Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Distillery Then Donegal
We had a very big breakfast including smoked salmon (I believe we're getting our quota) and scrambled eggs, then made the 10:00 a.m. tour of the Bushmills Distillery. Irish whiskey is distilled three times and aged a minimum of three years in oak, which makes it very smooth. The barley is all grown in Ireland and is malted (germinated) and then air dried in kilns. It is barrel-aged a minimum of three years. Scotch whiskey is made from barley as well, but it is smoke dried, giving it the characteristic smokey taste. American bourbon is made from corn, and aged a minimum of one year. You can imagine which whiskey is smoothest. See how much I learned? It's also interesting that Bushmills, depending on its age, is placed in American bourbon oak barrels, Spanish sherry barrels or Port barrels, or a combination of these, then blended. See how happy Bill is at the end of the tour?
We bought a bottle of Black Bush, one of their speciality whiskeys, aged five years. Our guide said his favorite is the 16 year old bottle. You can try to find it there, if you're interested in a tasting. It spends the final months in oak barrels used for Port wine, giving it a reddish color. We didn't get to taste this one.
It was a 2 1/2 hour drive through beautiful rolling sheep farmland to Donegal. Our hotel is fairly new with nice rooms but none of the historic charm of Bushmills Inn. It's not a fair comparison. We walked into Donegal Town this afternoon and checked out restaurants for dinner as well as had a look at the waterfront and old abby. We met an English gentleman on our walk who is a retired former chef to some well-known West End Hotels, The Dorcester and Savoy included, who recommended The Abbey Hotel restaurant as being one of the best for seafood. He should be a well-informed judge! We'll see.