My husband and I had a trip booked to Ireland in June 2020. Due to Covid, the trip never happened. For a myriad of reasons, it’s a trip that likely won’t happen any time soon. I’ve pulled up my old itinerary, and I’m going to explore as much of this holiday as virtually as I can! Please visit my BLOG page for previous entries.
DAY 9: take train from CORK to COBH (25-minute journey)
First off, how the heck do I pronounce Cobh?? It’s apparently pronounced “Cove,” as in “the Cove of Cork”. Early 20th century Irish didn’t use “v”, they used “bh.” The town was originally the Cove of Cork, then renamed Queenstown when Victoria visited it, and then reverted to Cove but with a made-up Irish spelling of the English word. So, anyway, that’s where we’re going today because there are a few things we want to see, but most especially:
The Titanic Experience
Cobh (i.e. Queenstown) was the Titanic’s last port of call before it embarked on its journey across the Atlantic Ocean. 123 passengers boarded there, which brought the grand total to 2,206 people riding on the ship, of which 1,517 of them would ultimately perish. (note: of the 123 passengers who boarded at Queenstown, only 44 survived the sinking.)
The Titanic Experience is housed in the original White Star Line Ticket Office. According to the website “your personal tour guide will take you on a virtual journey to board the tenders and join Titanic for her maiden voyage to New York. Along this journey you will view the original pier also known as Heartbreak Pier, which was the last point of land contact for the Queenstown passengers. You will also experience life aboard Titanic and learn a little about the conditions on board for third and first class passengers. When disaster strikes, you will experience the chill of the sinking, through a unique cinematographic experience. Did you survive? The final element of the experience is located in the story room, where you will learn the fate of you as a passenger and all the other Queenstown passengers.”
The town has remained largely unchanged since RMS Titanic departed from Cork Harbour in 1912, with the streetscape and piers still much the same.
Next, we’ll visit The Cobh Heritage Centre
The immigration story: Because so many people from Ireland’s past travelled through Cobh, visitors will learn about the stories of these emigrants. The “Queenstown Experience”, has mostly permanent exhibitions of Irish history. It has held exhibits on life in Ireland through the 18th and 19th centuries, mass emigration, the Great Famine, on penal transportation to Australia, and on the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.
Then, we’ll mosey on over to St. Colman’s Cathedral
St Colman’s Cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in Ireland, standing at 91.4 metres (300 ft), and it stands on a high point in town (which makes it look even taller!). Its 49-bell Carillon is the only such instrument in Ireland. It also includes Ireland’s largest bell, named St. Colman (3.6 tons). The carillon is played from a console within the belfry, consisting of a keyboard and a pedalboard. The action is completely mechanical and there is no artificial assistance. Fast forward to 4:21 to see the instrument in action below:
Ideally, we would have saved enough time to head back to Cork, change buses, and head over to The Jameson Experience!
At our Midleton Distillery, come face-to-face with the world’s largest pot still on our Distillery Experience tour, enjoy a premium whiskey tasting or draw and taste whiskey straight from a cask straight in our live Maturation Warehouse.
…which now brings me to Ryan’s Whiskey Review!
We recently finished kissing the Blarney Stone, so we need some antiseptic to wash off our lips! You what’s good at killing germs? WHISKEY!
At last, we’ve made it down to the southern part of the island, and we will be taking a short trip over to Ireland’s largest distillery in Midleton (yes, it’s spelled right). If you’ll oblige me a bit of history telling, I promise you a top-shelf pour of the whiskey at the end.
Irish whiskey experienced a marked decline in the 1900s due to a trade war amongst the British Isles, the US Prohibition movement, and blended Scotch whisky’s rise to prominence. By 1966, only a handful of distilleries survived, and three of those distilleries, Jameson, Powers, and Paddy had a novel idea to consolidate and try to increase their market. They combined distilleries in Midleton under the inventive and catchy name: Irish Distillers Group. I know, I nodded off to sleep also when I first heard the name too. You know their gambit was successful as IDG (that’s a bit better, right?) produces the most widely selling Irish whiskey in the world: Jameson. While Bushmills produces their own single malts, they source grain whiskey for their blends from Midleton. Mitchell and Son source their single-pot still whiskey for Green Spot from IDG. Gilley’s Redbreast brand sourced their single pot still whiskey from IDG as well until Gilley sold the brand to IDG in 1971. They certainly increased their market share since 1966, and have led a resurgence in Irish whiskey this century.
Before moving on to our promised dram, we need to explore this Single Pot Still whiskey thing. “But I listened to your rambling history lesson, it’s whiskey time!” Patience my friend, we want to understand what we’re drinking, this being the thin line between consumer and connoisseur.
Single Pot Still whiskey is unique to Irish whiskey, and is often called the best expression of whiskey the Emerald Isle has to offer. It is a blend of malted (kiln fired to bring out sweetness) and raw unmalted barley that is milled together, then distilled in a single copper pot. (As a reminder, malting barley brings out the toasty sweetness.) Until recently, it used to be referred to as a “pure pot still” but the US government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade agency objected to the term “pure” being used in alcohol, so a change was made. This US government is really becoming a thorn in my side! Anyway, single pot still whiskey has a richer, thicker mouthfeel and a bit of a spicy bite on the palate. Krista always responds favorably to single pot still whiskey by remarking, “Ooh, I like this one, it has a nice bite to it!”
Now on to today’s whiskey! Midleton Very Rare is Ireland’s answer to the question, “What if Johnnie Walker Blue Label was made in Ireland?” Midelton Very Rare is typically created using a blend of single still pot and grain whiskey aged between 12 and 33 years.
Since we traveled all this way, let’s explore the Dair Ghaelach series, which is the only single pot still whiskey with an initial aging in ex-bourbon casks ranging from 10 to 22 years, and finished in Irish Oak casks. The wood is selected from different forests and only a range of 7 to 10 trees are used. So far there have only been four limited releases. Being new oak, the whiskey is finished for a range of 10 months to two years depending on the release. The palate is rich from the oiliness of the non-malted barley and has a long finish. This mellow sip has notes of clove, cinnamon, and stewed fruits. It is always non-chill filtered and cask strength, so buckle up, we’re going to have one hell of a ride!
Sláinte! (“Cheers” in Irish.)
Next up: Waterford day