If you drink your way through a four-day trip to Ireland, can you make an honest recommendation on anything?
And if on that trip you taste your first whiskey, is it cool to brazenly recommend a distillery visit?
Here I go: Teeling Whiskey Distillery should be high on your list if you're visiting Dublin.
Sure you'll be tempted to go to the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery, but follow the brick road to Teeling for a less commercialized experience. The people and the whiskey will charm you.
Whiskey has never appealed to me. The smell is harsh and has made me turn away in horror. But I love trying new things, and the theme of this trip was drinking, so I took this tour with aplomb.
We know the Irish are serious about their booze, but whiskey is a big deal. Goes back centuries and is a point of rivalry between Ireland and the more-revered spirit producer, Scotland.
Among the many distilleries in Ireland, Teeling feels more like a startup, even though the family has been making whiskey since 1782. Their distillery on Newmarket opened in 2015 and they say it's the first new one in Dublin in more than 125 years.
The focal point of the distillery process is three gleaming copper pots, each with different properties that affect taste. On a tour, we learn about the process from grain to bottle, Teeling's focus on small-batch production and how everything is hand-crafted. It's not an overwhelming operation, and you get the idea it's a close-knit group of employees. Our tour guide, Chris, indulges our questions and takes our photos.
In another room, we walk by each of their whiskeys, small batch, single grain, single malt and so on. It's overwhelming for a nonwhiskey drinker.
Next, the tasting. Chris leads the tour group to a bar where two glasses are in front of each spot. One glass has the Teeling Small Batch Whiskey, neat; the other a yellow cocktail with a slice of lemon. Chris explains how we should breathe in the whiskey before tasting, and strongly warns us not to down it like a shot. He says we can take the cocktail at our own pace.
I go straight for the cocktail and it goes down smooth, fruity and refreshing. I barely stop to realize there's whiskey in there. It's not too strong, not too sweet. Pretty delightful afternoon drink.
The whiskey, I'm wary of. I take a whiff and the harsh smell grabs me. But what are we here for, anyway? I sip. I try the breathing techniques Chris suggests to slow the burn on my throat. Surprisingly satisfying.
The tour ends, but I'm hooked. So are my friends.
There's a distillery bar where we can get another drink, try other Teeling whiskeys or the Teeling Irish Coffee. I order the cocktail. It was that good. Possibly the most perfect cocktail I've ever had.
They call it "Winter Spice Tea" and apparently I'm not the only one enamored by it. The recipe is posted at the bar: 40 ml Teeling Small Batch, 10 ml vanilla liqueur, 20 ml apple-cinnamon syrup, 30 ml Put out the Cat tea and 20 ml lemon juice. (10 milliliters is .34 ounces.)
Soon enough, I'm buying a Teeling Whiskey T-shirt and considering whether a Teeling glass will survive the trip home. I go for a magnet instead.
A few weeks later, there's a party and my friend Laura says she'll make the cocktail.
I'm converted. Pour me a whiskey.
Contact Amy Hollyfield at [email protected] Follow @amy_hollyfield.