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Issue 73 - Irish giant

Whisky Magazine Issue 73
July 2008


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Irish giant

Dave Broom concludes his indepth investigation of the Irish whiskey industry

For once in his life, Colum Egan is looking disappointed. “The waves are usually breaking right over the rocks,” he says, looking hopefully out at the sea for an oncoming squall. Not today. The water is so lethargic it's barely able to slop against the basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway. “I was hoping it would be more elemental.” His smile returns as he starts hauling on a rope. “You know, I always prefer my Bushmills on the rocks,” he says pulling a chilled bottle out of the sea. We throw some over the Causeway to toast the giant, give the bottle to some fast-talking Belfast ladies, “Whiskey? Don't suppose you've got any Baileys?” and sip, looking across the channel that separates the northern coast of Ireland from Kintyre and the Hebrides.

The North Channel has long been a busy waterway. It was the route taken at the end of the 5th century by Fergus Mor mac Earc as he sailed from Antrim to establish his kingdom of Dalriada, now Argyll. It was from here that Aine O'Cathain set sail to marry Angus Og, Lord of the Isles in 1300, with her physician Padraig MacBeathad whose family could have been the first to distil in Scotland, who himself treated Robert the Bruce, the same Bruce who hid on Rathlin Island up the coastline, communing with a spider. Don't try and tell me there wasn't strong liquor involved in that.

Years of interaction, of shared tales, songs and poetry, of politics and science.

Immigrants and emigres, a great tidal flow of humanity and ide...

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