Happy St Patricks Day! What a strange little holiday this is; today marks the one calendar day of the year where everyone tries to change their nationality and tie themselves with the Emerald Isle. I won’t pretend that I’m not guilty of doing this – my great-grandparents were Irish, so I also share in the mutual loyalty that most vaguely-Irish people cling to.
To celebrate this most joyous of festivities, last night I was invited down to Bristol’s newest Irish whiskey bar, to partake in a tasting of that most Irish of whiskeys, Tullamore D.E.W.
You’re thinking of another name synonymous with Irish whiskey, aren’t you? Truth be told, this more famous of names is my usual tipple, and I’d only really heard of Tullamore when it crept out of the parents’ cupboard a couple of Christmasses ago. But Tully is making a name for itself, and pioneering the campaign for ‘a D.E.W. and a brew’, in other words, sipping whiskey alongside your beer. Sounds dangerous, no? I went along to Shebeen to test it out.
Tucked away next to older sister Steam, this sort-of-secret whiskey bar opened just before the 6 Nations, and offers a wide selection of Irish whiskeys in a beautifully snug interior. Leather armchairs and lots of wood decorating the inside add to the welcoming atmosphere. I really wish I had got a picture of the ‘cave’, but did manage to snap this one of the equally cosy inside of Steam next door.
We were led through the tasting by Kevin, the brand ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. He was, of course, full of facts and history about whiskey, none of which my brain could retain whilst under the influence of alcohol. One nugget I did retain though, was that while Irish whiskey used to dominate the industry, it now only accounts for about 6%, something which Tully is trying to change.
The concept of sipping whiskey alongside your beer isn’t a new one, and for a couple of the chaps there with me that particular evening it was common practice. The idea is that the beer wakes up the palette to truly appreciate the flavours of the whiskey, or you can even add a drop of beer straight into your whiskey cup to mainline the deliciousness straight into your gullet.
While both beer and whiskey were certainly delicious, it wasn’t an epiphany moment for me – although I will admit that the whiskey tasted far sweeter for it (in a metaphorical sense). Going back to beer from whiskey after also altered the flavour slightly, which I would not recommend. I’m not sure that I’ll be continuing this practice too regularly, but it does seem a nice early evening activity when you’ve got some good ales in, like the one we were supping from Butcombe.
Another aspect to this evening which I appreciated was the complete unpretentiousness about the whole event. There wasn’t much of the snobby sniffing or swilling, and at one point Kevin told us to pretty much just drink it how we like – with ice, without ice, chilled, with ginger ale – it was our whiskey, after all.
If you want to get in on the St Paddy’s Day action, Steam are hosting a St Patrick’s party on Saturday 18th March, with plenty of the good stuff to go around. Tickets are available from our good friends at Foozie.
A massive thanks to Tullamore D.E.W. and Shebeen for inviting me and the boy down. I was invited to write this review in exchange for a bottle of sweet, sweet Tully but all words are my own.