The picture of the whiskey bottles is courtesy of Terry Kanowsky.
The photo of the singers is courtesy of Carl Kanowsky.
I’m writing this after spending three days in Dublin. This is my first visit to the Emerald Isle. (I will spend four more days touring south of the capital. Pray I return to the states as I am driving here. And, as charming as the natives are, they cling to the one English tradition they should eschew – driving on the wrong side of the road.)
My initial conclusion?
The folks here are warm, engaging, friendly and naturally helpful. Terry and I were walking in one of Dublin’s outlying areas, studying traffic patterns to prepare for our driving adventure. (Terry refers to it as her nightmare.) A kindly gentleman watched us from his car. He asked if we needed directions. I said that we were trying to figure out how what would be a one-way street in the states is a two-way road with parking in Ireland. He alighted from his vehicle and spent five minutes explaining the rules of the road with a smile. We found that typical of most everyone we met while here.
We had heard so much about the pub scene in Dublin that we decided that to be our first priority. I am not a big spirits fan (e.g., vodka, gin, rum, Scotch, etc.), but I have come to appreciate Irish whiskeys that are distilled three times, such as Redbreast and Green Spot.
Our cabbie from the airport recommended a pub, The Brazen Head, so we headed off to there. This pub is spread out, so we had choices ranging from covered outdoor seating to three different bars, each with its own bartender. We chose an indoor option, pulling up a stool to chat up Steven, the bartender.
We explained that we had enjoyed Redbreast 12-year and Green Spot but wanted to expand our horizons. He suggested Yellow Spot (the colors referring to an old tradition of marking the barrels with a specific color to identify its age), the next step after Green. Then he proposed a relatively new brand, Dingle.
We didn’t care for the Dingle but really enjoyed the Yellow Spot.
Steven explained that proper Irish whiskey tasting starts with a drink of water to cleanse your palate. Then you sniff the booze, but you don’t stick your nose into the glass like you do with wine. Because by doing that all you’d get would be alcohol, none of the secondary smells. Sniff it from above the glass. Then, finally, you begin drinking. (Thank God!) Begin with a small sip kept in the front of your mouth, then swish it around like mouthwash. The alcohol will burn your tongue but also get it ready for the second sip. That’s when the enjoyment begins.
And did we love the Yellow Spot. Very smooth, little burn, and a sweet, almost honey-like flavor. Terry got caramel. Like I said before, I don’t generally like the hard stuff, but I could learn to love some Irish whiskeys.
The Dingle, in contrast, just burned and almost seemed aggressive.
About that time another engaging Irish tradition began. We could hear a singer of Irish songs accompanied by a fiddler. We asked where that was coming from, and Steven pointed to the room adjacent to his. We decided to go check it out.
And, being on vacation, we also decided to splurge and get a shot of the 21-year-old Redbreast. €25 for a 1-ounce pour, but Steven did us a solid by splitting it to two glasses, giving each almost 1 ounce. We paid our tab and went to be charmed by rousing and sometimes mournful Irish ballads.
Now, this was a tradition I could easily adopt.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.