involves us working with other people in the industry such as The Dylan Whiskey Bar in Kilkenny,” says Darren.
The Dylan has given them three whiskeys and a flight that they recommend (and why they recommend it) and Garavan’s wilI do the same for three of their whiskeys.
“Going forward we’re going to be working with distilleries, reps and other bars to grow the whiskey camaraderie still further,” he says.
What’s surprised him most about being a whiskey bar is how it has been received nationally and internationally.
“Irish whiskey growth will continue over next few years and it surprised me just how many people have got on board with it and want to learn more about Irish whiskeys as it’s been a closed off market for so long; it’s surprising how quickly it has become popular again.”
Next in the Garavan’s pipeline is marketing a limited edition of Garavan’s own whiskey.
Connacht Whiskey Distillery
The Connacht Whiskey Distillery proudly picked up Gold medals at the 2017 Irish Whiskey Awards, retaining the title of ‘Best Irish Vodka’ along with a new accolade for its Straw Boys Poitin.
The distillery is situated in the picturesque town of Ballina, nestled on the banks of the world-renowned River Moy. Here, its Master Distiller has created recipes using the finest Irish grain to produce its famous mash bills and award-winning spirits.
Connacht Whiskey Distillery is the first working distillery to open in Mayo in the last 150 years and prides itself on creating innovative and exciting craft produce. In 2019 it will launch its own Connacht Irish Whiskey and it will be sure not to disappoint, using unique ingredients and distilling with pride and passion, it’s savouring the build-up before the launch of its flagship Whiskey.
In the interim, along with its Straw Boys Vodka and Poitin, it has created its own Conncullin Gin which has a bold and unique flavour and does not disappoint the fast-growing gin market that we now have in Ireland. Bold berry flavours, hints of a forest and some spice provide the pallet with a smooth mouthfeel and unique aroma.
It offers tours and tasting sessions at its working distillery so that visitors can understand the whiskey-making process and how the whiskey is created initially through the brewing process, fermentation, distillation and how it evolves over the maturation stage. It offers a sample of its spirits after the tour to help appreciate the spirits in every capacity.
Guests are then welcome to browse through the gift shop to see a selection of merchandise or pick up a bottle to take home.
Powers John’s Lane: Best Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey
Powers John’s Lane Irish Whiskey was named Best Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey at the fifth instalment of the annual Irish Whiskey Awards.
Providing a glimpse of how pot still whiskey from the original John Lane’s distillery would have tasted by continuing to use a pot still distillate and maturing for no less than 12 years, principally in American bourbon barrels, Powers John’s Lane is leading a revival in tradition.
Defined as ‘spirit driven’, with the spirit – as opposed to the maturation cask – delivering the bulk of the full-bodied, spicy flavour, Powers John’s Lane is triple-distilled and non-chill filtered, delivering a wonderfully complex, spicy and honeyed pot still character that personifies the traditional style of Irish whiskey.
Ideally served neat or over ice, the multi-award winning Powers brand is born of over 200 years of experience and is regarded as the definitive Irish whiskey. Powers excellence and reputation for innovation and quality placed it at the forefront of Irish Whiskey-making and Powers became recognised in Ireland and worldwide as the whiskey drinker’s whiskey.
For the third year in a row Thin Gin has been in the top three Irish gins at the Irish Whiskey Awards. Thin Gin won the ‘Best Irish Gin’ Trophy in 2015, a Gold Medal in 2016 and yet another Gold Medal in 2017.
Considering that this is a blind taste test and that gin is an increasingly crowded category, being recognised three years in a row is a huge endorsement for Thin Gin. Thin Gin has many traditional gin botanicals along with some native Irish flavours and finishes on strong citrus notes. Despite being 40% ABV it’s smooth to taste and works well with tonic. This year it also won the Gold Outstanding IWSC award for Gin & Tonic and was one of only two Irish gins recognised in the prestigious international competition.
Thin Gin is produced by Anchor Spirits Ireland, based in Waterford and it’s very keenly priced for such a premium award-winning gin.