Whisky Magazine Issue 49
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The Irish Heather is a whisky mecca in downtown Vancouver. Brigid James visited it
Tucked away in a corner of Vancouver's historic Gastown, amongst trendy restaurants and gift shops, is an establishment that offers a sense of permanence in this young and restless city. The Irish Heather is a pub that really looks like one, feels like one and allegedly serves the best pint of Guinness in town.
But don't be prepared to settle merely for a decent pint by the bar: the adventurous will head down a corridor and into the conservatory. From there, it's a step across the courtyard to a mysterious red doorway, with a brass plaque next to it bearing a shape very much like a still.
Through the red doorway, a glittering wall of whiskies appears, like an oasis in the desert, promising a tasting odyssey of epic proportions.
And the purveyor of such bounty? Meet Sean Heather, an affable Irish-Canadian who sounds like he's barely been away from his homeland for a day.
In 1997, he opened the Irish Heather in a run-down part of town. The pub flourished, and with it the area, now a tourist hot-spot boasting some of the city's oldest buildings (late 19th century) – among them The Heather.
When the former jail coachhouse building across the courtyard became vacant, Sean snapped it up, realizing the potential of this snug little venue with its attractive brickwork and secluded feel.
He named it ‘Shebeen', which means ‘a secretive small room or hovel where illegal alcohol was sold', as the website explains.
And although the alcohol sold is far from illegal, the room c...