I’ve always been interested in history. Actually…..interested is the wrong word. Fascinated is probably a better word! I’ve always been fascinated about history. The story of where we were and how we got to where we are today. I’m a firm believer that the subject of history should be mandatory in school so that our past is not forgotten. Martin Luther King once said, “we are not the makers of history, we are made by history”. Our very existence is influenced by history, be it family history or the history of an area. Within my own job I try to preserve any old or obsolete items I come across to ensure that this history is preserved. I cannot fathom when people show indifference to where we, as a society, came from. So with all that in mind, its easy to understand why I jumped at the chance to take part in the Cork Whiskey Walk this week.
To be honest I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the day as I left home after taking a half days annual leave to attend. I knew Eric Ryan, the creator of Cork Whiskey Walk, from his involvement in the Cork Whiskey Society of which he is secretary and one of the most regular attendees. From this I had a fair idea that it wouldn’t disappoint too much!
So I arrived at 2pm at our designated location, the wonderful Franciscan Well Brewery and Pub on the North Mall. Meeting with some friends we obviously had to partake in a small drop of Chieftain IPA before we started. Once the full compliment arrived, 11 in total, we headed outside where Eric began to fill us with knowledge. We received an in-depth history of the Franciscan Well, from the 1200AD Franciscan Monastery and its holy well in the sandstone cliffs, which was said to have healing properties, right through to the original 1920s public house where its owner, Seamus Coleman met his grisly demise, and on to present day and Shane Long’s vision to create a brewery at the site.
From here we moved upstairs where we were told the story of how Caskmates came about in that very room. Some of that story can be read in my Jameson Caskmates IPA blog here. And so the first official tasting began with a pairing of Jameson Caskmates Stout edition and the Fran Well Shandon Stout. Here Eric’s background together with a Masters in Brewing and Distilling shone through. The pairing, as expected, is perfect and Eric took us through the tasting with ease pointing out the aromas and tastes we experienced.
We then went for a short walk up to Wyse Hill to have a building I have passed hundreds of times pointed out to us. Founded in 1779 by the Wyse brothers at the site of another holy well, it became the biggest distillery in Cork. As the story goes, the holy well was closed up after pilgrims were stopped by Excise officials carrying buckets of Whiskey instead of holy water! My kind of pilgrims! The site of the holy well is now marked by a Limestone marker built into the wall.
From here we dropped back down the hill to a building owned by UCC, and aptly named Distillery house, at the entrance to what was Wyse distillery.
Wyse’s history was fully explained here from being a noted miser who created a false rear to his home to make it appear most imposing, to the fact he left 3 million pounds when he died (a pretty penny back then). In 1867 the distillery was sold to Cork Distillers who continued to produce whiskey there until 1920 when a fire destroyed several buildings and the distilleries waterwheel. Distilling operations then moved to Midleton Distillery. The walk continued into the UCC complex at North Mall where we were shown a building built in 1964 by Cork Distillers as a bottling plant which remained as such until 2004 when Irish Distillers LTD moved bottling to the Fox & Geese plant. I had been in this building many times and never knew the history that surrounded it!
It was over the bridge where the Tyndell Institute building was pointed out as originally being a malting house for the distillery.
Onwards to the Mardyke complex we went and into the Porterhouse. Once owned by Woodford-Bourne and built in 1875, it was their bonded warehouse. The original curved roof can still be seen today. Out of Eric’s bag of tricks a 1950s bottle of Jamesons “The Jubliee Whiskey” was produced. Alas….Eric could not be persuaded to open it! He did however pour a generous helping of Method and Madness Single Pot Still. While it is a whiskey that needs no introduction for most of us, Eric once again delivered an in-depth breakdown on the tasting of it.
From here it was onto Arthur Mayne’s via the English market.
With each passing building we were given a history of it and its connection to the trade. It was surprising to see just how many buildings had a whiskey related history in the city. In fact one of the social centres of Cork, Reardens Pub, featured with a small whiskey crock being produced on show.
Arriving at Arthur Mayne’s we were lead upstairs for a spread of bread, oils, meats and cheeses. Of course what would this lunch be without a pairing of whiskey! Here we sampled the terrific Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. The upstairs of Arthur Mayne’s is a fantastic little whiskey bar and while it was my first time in there…..it shall not be my last!!
The final walk lead us up to the Welcome Inn where the history of one of Corks oldest pubs, and one of only two operating early houses, was given by Padraig, the present owner. On conclusion a bottle of Paddy Centenary was produced, copitas were filled and the story of Paddy O’ Flaherty was given. A character he most surely was, such that people started asking for Paddy’s whiskey in such numbers, that Cork Distillers decided to put his signature on the bottle to mark it as a true bottle of their whiskey. It eventually was labeled “Paddy” as we know today.
While the tour ended at the Welcome Inn, we decided one more location was called for and off we popped to the Shelbourne Bar in McCurtain Street. With a tremendous selection of whiskey it is a pub that shouldn’t be bypassed if you are in Cork. World famous in Cork for their Irish Coffees that Stephen made us with tender loving care (yes……Cork is its own world…..hence world famous!!)
And with that our day was done. The walk was the first one that I have done, but I know it would be hard to beat it. Eric’s knowledge is mind blowing. No prompt cards on show, no notes were needed. He bounced from date to date with intricate detail. Explanation was offered where needed, questions were demanded from us. I myself thoroughly enjoyed the day and would recommend you to attend, especially if you are from Cork or in my case, adopted by the county! Obviously I haven’t given you the full details of the day. For details such as how Seamus Coleman was murdered, you’ll have to experience the walk yourself. You can get further information about Cork Whiskey Walk here.
With thanks to Cork Whiskey Walks for inviting the author on this walk.