Food For Thought

High Spirits

Recounting a very interesting recent meeting of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild members, by Lizzie Gore Grimes @lizgoregrimes

As you can imagine with so many impassioned foodies in the group our Irish Food Writers’ Guild meetings can often get a bit spirited. But our recent meeting really took things up a notch – in the best possible way. To begin with, we were based in a sun-drenched private meeting room in the new Woollen Mills Eating House, taking in sweeping views out over the Ha’penny bridge. Before we went on to enjoy a superb whiskey tasting (with a spot of inspired food pairing) from Dublin’s new Teeling Whiskey Company. I say new, as the company only launched in 2012, but the Teeling family have in fact been making whiskey in Ireland for over 200 years.

It all started with Walter Teeling who, in 1782, set up a craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane in the Liberties area of Dublin. Today, Walter’s ancestors Jack and Stephen Teeling are carrying on the family tradition and bringing the Teeling name back to the Liberties with the launch of a brand new state-of-the-art distillery located in Newmarket Square, Dublin 8.

This marks a very special occasion for the city as it will be the first time in 125 years that whiskey has been produced in the capital. Jack Teeling’s enthusiasm for the project was palpable as he told us about the new facility and how it will revive the famous whiskey distilling traditional that the area was historically famous for – it used to be known as the “Golden Triangle” at a time when there was over 37 different distilleries in the city.

Jack then took us on to the good stuff – the tasting. We started with a sip of Small Batch, which is bottled at 46% with no chill filtration and so benefits from extra complexity. It is also aged in ex-rum barrels which imparts an extra sweet, soft flavour. To taste, it’s a lovely approachable drop with hints of vanilla and spice and a slightly woody undertone. We paired this with some divine Skellig chocolate truffles enriched with just enough Small Batch whiskey to add decadent depth but not overpower the chocolate.

Then we went on to try the Single Grain – my personal favourite – here the whiskey is matured in Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels, a unique process in whiskey making. On the palate, you get strong spice to start, followed by a rich, smooth red fruit finish. A remarkable taste sensation, which went down particularly well with the whiskey washed Organic Irish Brie from The Little Milk Co.

To finish, the 21-year-old Single Malt was every bit as gorgeous as the bottle it came in. It went down silky smooth, with flavours of fig jam, honey and apricots coming through and a wonderfully mellow peaty, smokey finish. We nibbled on some Little Milk Co. vintage cheddar alongside which complemented the smooth whiskey perfectly.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough taste-bud spoiling for one evening, we went on to enjoy a range of mouth-watering dishes from the Woollen Mills menu. Forks were soon fighting over platters of Ox tongue fritters with beetroot pickled eggs and horseradish mayo; Connemara cured ham with cold pressed Newgrange rapeseed oil; Curried crab claws on toast with samphire and the decadent Ortiz anchovies served with ‘too much’ Cuinneog Farmhouse butter, potato sourdough toast, shallots, capers & lemon. For me the outright winner was the curried crab claws – worth a trip into town alone.

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