Entries in Irish Whiskey (6)


Northern Irish Gal Cup

When people arrive at my parties I offer them a drink and its always a very simple choice.  Would you like a cocktail or some sparkling water.  I am a firm believer in keeping things really simple. Not offering too much choice.  Simply lovely ingredients well cooked.  Lastnight we toasted St Patrick with this cocktail, then feasted on several kinds of sausages, champ and carmelised onions.  For pudding with had a St Patrick's Minty Pavlova.  Delicious. Simple. Straightforward.  I am a cook who loves feeding people, bringing them round my table to enjoy laughter and conversation, good food and sparkling lights.

I love Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.  This Irish whiskey is 100% barley and distilled in 60% malt and 40% pot still.  Writerṣ Tears” is a old style Irish Pot still Whiskey which makes it a perfect base for a cocktail.  It has a lovely honey flavour with a burst of ginger and butterscotch, there are hints of toasted oat.  It is smooth.  A result of being tripled distilled and matured in charred bourbon barrels.  

To make a Northern Irish Gal Cup - 

Add two cups of whiskey to large jug then a bottle of sparkling ginger and rhubharb presse, top with pure pear juice.  The sweetness of the pear mixed withthe sharp rhubarb, spliced with a hint of gingers fresh spice brings a fresh, mellow note to the honey Writers Tears Whiskey. Serve with ice in beautiful glasses.


Give this a listen while you sip - 


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Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


How to make an Irish Hot Whiskey

Happy St Patrick's Day my lovelies.  May you have a day filled with blessings and laughter.

The rain is battering my window and the green is glimpsed through the mists of grey.  I've come in from walking the dogs and feeling a bit like a drowned rat.

To warm my chilled bones a hot whiskey is the ticket.  

This is a drink of few ingredients and one that doesn't need fussing.

Most important is the whiskey I love Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.  This Irish whiskey is 100% barley and made in a copper pot still.

It has a lovely honey flavour with a burst of ginger and butterscotch, there are hints of toasted oat.  It is smooth.  A result of being tripled distilled and matured in charred bourbon barrels.  Writerṣ Tears” is a old style Irish Pot still Whiskey, with its vatting of Single Malt and Single Pot Still whiskeys, it is distilled from 60% malt and 40% pot still.

Years of making hot whiskey's for customers means I know every trick in the book.  The secret is to warm the glass before adding the whiskey.  Put a teaspoon into a glass and fill with water that is just off the boil.  Meanwhile stud a lemon with cloves. Being careful not to burn fingers, disgard the water from the glass, add the whiskey, clove studded lemon and add a good three fingers of Whiskey to the glass, fill with hot water, stirring  to it swirls add a teaspoon of honey - or brown sugar.  Stir until the sugar is disolved.  Wrap a napkin around the glass so as not to burn your fingers and drink with your toes up in front of a roaring fire.


Happy St Patrick's Day!

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Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Writer's Tears Whiskey from Marks & Spencer

The fire crackled softly warming my toes.  I sat in an easy chair, pulled in close watching the flames, a book of poetry resting on my knee and a glass of whiskey in my hand.  A drink I would enjoy over the hours of the evening.  

Whiskey is not a drink to be rushed or knocked back in quick succession, it should be savoured and enjoyed.

The Whiskey I am drinking this St Patrick's Day is Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.

Whiskey should be drunk from good glasses - crystal if possible. I love these antique tumblers that once belonged to my Gran.  

Writer's Tears is a light whiskey, that is firey on the tongue which rounds out to a smooth mellow honeyed flavour, with strong notes of vanilla, bourbon and butterscotch.  It is a beautiful whiskey, which should be drunk patiently.  Allowing the story of the liquid to tell her tale as it is drunk.

Writers Tears Pot Still Blend is a combination of pure pot still and malt whiskeys from Walsh Whiskey Distllery Ireland.  This soft, sweet easy drinking whiskey, with just a little fire, is best drunk with the tiniest drop of water to release the oils, hidden in the amber liquid, and let the flavours created in the barrel come through. There is a hint of oak, and a flavour of candy apples as the finish is long and sweet.

Writers Tears, is an artisan boutique brand stocked by Marks and Spencer that has captured the attention of whiskey enthusiasts worldwide.  It goes perfecly with the words of John O'Donohue's latest book Walking on the Pastures of Wonder.

If you are knew to whiskey and would like to rise a glass tomorrow, here is our 7 point guide on how to taste whiskey.

How to Taste Whiskey - a 7 Point Guide


  1. Swirl the whiskey in the glass to release its flavours
  2.  Put your nose into the glass and take a good sniff
  3. Take a sip and swirl in your mouth as if eating the whiskey like a mars bar for 15 seconds before swallowing
  4. Swallow, take a deep breath, let the breath out as the whiskey goes down
  5. How does the whiskey, smell and taste to you, where does it hit your palate
  6. Remember - There are no right and wrong answers, it is about your personal taste
  7. Add a drop of water, swirl in the glass to mix, then repeat steps 1-6 - has the flavour of the whiskey changed, if so how?

Happy St Patrick's Day, I hope you will enjoy your glass of Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.


That's it for now ...


Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable



Sláinte its Monday, time for some Bushmills Whiskey Lemonade

Whiskey Lemonade is a study in simplicity.  We are talking three ingredients here - Lemons, Whiskey and sugar .  

And, that's it, simple, sensation and sazzy. Not to mention perfect for serving in large pitchers at parties and BBQs.  

Good Whiskey Lemonade needs lots of lemons! I use the juice of 2 and sometimes three lemons per long glass.

What is it about squeezing lemons by hand, that is so satisfying.  The zingy scent makes me smile, and I sense I fresh rush of energy, just from inhaling the aroma.  I love the smell of lemon which lingers on my hands hours after juicing.

Lemonade: tart, refreshing, simple, with the slightless sweetness, add some 10 year old Bushmills Whiskey, and you bring the tiniest hint of smokiness which comes from the fact this Whiskey is matured for 10 years seasoned Bourbon barrels mainly from Kentucky.  The finishing notes of verbenna and the dry nature of this whiskey, open up when its stirred over lots of ice with lemon and a dash or two of sugar syrup.  I prefer this made with 10 year old Bushmills, but it is just as lovely made with Bushmills Original or Bushmills Honey.


Whiskey Lemonade is a summer drink at its finest, (although note to self it can be drunk anytime of year) it's freshness makes it ideal to sip at after a long day at the office.  Or actually just to enjoy over the course of an afternoon as  you watch the world go by.

The most simple way to make this for pitchers is 1/2 whiskey, 1/2 homemade or still lemonade poured into a jug packed with ice, then stir.  

Trust me it's unlikely you will want to make just one glass, but if you do, here's the recipe.

Whiskey Lemonade 



  • Bushmills Whiskey (two measures at least per person) 
  • Lemon juice (allow juice of two lemons per person)
  • Sugar Syrup to taste 




  1. Fill a large highball with ice
  2. Pour over the Bushmills Whiskey
  3. Add the lemon juice and sugar syrup
  4. Stir and serve



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Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


Tasting Whiskey at Bushmills Distillery

Whiskey has a bad reputation.  It's the drink that gives people a 'thick head' (a northern Irish term for someone who has turned nasty after drinking) and is the go to drink of people in bars wanting to down shots and lose themselves in an alcoholic haze.  It's seen as old fashioned - pardon the pun - and a drink for old men, drunkards and those who need to steady their nerves.  Knocking whiskey back releases fire in the brain, and stops us enjoying the complex and subtle flavours and interactions at work within the glass.

However, whiskey is a magical myraided drink, with layers of flavour and a reasonance which when discovered unlocks a world of flavour.  

Learning to drink whiskey well, changes any relationship we may previously have had with the drink.  And, then quite without warning we enter a world of new flavours and deeper understanding.  Welcome to the whiskey landscape, where our feelings of memory are evoked.

The Bushmills Whiskey Distillery offer fully tutored tastings of the Bushmills family of whiskeys.  My tutor was Seamus Molloy, a man with twinkling eyes and a superb knowledge of whiskey.  He was jovial company and made the whiskeys come alive to me in new ways.  His trademark I'd say, is to get to the bottom of how you the taster feel about the whiskey, rather than simply lecturing on some supposedly 'definitive' taste of each whiskey.

As he said to me several times, 'The best whiskey, is the one you like drinking.'

In his company I tried Bushmills Original, Black Bush, and 10, 12, 16 and 21 year old malts, as well as Bushmills Honey.  

How to Taste Whiskey - a 7 Point Guide


  1. Swirl the whiskey in the glass to release its flavours
  2.  Put your nose into the glass and take a good sniff
  3. Take a sip and swirl in your mouth as if eating the whiskey like a mars bar for 15 seconds before swallowing
  4. Swallow, take a deep breath, let the breath out as the whiskey goes down
  5. How does the whiskey, smell and taste to you, where does it hit your palate
  6. Remember - There are no right and wrong answers, it is about your personal taste
  7. Add a drop of water, swirl in the glass to mix, then repeat steps 1-6 - has the flavour of the whiskey changed, if so how?


Seamus places seven Bushmill's whiskeys in front of me, and another glass of scotch (there to show the difference between Bushmills which is Triple distilled and Scotch which is mainly double distilled, meaning it has a much stronger peaty flavour).

The glasses are filled with different hues of golden nectar, the Bushmill's 16 year old Malt has the darkest colour, and the 10 Year old Malt the palest.

When tasting whiskey, it is important to remember it is a living breathing drink, and when it is released from the bottle and air mingles with the liquid, a new life comes to the golden liquid.

Bushmill's Original - tasting notes

Bushmills Original is a grain whiskey which has been matured for five years then blended with a malt whiskey, it is triple distilled and has a supple character.

The nose is slightly fumey but flowery with a sharp rounded slant.  There's a hint of spice and a slight whiff of vanilla.

The initial taste is strong, with a burn on the palate, it hits you at the front of your face.  A drop of water smooths the flavours, rounding the corners, there's a tang of citrus and a hint of fruit.  Black Bush seems to find its home at the back of my palate.

Black Bush - Tasting Notes

Bushmills Black Bush is a mainly malt blended whiskey which has been matured for 11 years in sherry casks before blending.

The intial nose and taste are similar - fruity like Christmas cake which comes from the sherry barrels - but this is a layered flavour.  These barrels give create a big flavour. The Black Bush feels thicker on the palate than the Original Bushmills.  

Adding a drop of water releases some more flavours a spicey start ends with pecans and a woody satisfying finish.  Leaving the whiskey to breathe with a drop of water for five to ten minutes lets citrus flavours come to the fore.

10 Year Old Single Malt - Tasting Notes

Bushmills Ten Year Old Single Malt is my favourite of the Bushmills stable of whiskey's I loved it.  It is matured for ten years in seasoned Bourbon barrels mainly from Kentucky.  

The first taste hits your palate like a crackle of flame which then opens up to a warm fire on your palate.  The burn drifts to the background as the flavour begins to come to the fore.  Initially I felt like there was a party on my tongue which then faded into a smooth comfortably sleepiness.  The kind that comes after a night of dancing.  The whiskey is quite dry, but when a sip of water of is added the whiskey becomes lighter, freer and slightly sweeter with a hint of vanilla.

This light 10 year old malt whiskey is sublime, sweet and sensational.  As it hits the back of my tongue when the water is added, the whiskey takes on a playful feel, a gentle verbenna awakens on the palate.

16 Year Old Single Malt - Tasting Notes

Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt is matured in three different cask types: bourbon, port and sherry.  The 16 year old is a beautiful whiskey, one who's power and nuance continues to grow on you with each sip.  Water is not needed and if have the pleasure of drinking this is very hot climates, ice awakens a flavour of pine forests and fresh Alpine air.

The nose is rich and warm like thick mannuaka honey, there's a flare and robust finish.  The 16 year old Malt comes alive in a way that draws you the drinker into the story, because this is a whiskey which reminds you of something, but you can't quite place it.  The flavours linger and mingle on your tongue and you lose the present for your memory, you are drawn back in time to a memory you might now place immediately.  There are flavours of toasted wood, nuts and the slightest touch of citrus.  

As I sip this whiskey with Seamus, I find myself transported to another time in my life, drawn into a memory.

This is the kind of whiskey that longs to be sipped ever so slowly over an evening, while your toes toast at the fire.  It's romantic, one you would share with a loved one, as you snugle beside them, one you might take a dram or two of in a hip flask as you sit on the headland and watch the sun fade over the Irish Sea.  It's the sort of whiskey that had you been travelling would be your companion for an evening in a lonely hotel room.  This whiskey stretches out like a cat slowly, a drop of water heightening this process.

21 Year Old Single Malt - Tasting Notes

Bushmills 21 Year old Malt Whiskey well this old boy is very special and in great demand, due to its highly limited ability.  This exquisite whiskey is comforting and secure. It wraps itself around your palate easing into your body, relaxing as it goes, embracing you like a hug you have long longed for.  Matured in a mixture of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks before a marrying period of two years spent in Madeira tasks, the 21 Year old Malt is truly a master.   

On my palate the 21 year old felt, warm and comfortable.  With hints of Indigo, oranges and peaches, it was silky sweet and dry, and very smooth with a refreshingly minty finish. 

Bushmills Irish Honey - Tasting Notes

Bushmills Irish Honey just misses out on being classified as a whiskey as the alcohol content is not high enough.  This would work brilliantly in a hot toddie, with some added slices of lemon studded with cloves and a good bruised slice of ginger.  Initially the Bushmills Honey tasted very sweet to me with a big sugary nose, and a sweet quite clawy taste, but as I swirled it around my mouth it opened up to baked New York vanilla Cheesecake flavour.  Actually a dash of this liqueur would make a welcome reprieve to any baked cheesecake.  As the flavour lingers on the palate there is a marshmallowy hint, so I could also imagine this stirred into melted marshmallows, or used to flavour homemade marshmallow.

The tasting room is warm and inviting, and can hold up to 12-16 people for private tastings, so it is perfect for parties, hen or stag afternoons as well as evening soirees.  Dark oak, with warm red walls this room feels as warm and comfortable as the whiskey's that are tasted there.

Tasting Whiskey at Bushmills Distillery is a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it to you, whether your a whiskey drinker or not, there is something for you during this tasting.  I went in thinking I was not a whiskey drinker and came out with a love for the 10 year old single malt, as well as having my mind and palate stretched and pushed as I tasted my way through the Bushmills Whiskey Stable.  

To book a private tasting contact the Bushmills Distillery 2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills, County Antrim BT57 8XH - 028 2073 3218 and let me know how you get on.


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Salt & Sparkle  Life Remarkable


Bushmills Distillery - how Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made

There’s something about the idea of drinking whiskey that has always made me smile.  Smooth and nuanced the pale gold liquid swirls in the glass beckoning us to try her.  It’s a drink of reliability, a taste that pulls us in, suggesting calm in swirling smoke, and stormy seas.  I imagine myself with a glass, dog at my feet, sitting by a turf fire, engaged in relaxed conversation and comfortable silences.

When I think of Whiskey I automatically think of the Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Nestled into the hillside, this rather magical place holds many a barrel of the amber nectar, on its vast site of some 84 acres with 18 warehouses, each holding casks filled with whiskey stacked six high.  

Whiskey has been distilled on this site since 1608 with the official licence to distil being granted in 1784, making Bushmills the oldest licenced distillery in the world. The pot still also in 1784 became the registered trademark/logo of Bushmills Whiskey – its still in use today on each of the bottles.  The Distillery blends its buildings as well as its whiskey, with a range of old heavy stone, whitewashed and modern structures across the site.

There are 160 staff on this fully working distillery, which gives the guest a real sense of the business of whiskey - the craft, expertise and skill that goes into each bottle of Bushmills. 

With a keen sense of anticipation I join a tour on a dampish Saturday afternoon.  Stepping into the mashhouse, any sense of chill leaves our bodies, as the sweet heady smell of yeast, and the warmth of the house surround us like a comforter.  

It is in the Mashhouse three ingredients come together – unpeated malted barley from Co Kildare in Ireland, distillers yeast and water from St Columbs Mill a tributary of the River Bush – in a vast copper kettle. The mixture is heated with hot air, rather than over a peat fire which gives Bushmills its clean distinct unsmokey taste. The metal floor vibrates under our feet as the three ingredients are slowly stirred together, a giant mechanical arm grinding the grains to a coarse flour also known as a girst by distillers. 

The stir and standing time is about six and a half hours, using 48’000 litres of water the grains and yeast are heated to three different temperatures.  Bushmills Distillery have three to four separate mixings in the Mashhouse each day.

The liquid wash becomes known as wort which is full of sugars essential for the distillation process.  When the yeast is added, it triggers alcoholic fermentation – which basically means the wort sugars turn into alcohol.  The vessels where the fermentation takes place are called washbacks, they are huge metal containers, standing on a metal grill, I look at them sitting about a metre above the surface, wondering how they can hold 48,000 litres until I look down, and these vast tanks seem to stretch on forever.  The alcohol that is formed here is about 7.5%, once the alcohol has formed the distillation process begins.

Our tour walk to the distillation room where the heat makes me think I am in a warm comforting whiskey sauna.  In tall copper pot stills, with fat bottoms and long swan like necks, the whiskey is distilled three times.

It is this tripled distillation process which makes Bushmills smooth and subtle, and distinguishes it from other whiskeys which are usually only distilled twice.  Here the whiskey is clear like water, because it is all down to the barrel to create the colour and draw out the character of the whiskey.

Using American Bourbon barrels, Sherry casks and even Maderia or Port casks, the distilled alcohol is barrelled and left to rest for a minimum of three years.  At this point the blending of the whiskey begins.  Here the whiskey is left to sleep in different types of barrels to create the specific blends of Bushmills Whiskey. On a cold day the grain of the wood tightens and on a warm day it relaxes, the wood acts as a lung allowing the whiskey to breathe.  A certain amount of whiskey is lost through this breathing process and it becomes known as the angel breath.

Bushmills make a range of whiskeys – there are seven altogether in the Bushmills Whiskey family - two blends, Bushmills original the youngest whiskey and Black Bush, here grain alcohol is added to the whiskey to create the blend, and a range of single malts 10, 12 (only available to purchase at the distillery), 16 and 21 which are aged and blended in casks for their respective number of years. 

After the whiskey has been aged in the barrels for the relevant number of years it moves for bottling, a noisy room, where the whiskey is decanted, labelled, sealed and checked before making its way across the world, to a bar near to you.

Bushmills make a range of whiskeys there are two blends – Bushmills original the youngest whiskey and Black Bush, here grain alcohol is added to the whiskey to create the blend, and a range of single malts, which are aged in casks.  For example the 21-year-old whiskey is aged for 19 years in either bourbon or sherry casks, then finished in port.  They also have a Bushmills Honey, were the whiskey has been blended with pure Irish Honey.

Now for tasting the whiskeys – at the end of the tour each of us are offered a dram or whatever Bushmills whiskey we would like to try or there is the opportunity to have a private tasting of all the whiskey’s. But how did the Bushmills taste, I can hear you ask?

The Bushmills style is fruity throughout all the family of whiskeys.  Bushmills Original is soft and rounded, with vanilla and grain on the nose, and honey on the palate with a fairly fiery finish as the alcohol takes over.

Back home, I pour a glass and ease back into my chair, fire crackling by my toes, and sigh, contentedly.

I will be sharing my experiences of the private tutored tasting in another feature here on Salt and Sparkle, as well as a piece on how to drink whiskey and a whiskey based cocktail & food recipe – so watch out for those coming over the next couple of weeks. 

How do you like to drink your Bushmills?

That’s it for now …




Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable




Salt and Sparkle were guests of the Bushmills Distillery