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Issue 117 - In search of the genuine spirit

Whisky Magazine Issue 117
February 2014

 

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In search of the genuine spirit

Our chap heads off on a mission to finding the craic in Toronto

Never pass a bar with your name on it.” That was Irish writer Peter McCarthy's rule. Since pubs called Phillips are rare, I honour him by popping into Toronto's McCarthy's for a quick dram and a pint of stout. Instead of a friendly publican to greet me, someone is measuring plywood, boarding the place up. “It's closed,” he says with a solid grasp of the obvious. Like an idiot, I jiggle the locked door just to be sure.

It's sad when a pub closes its doors, particularly one touted as authentically Irish. In Toronto, a city where you can't swing a shillelagh without hitting a pub, there will certainly be something Irish-like close by.

My cell phone dings – a text from Davin. “Trying Power's John's Lane – oily smooth and so succulent.” He's gallivanting across Dublin. Finding an authentic Irish pub in Toronto isn't as easy, but I press on.

In North America most Irish pubs are corporate “pubs in a box” – emerald green walls cluttered with faux memorabilia. Facsimiles of what you might find in… Irish Disneyland.

I'm seeking Toronto pubs that transcend this triteness and capture a genuine Irish spirit – with a whiskey list to match.

Another text arrives: “There are broad selections of beer and whiskey in tourist bars but most of the pubs in Ireland have only three bottles: Paddy, Powers, and Jameson. Redbreast and Green Spot, if they have them, are considered very special.” Suddenly Toronto is looking up.

At least once a year, on March 17th, Iri...

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