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On the Whiskey Trail

Giugno 2011
Siete di quelli che bevono qualsiasi cosa ma il whisky proprio no? Ripensateci. E magari assaggiatelo come consiglia la nostra esperta Heidi Donelon, accompagnandolo con del cioccolato fondente.  A proposito: se è scritto con la e, è irlandese.

di Kathleen Becker

File audio:

The old Jameson distillery
The old Jameson distillery
Heidi Donelon
Heidi Donelon

The Irish say they invented whiskey, uisce beatha, the “water of life.”
According to legend, Irish monks brought the art of distillation home from their travels to Mediterranean countries 1,000 years ago, turning the art of perfume distillery to a very different use. There is a famous saying: “God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.”


Whiskey may be 1,000 years old, but it wasn’t until 2009 that “The Ireland Whiskey Trail” was invented. It was founded by Heidi Donelon (see interview), who has been working in the whiskey business for many years. One day, when thinking about all the Whisky Trails available in Scotland, she realised that Ireland also needed a Whiskey Trail...


The natural starting point for visitors is Dublin, where  Brooks Hotel offers 100 whiskies and excellent Irish Coffees. There is the Celtic Whisky Shop with a huge choice of whiskies, and, of course, the Temple Bar pub, with Ireland’s biggest collection of whiskies. There is the Jameson’s Visitor Experience, a great introduction to the process, even though no distilling takes place there any longer. To see that you need to head southwest, to Midleton, in County Cork. The New Midleton Distillery produces Jameson’s, Powers and a rarity called Green Spot, which is something to impress your connoisseur friends with.


The most famous distillery is in Northern Ireland: Bushmills, which was founded in 1608.
Cooley’s Distillery in Riverstown, County Louth (on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic) opened in 1987 and now produces several different whiskeys. One of them is the only peated Irish whiskey: it is cleverly named “Connemara,” to evoke peat moors and atmospheric desolation. In 2007, Cooley’s renovated an ancient distillery at Kilbeggan in the heart of Ireland to start producing Kilbeggan Whiskey, after a gap of over 50 years. Kilbeggan whiskeys have already won international awards. Kilbeggans is the only distillery in the country where you can still see coopers at work repairing barrels, and Cooley’s/Kilbeggan’s is the only independent distillery. The two biggest Irish distilleries are owned by multinationals: Bushmills by Diageo and Midleton by Pernod-Ricard.


The Ireland Whiskey Trail could soon have another attraction. A new distillery is being built in Dingle in County Kerry. Dingle is Europe’s westernmost town. In the current economic climate, the distillery is actively looking for new shareholders and investors. So here’s your chance to become part of the story of Irish Whiskey!



Speaker: John Young (Standard British accent)

Scotland is famous for its whisky (spelt W-H-I-S-K-Y), but Ireland is famous for its whiskey (spelt W-H-I-S-K-E-Y). Every year thousands of tourists go on the “Whisky Trail” and visit Scotland’s distilleries. For this reason Heidi Donelon decided to set up an “Ireland Whiskey Trail.” Speak Up went to see her at the Brooks Hotel in Dublin, which is on the Trail. We asked her to describe the typical whiskey drinker:

Heidi Donelon (Irish accent)

Traditionally, the typical whiskey drinker in Ireland would tend to be older. We tend to think of a male, we tend to think often, 45 plus, but that is changing very much, specifically with brands like Jameson, who do a lot of advertising and marketing towards younger people. The typical whiskey drinker on the Continent is somewhat different, it would tend to be a very much younger audience, so I would say anything from 25 years plus, and a huge amount of connoisseurs. So people who don’t want to drink whiskey, they are not looking for quantity, they are looking for quality. So they don’t want to drink whiskey to get drunk, they want to drink whiskey, really, for the pleasure of drinking whiskey. And they want to know as much as possible about the whiskeys that they are drinking, where they come from, how they are made, why they taste the way that they do, what type of whiskey they are. They want to know all about maturation, they want to meet the experts who create these whiskeys. And that’s why, internationally, there are actually a huge amount of whiskey shows, consumer whiskey shows.


Heidi Donelon says that – in Ireland at least — whiskey tends to be a man’s drink.  When she tries to convert women to the cause, she uses an original method:

Heidi Donelon

I introduce it to them with dark chocolate. Effectively, the chocolate completely softens the whiskey in your mouth, so, if you’re not used to drinking whiskey, and... whiskey is one of the few spirits where you actually drink at 40 per cent, if you think of anything else, gin, vodka, they tend to be mixed. So the chocolate just softens, maybe the final angles of the whiskey, but then what the whiskey does, it really explodes the cocoa element on your palate, so it intensifies that cocoa pleasure, and, for me, it’s a real pleasure to see the surprise on women’s faces, and, “Oh, my God, this is nice... oh, I like this, oh yeah, oh, I could definitely drink whiskey like this!” These are the kind of comments I get, you know. So, I mean, look, it’s a great job, you couldn’t ask for a much nicer job, really! 


Download a free guide and map of the Ireland Whiskey Trail, with recipes for whiskey cocktails and discount vouchers, from www.irelandwhiskeytrail.com

Today Ireland has three working distilleries: Bushmills (www.bushmills.com) in County Antrim (Northern Ireland); Midleton (www.jamesonwhiskey.com), in County Cork (near a beautiful stately-home hotel: www.castlemartyrresort.ie)  and Cooley’s (www.cooleywhiskey.com) in County Louth. A fourth will open soon in Dingle Town, County Kerry (www.thedinglewhiskeydistillery.com). It will produce “artisan whiskey” (which is less than 10 years old). There are also two distillery museums:  Locke’s (in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath) and Jameson’s in Dublin.

In Dublin you should also visit the Celtic Whiskey Shop (www.celticwhiskeyshop.com) on 27/28 Dawson Street for Ireland’s biggest selection of whiskies to buy, Brooks Hotel (www.brookshotel.ie) on Drury Street, and the Temple Bar pub (www.thetemplebarpub.com) at 47/48 Temple Bar .

For more information:
Turismo Irlanda (Milano), Tel. 02 48296060

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To keep the Irish from ruling the world. Questa frase significa ‘per impedire agli irlandesi di governare
il mondo’. L’uso del verbo keep è piuttosto arcaico e oggi si direbbe
to stop oppure to prevent the Irish. Naturalmente il senso è che, se sono tutti ubriachi, non possono governare nessuno!

False friend – to realise.
Attenzione! To realise non significa realizzare, bensì ‘rendersi conto’. E come si dice ‘realizzare’? In diversi modi: ‘realizzare
un sogno’, per esempio, sarebbe to have a dream come true.

Peated whiskey.
Il whisky torbato è qualcosa che generalmente si associa alla Scozia. Infatti è proprio la torba nel terreno delle piccole isole, in particolare l’isola di Islay, che aggiunge un aroma particolare al whisky. Questo aroma è in parte dovuto alle piccole quantità di alghe marine nella torba!