A cask of Irish whiskey will begin its journey by canal to Dublin this weekend for the first time in over half a century.
On Saturday at 12 noon, we will travel five decades back in time to when whiskey was regularly transported from Ireland's Midlands distilleries to Dublin by canal. Using vintage vehicles, and of course Ned the Clydesdale, the cask will make its way from Kilbeggan Distillery to the Grand Canal at Ballycommon.
En route, the cask will be escorted by a fleet of vintage cycles and horseriders to prevent any bandits or brigands intercepting this historic whiskey before it reaches the safety of the Grand Canal.
At Ballycommon, at around 6pm, the cask will board a heritage barge crewed by veterans of the commercial canal era, who will escort it to Dublin, where it will be bottled later this year.
The Grand Canal is one of Ireland's premier waterways, but has been permitted to become rundown over the years. Were it not for the voluntary efforts of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, the canal might well be a long-forgotten memory today.
But some branches of the canal - including the one leading to Kilbeggan harbour - still lie dry, and hence Ned the horse and his vintage cart will be required to make that all-important first leg from Kilbeggan to the canal proper this Saturday, 29th August.
Half a century ago, all manner of goods were transported across Ireland by the Grand Canal, and many of those former canal boatmen are still alive today.
To honour them, and to mark the 50th anniversary of the canal being closed to commercial boats, the Irish Whiskey Society has joined forces with a series of voluntary bodies to transport whiskey via the canal to Dublin this weekend for the first time in this century.
This will entail moving the cask down the (still dry) Kilbeggan Line to Ballycommon as this year's 'Kilbeggan Challenge' on Saturday 29th August 2009.
There, it will meet with a fleet of vintage antique barges heading east, and will be loaded on to the former commercial canal boat 107B which will transport the cask to Dublin and on to a celebration with the former Canal Boatmen to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the commercial era on the canal.
We have a small website which explains all - http://www.grandcrew.iwai.ie
The whiskey from the cask will be bottled as Locke's "Grand Crew" whiskey and the intention is to present each of the surviving boatmen with a bottle at a reception later in the year.
But the first bottle of Locke's Grand Crew will be given on the day to the Annual Across Ireland Motorcycle Fun Run for their charity auction. This annual motorcycle charity challenge has raised millions of euro for children's charities and hundreds of bikers are expected to pass by Kilbeggan distillery on Saturday during their tenth annual across Ireland run.
This 'Grand Crew' bottling marks the first selection by the nascent Irish Whiskey Society, which was only founded in January this year.
More information about the society, which exists to promote the mature and sensible enjoyment of the spirit we in Ireland invented, can be found at http://www.irishwhiskeysociety.com
All profits will go to the various voluntary organisations involved.