Reaching the end of March, St Patrick's day already seems a distant memory. For my friends in the US, it's a night of green-filled Irish nostalgia (much borrowed). In the UK it is a similarly un-sombre affair, but the magic of Ireland is celebrated in a more directed manner. What's a shame is that merely a few weeks on, the wonderful produce from Ireland is already largely being overlooked again.
The produce from Ireland is something revered for good reason - it's not called the Emerald Isle for nothing - and still very high on my global agenda is the house at Ballymaloe with its famous cookery school and gardens. But the alcohol produced in Ireland has a huge and rich history and one that should be given more love outwith a single day's celebrations in March, or when a sporting event creeps around (but sure, both are also good reasons).
I've long been a fan of Guinness. It's part nostalgia but it is still my favourite beer. Irish spirits have taken a little longer for me; An Irish gin graced the back bar at Bramble years back, but when I was living in Scotland, Irish Whiskey (they adopt an extra 'e' in there) never really broke through. To be fair, there was much less of it, and there was little education surrounding it - despite the fact many of even the most stubborn Scots would suggest that it has been around longer than any other whisk(e)y.
Thankfully the category is seeing unprecedented investment and this not only means more education and promotion, but better and greater numbers of whiskies. Many will be familiar with Jameson or Bushmills, but I'm hoping more will discover the joys of Redbreast, Powers John's Lane and Teeling too.
There's a style that the Irish maintain called 'Pure Pot' which is a pot-distilled whisky using a proportion of green - or unmalted - barley in the mix. This golden nuttiness is a wonderful differentiation and leads to a characteristic fruitiness throughout many marques. But what's wonderful about the category and one that makes is so suitable for now - just after St Patrick's day has faded away - is the lightness and freshness that suits Springtime weather so well.
A few Irish whiskies continue to be triple-distilled which leads to a further fruity lightness, but others are made in the same process as Scotch, or many other whiskies around the world. Despite this, they still carry their own 'terroir' - a lot of whisky making comes down to the setting and the style of whisky the whiskymaker wants to create - that makes Irish a distinct profile, and as mentioned before, it seems to suit the first brighter days so well.
To me, spring days are a little more spontaneous. It suddenly seems you have a sunny day that has just enough warmth to justify venturing out in the backyard or beer garden. What I want is a drink that reflects this; easy to assemble but bright and fresh. Wait for the sun to break through, go speak to your favourite bar (Nathan my head bartender down here is Irish, and of course a passionate supporter of Irish Whiskey) or booze shop and ask for some recommendations, and give this simple twist on a Cameron's Kick (Irish and Scotch whiskies, lemon and orgeat) a go:
Fill a narrow, tall hi-ball glass with cubed ice and add:
Half a passionfruit (just squeezed in)
1 teaspoon (5ml) Orgeat (almond syrup)
A shot and a half (40ml) Powers John's Lane
Stir briefly, add more ice, then top with Fevertree ginger ale. Garnish with a straw, mint sprig and a twist of grapefruit.