Irish Interlude

There can be little doubt that one of the hugest perquisites of the academic lifestyle is the sabbatical—the opportunity to take a literal Sabbath once every seven years and re-invigorate one’s professional life through time away from one’s usual responsibilities. Dr. Mrs. Dr. Dave has been back home from her sojourn in Pittsburgh since the end of February, but is still taking advantage of her lack of teaching responsibilities to do some professional and personal growth. Most of her month of March was spent chained to a computer to meet a publishing deadline, and the first week of April was a major professional meeting in San Diego, but that still left some time later in the month for an unusual travel opportunity, spending a week-and-a-half on a semi-religiously-themed tourist trip to Ireland in the company of a half-dozen other members of our church.

Like me, she likes to blog as a way of sharing her travels, so here’s a link to her Irish travel blog. There are, however, a couple of connections between her adventures in Ireland and my adventures with booze. One connection is that their group made a stop at the Guinness brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin, during which DMDD learned how to pull a pint of Guinness and claimed to actually enjoy the final product. (I can affirm from a trip to Belfast many years ago that the closer you are to the brewery, the more enjoyable a pint of Guinness becomes.) The other connection is that they also visited the Kilbeggan distillery where they produce several styles of Irish whiskey, a sampler of which came home for me to enjoy.IMG_0796

The packaging describes the four whiskeys in the sampler as either fruity, sweet, smoky, or smooth, and that’s actually a pretty accurate summary. The ones labeled as sweet (the house label) and fruity (Tyrconnell Single Malt) were fine but not particularly memorable—if you’re a scotch drinker, think of something like Johnny Walker Red or Cutty Sark. The smooth one was an 8 Year Old single malt that was more flavorful but that was not in the same league as my favorite 12 year old single malt scotches (Macallan, Glenmorangie, and that ilk). The smoky one, known as Coonemara, was more along the lines of an Islay with the distinct peaty notes that a scotch drinker would associate with Jura or Laphroaig. This isn’t my usual choice for flavor profile in scotch, so in the end I would rate the 8 Year Old single malt as my favorite from this selection. (I have no idea how widely any of these are available in the U.S., so the point may be moot anyway unless you’re planning to travel to the Republic of Ireland in the near future.)

The most interesting souvenir that DMDD brought back may have been the bonus Dark Chocolate Whiskey Bar featured in the picture here. IMG_0794Every once in awhile I find myself amused at the stark contrast between the somewhat uptight attitude about alcohol in this country (as evidenced by our state-by-state patchwork liquor laws and the disastrous national experiment of Prohibition) as compared with the attitude throughout most of Europe. Ireland, however, may have taken the cake here by going beyond the decadence of Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur and explicitly combining alcohol and dessert in a single package. The whiskey wasn’t actually all that noticeable, but it was more enjoyable than your average American candy bar, so maybe there was something subliminal going on.
At our local Irish-style pub we did the experiment of trying a draft Guinness a couple of weeks ago and reaffirmed that DMDD isn’t actually going to start drinking beer on a regular basis and that the beer doesn’t taste the same here as it does in Dublin. That’s OK, since a big part of the travel experience is to live in the moment and create memories of what things are like in their native environment. Both of us would agree that we have had experiences that we won’t ever re-create and probably shouldn’t even try. DMDD also told me that we should travel to Ireland together sometime (and not as part of a group tour). Since that probably won’t happen for awhile, I will have to settle for the vicarious experience of her trip and the relics that she was able to bring home to share.

We’ve had a cold and damp spring so far, so the beer menu hasn’t fully transitioned to summer yet, but there are some novel choices in the fridge (along with a couple of familiar favorites) that will be reviewed in a forthcoming post. Cheers!

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