International Women's day – Irish Whiskey and Irish Women's
It can seem hard to believe that women played a role in the fame of Irish whiskey. But don’t be so shocked; as the saying goes: behind everything good there is a women. On a day like International Women's Day, it makes even more sense for the woman's role in Irish whiskey innovation to be mentioned. One such notable woman was Ellen Jane Corrigan whose husband was James McColgan the founder of Bushmills Distillery in 1860. After the event of his death his wife took over the business as it was left to her in his will. In this time it was uncommon for a woman to work let alone be a managing director of a whisky distillery. With her knack for good business ideas, she introduced electricity to the distillery and brought Irish whiskey to the international stage and the Distillery soon grew in size. One of her key ideas attributing to the fame of Bushmills and Irish whiskey was her purchasing of steamship to deliver the product to the states. She was also a key figure to fight in the courts for a law cementing the Irish whiskey purity. . On this special day we propose a glass of the good drink and drink to the great forgotten woman.
O’Shea’s pub in Borris Co. Carlow – Hidden Gems
Borris – a small village in Co. Carlow is one of Ireland’s hidden treasures that looks to the Blackstair mountains in the east and Mount Leinster to the west. Within this small enclave of the Island is a place called “Borris House”, which is also the ancestral home of the Macmurrough Kavanaghs. The Kavanagh family were the former Irish kings of Leinster and have been a part of Borris since the start of their royal status. The famed family has been inhabitants of the Tudor style Borris House that was even in medieval times a symbol of their importance. The house today is open for visitation to the public.
In the 18th century, the then landlord Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh of Borris House brought into focus the sawmill and lace making industry. Kavanagh being a business pioneer of his time also was also responsible for the sixteen arch viaduct that can be seen from the city. The viaduct was a historical landmark at the time due to the trade connections it brought between “Muine Bheag” aka Bagenalstown and Wexford. Today in the somewhat sleepy town of Borris there is a quaint pub known as O’Shea’s. The charming rural pub is still set in its traditional victorian style and it is still till this day in the hands of the O’Shea family. The Pub is also part grocery store, delivering a peek into the 18th and 19th centuries. The pub today is still pouring frothy pints and playing trad music for its guests and locals.
O' Shea's Pub, Main Street, Borris, Co. Carlow, +353 (0)59 9773106 https://www.facebook.com/pages/O-Sheas-Borris/1447741815507209
Athlone Whisky Tour
During the “Athlone Whisky Tour” I had the pleasure of meeting the founder Deirdre. During the tour as we got to know each other I shared my interest in whisky with here and asked her some questions like:
How did you get the idea to establish the Athlone Whiskey Walking Tour?
Last year I launched my business Midlands Whiskey Experiences. My key goal when setting up the business was to establish the Midlands region as a viable whiskey tourism destination over the next few years. This was the first step and through my research into Midlands Whiskey history, I discovered that there was much undiscovered whiskey history relating to Athlone. I met with the Senior librarian in Athlone library Gearoid O'Brien and we started to look into the topic and found some amazing facts that had never been shared or researched before this. We were in awe to discover that Athlone was once a bustling hub of distilleries and brewery's. The earliest record of distilling in Athlone can be traced back as far as 1740 and brewing can be traced back to the 1730's! From this my idea was born and I also then decided to establish the Athlone Whiskey Trail to complement the offering further.
How long did it take to get all the information together?
From my time spent managing Kilbeggan Distillery, I had a huge interest in Irish whiskey history and have really been looking into it ever since. For the Athlone Whiskey Walking Tour itself it took around 8 months to complete all of the research and develop the tour.
What do you think I should do on this tour?
The tour allows visitors to Athlone to fully discover the centuries-old tradition of whiskey production in Athlone that encapsulates over 270 years of whiskey heritage. In Athlone there are plenty of historical sites relating to brewing and distillery from the 18th and 19th century that we visit as part of the tour. We also delve into the history of the families who were involved in the industry and learn about the distillers, brewers and town bailiffs of the past, who owned these thriving establishments. We of course will enjoy some local whiskeys from the Midlands region along the way and also enjoy local chocolate pairings with two of the whiskey samples, to include 2 types of chocolate, handcrafted by a local producer, Kilbeggan Handmade Chocolate. The chocolate is specially made for the tour so you will need to come along to taste it as it cannot be purchased anywhere else in the world!!
I then enjoyed the tour through the city with the help of a little liquid gold. Special thanks to Deirdre for answering my questions!
The Irish Monks and Whiskey
Whiskey was first introduced to Ireland by the Irish Monks. They discovered the art of distilling from the Egyptians who used similar stills for perfume. The monks started distilling for medicinal purposes. This is where the saying “water of life” first originated, in the Irish language „Uisce Beatha“.
In Ireland whiskey is often kept as part of the regular “first aid kid” to help cure stomachs bugs, the flu or toothache, to name but a few.
An Irish Institution –no, not the church but the Pub!
Everywhere you go in the world it seems like you are tripping over or out of Irish Pubs – why is that? And why do the Irish especially cherish the Public house, possible due to it’s roots in Irish society as the gathering place not just of drinkers but the place to do business, exchange gossip and celebrate or commiserate. It’s usually the hub of every small village or town. And developed from the people, opening their kitchen to visitors for storytelling, music and a drop of “Poitin” 😉. These ‘unlicensed shebeens’ grew up into licensed public houses, usually alongside other vital businesses like the grocers or the undertakers, often in the same building, but thankfully not the same room!
And they still are local focal points where you’ll hear all the news and the barman’s an expert on everything worth knowing! 😊
Irish Whiskey Museum
You are probably asking yourself, is this again about whiskey and a museum? Nope. In an illustrative and informative way, Irish history and former crafts like handworks are shown here. This is a good opportunity to form an independent view no matter if you booked a premium or normal tour...both will satisfy.
In the case that you are not in the mood for a tour, you can always visit the coffee area, the bar and take a look at the other events they offer.
Irish Whiskey Museum, 119 Grafton Street, Dublin 2, www.irishwhiskeymuseum.ie