Recently I was invited to attend a whiskey tasting evening out by the airport with the “Aviators Whiskey Society”.
The Aviators are a society established in October of last year for the employees of the airport duty free areas that had an interest in whiskey. The event I was invited to was promising a presentation from Michael Cunningham (A senior IDL sales manager) and a tasting of the Redbreast Mano a Lamh, “plus special guest”.
Quite frankly I had no idea what calibre of special guest would be appearing but the headline billing had me there already. What I didn’t expect was one of the best evenings of whiskey related entertainment and learning from just the promise of the new Redbreast. The society members were incredibly welcoming and quickly began setting up the room for the 40+ guests that had RSVP’d for their monthly meeting. The fears of being the only non- airport staff member being present were quickly eradicated as I was introduced to a woman who had travelled all the way from Mayo that day to attend the evening’s meeting. She had told the guests who were lodging in her B&B that it was bed and no board for the morning and to the road to Dublin she went. Apparently thinking that my long journey from Shankill to ALSAA was the longer of the journeys being made that night was quite naive.
Having arrived fashionably early due to some sporadic Dublin bus schedules I began probing the committee members about the previous meetings and from their beginnings in just October of last year they have had a hell of a run. The members don’t run the tastings themselves, they bring in the ambassadors from international brands such as Tullamore DEW, Beam Suntory, Teeling and of course IDL. This evening was not going to break the trend and Michael Cunningham was not going to be the only face appearing from IDL. Ger Garland, International Whiskey Ambassador for IDL arrived bearing gifts of not only the Redbreast but also Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton and Midleton’s Dair Ghaelach hot off the press. As if an evening tasting and learning about the new innovative ranges from IDL wasn’t enough there was one more surprise in store from the Society Committee, Ger Buckley, Master Cooper from Midleton and a beautiful B1 (soon to be B2) bourbon barrel arrived to kick off the evening’s festivities.
The history behind each of the new innovative releases was explained by all three members of the IDL staff one by one. Ger Buckley taking the reins on the Dair Ghaelach, a whiskey project that he has overseen for the last six years. He told us of all the trials and tribulations that were faced when trying to fell cooper grade oak in Ireland, while maintaining that the trees were sustainable. Dair Ghaelach is certainly one of the most anticipated releases in the IDL portfolio at the moment with every one of the 9 trees felled (10th was not cooper-able quality) creating 5-6 casks each that were numbered and fully traceable. This allows each bottle of whiskey to be traceable all the way back to the stump where the tree was felled. The plethora of information about the Dair Ghaelach creation and maturation was only boosted by the invitation I received to attend its official European launch this coming Tuesday so keep the eyes peeled for the round up on that mid next week!
Apart from the glasses of expensive whiskey being dispersed through the room, Ger used his time in front of the society to explain how his craft has been unchanged for generations. He was very fond of using the analogy that a Roman cooper would be able to walk into the room and continue the job he was doing, saving a moment for the metal bands instead of wooden ones from ancient Rome.
He proceeded to tell us how the tools of his craft haven’t changed in the last 9,000 years and he wasn’t shy showcasing his large coopers axe.
But Ger wasn’t sated just explaining how his tools helped his trade, he was going to demonstrate to the room also. He proceeded to take apart the barrel hoop by hoop and stave by stave until the barrel was eventually shook in a bundle on the floor. He wasted no time in raising the barrel once again. With running commentary the raising of the barrel took approximately 5 minutes, this is where you can really see where the years of apprenticeship came in to use.
Overall this was a phenomenal night. The range of whiskey on offer was top class. Getting to try the new Green Spot before its official release date was fantastic and witnessing Ger Buckley try it for the first time too was mind blowing. It was a poignant moment to be apart of watching one of the masters sampling the product that he had so closely supervised for so long. He loved it, I loved it and the rest of the room seemed to go mad about it. (Don’t worry full write up coming in the next few days too!)
I went into this event expecting to try Mano a Lamh and left thinking that the Redbreast was actually the tamest part of the night! A bonkers statement for a whiskey of such calibre to be dwarfed by the whiskeys that succeeded it along with the best live show I’ve ever witnessed.
10/10 would attend Aviator whiskey society again! Was unsure what to expect going in, now I’m left with no doubt in returning. What this club has achieved since just last October is phenomenal! Clearly the new big players on the block! Their next event is an American Whiskey special plus BBQ in ALSAA on the 4th of July! Check out http://www.aviatorswhiskeysociety.com/ for more details!
Great post Matt, look forward to hearing the verdict on the new Green Spot, very keen to try it myself. On an unrelated matter, I was at the Dingle Distillery Whiskey Academy last week, it is fantastic (and relatively affordable at 450) – I highly recommend it, you can really be a part of the whole process down there rather than simply learning theory (which you do as well). While I was there they were casking their first pot still whiskey – I filled a cask, then panicked when it got to the top and yanked the hose out, spraying the master distiller and everyone else with beautiful pot still whiskey! You can’t take me anywhere….
Hey Bill thanks for the comments! I actually reviewed Green Spot last night I’ll Pop you the link over Twitter perhaps! That sounds great! Sounds like a hands on version of the Midleton academy for a fraction of the price! And I love that story I say they weren’t very accustomed to getting a face full of new make spirit 😛 but great to hear another distillery laying down SPS spirit! More Irish revival!
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