It was 11am in Gatwick airport on Saturday 14th March. The plane taking a small drinks press contingent over to Ireland for Jameson's extended #HelloDublin St. Patrick's Day celebrations was due to leave in just over an hour from Heathrow. Had I made a terrible mistake?
In fact, I'd just arrived back from a holiday and had always known I couldn't make that flight, just as I now knew all I'd be seeing of blighty was Gatwick airport itself. My flight to Cork was later, and until then I'd simply be pretending I was Tom Hanks in The Terminal. (Although there were no Catherine Zeta-Jones love interest developments to speak of.)
I like a bit of Irish whiskey me. That's why I made a point of writing a big ol' three-part blog post about it earlier in the year. So, bearing that in mind, when I received an invitation to attend the Irish Whiskey Academy at Midleton distillery over in County Cork I didn't really need to think about it for too long. The Academy opened in February 2013 and along with a new still house and archive became a focus for the Irish Distillers' Housewarming celebrations last year.
The Academy is a state of the art training facility whose courses have been attended by many of the leading whisk(e)y writers, journalists and bartenders. There's a nice Dave Broom quote on their site that sums it up quite nicely: "I can honestly say that this is the finest training facility I have ever been in, and some of the finest training I have ever had". That.
Yesterday, I began my serialised guide to Irish Whiskey with a rundown of its turbulent history through some difficult times, becoming the most popular spirit in the world before nearly disappearing altogether in the 20th century! Fortunately, it has been on a road to recovery in the last few decades and is now thriving.
Despite this resurgence, which has made Irish Whisky the fastest growing drinks category in the world, Scotch whisky still comfortably sells 15 times more cases worldwide, and has about as many times more active distilleries too. With Scotch whisky's dominance since the 1930s, there's perhaps understandably still some confusion, even amongst whisk(e)y enthusiasts, surrounding the styles of Irish whiskey available.
Fret not, however! In this second instalment I'll be looking at each style in turn, complete with a number of yummy examples of each!