When in Ireland you have to try an Irish whiskey, or two, or even four… and that’s what our trip to The Irish Whiskey Experience, Killarney was all about.
On our recent visit to Ireland, we spent a couple of days in Killarney, a lakeside town by Lough Leane, sitting on the outskirts of the Killarney National Park. Surrounded by rolling green hills, beautiful views and on the Ring of Kerry route (as well as not being too far from the Wild Atlantic Way route), Killarney is a popular tourist destination and we can see why!
Opening on St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) of this year the Irish Whiskey Experience is held in a Killarney bar and restaurant, specialising in whiskey. The Irish Whiskey Experience has a range of courses on offer, allowing you to sample different types of whiskey until you’re a whiskey expert (well, almost!)
Masterclasses include; blending your own Irish whiskey, an introduction to premium whiskey tasting, and cask finished Irish whiskey tasting. There are also a range of courses referred to as ‘Whiskey with a twist’ including; Irish whiskey and chocolate, Irish whiskey and cheese, Irish whiskey cocktail making, and Irish craft gin tasting.
For our visit to Killarney we chose to do ‘The Golden Ticket’ – Irish whiskey and chocolate pairing course. For our Golden Ticket tasting course we sat down with Alan, one of the members of staff at the Irish Whiskey Experience, who was the most knowledgable person I have ever met when it comes to whiskey. Alan talked us through everything we needed to know about the history of Irish whiskey and the distilling process as well as showing us a series of short videos to guide us through the processes.
The course was very interactive, fun and informative and included a chance for Pete and I to battle against one another by completing a sensory quiz. We were each given 6 bottles to do a blind smell test to see if we could recognise traditional household flavours such as vanilla, caramel, cloves, citrus and chocolate. Alan explained how each of these flavours may be experienced in a whiskey through the use of different types of oak barrel, having previously stored spirits such as sherry or bourbon, or even wine! It was so interesting to try and pinpoint familiar smells without using sight or touch, yet each of these smells have the ability to bring back very poignant memories, which is often the aim of the master whiskey blender.
Then onto the tasting… we were given 4 different Irish whiskeys to try:
Powers 3 Swallow
Teeling Whiskey – single grain
Alan was very knowledgable about each of these whiskeys and was able to describe the different scents we could smell on the ‘nose’, as well as explaining the different tastes and characteristics of the whiskeys. Each of these whiskeys had been paired with a specially selected chocolate from Cocoa Atelier chocolatier in Dublin, to perfectly compliment the whiskey and draw out the rich, sweet or fruity flavours. The four chocolates were vanilla, ginger, mango and sea salt caramel and went beautifully with each of the whiskeys.
Not being a massive whiskey drinker myself, I found that I really enjoyed trying the whiskey with the chocolate and could really distinguish the flavours Alan was talking about as he walked us through the tasting. We were free to ask lots of questions (we had a lot) and found that we learnt so much during the course.
After our Golden Ticket course, we went to take a look at the bar, which holds an impressive selection of over 900 whiskeys – mainly from Ireland but also with labels from all over the world. There is also a historic wall of old and rare whiskeys on display for you to admire. The bar is set up beautifully with lights behind each of the bottles creating a beautiful amber glow.
After the Irish Whiskey Experience we spotted the extensive food menu and stayed for a bite to eat, enjoying hearty meals of sliders with chips and belly pork with potatoes, alongside a whiskey cocktail.
The food was really delicious and topped off our great time at the Irish Whiskey Experience. It was actually our wedding anniversary that day and was a brilliant way to spend the early afternoon!
The glowing ambience, warm welcome and unique nature of the Irish Whiskey Experience makes it a lovely place to sit back and relax, enjoying an afternoon like no other.
We thoroughly enjoyed The Irish Whiskey Experience and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Killarney – whether a whiskey expert or a whiskey novice, it’s an experience to be enjoyed by everyone. We found we learnt so much as well as having lots of fun. Pete and I both left with smiles on our faces (not just because of the whiskey drinking!) We also left with a new appreciation ‘uisce beatha’ – the water of life.
Whilst we were guests at The Irish Whiskey Experience Golden Ticket whiskey and chocolate pairing course, all opinions (as ever) remain my own.