Sunday, June 24, 2012

Whiskey Connoisseur? Yep, That’s Me

This weekend, I was lucky enough to have a night out with my friends. One in particular, I haven’t seen in a few years. While out a local club, he ordered me a shot of Jameson, claiming that I would not shut up about how it was my whiskey-of-choice. Feeling as if I had inhaled a ball of fire, the great taste quickly took over and I was taken back to my time spent at the Jameson Distillery in Dublin.
Our last day in Dublin, mom and I had booked a tour of the Jameson Distillery at 4 o’clock. Finally arriving after walking what must have been seven or eight miles, we took a seat and waited for the tour to begin. Our feet were killing us seeing as we were not expecting to walk those seven or eight miles. However, after misjudging the map and being 10 euros short for a bus ride, we were left to walk.
Once the tour began, we were led into a large room where we watched a How-to on how the Jameson Distillery began. After the video, our tour guide asked 10 people to volunteer for a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. Women were asked to volunteer first, so I threw up my hand thinking…you only live once. When else will I have the opportunity to do a whiskey tasting in Ireland? Receiving a small, short green cylinder, we were led on our tour, beginning with the first steps toward true, authentic Jameson Whiskey.
Triple distilled, John Jameson’s delicious whiskey has a rigorous creation process: malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, distillation, and maturation. Each step holds vital importance and ultimately, creating the smooth taste that is Jameson.
Probably one of the most unique portions of the tour was in the final stage: maturation. Seeing the casks, which hold various amounts of whiskey for years, it is believed that while some of the alcohol evaporates, it ascends towards the sky and is received by the angels in Heaven as an offering. By the end of the tour, we were shown the true process from “barley to bottle” as the folks at the distillery like to say.  
Entering the final room, we were told to hand over the drink ticket we were given at the beginning of the tour. There before us were numerous glasses of Jameson whiskey, each mixed with a different beverage: sprite, cranberry juice, ginger ale, and of course, just plain ol’ Jameson.  Since I like cranberry juice, I grabbed my glass, yes, an actual glass (not shot glass), and moved over to a large table, complete with what looked like a placemat and various shots of whiskey.
Shown which whiskeys were which, we moved them to their appropriate place on the placemat. Before me was not only my Jameson and Cranberry juice, but a shot of regular Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Black. A glass of water sat off to the side so that we could cleanse our palates in between tastings. Taking a sip of Jack Daniels, we quickly took a sip of the Jameson. This allowed us to taste the significant difference between the two drinks.  We then moved on to the Johnny Walker Black before taking another sip of Jameson. Each time, the Jameson won, providing me with a smooth and delectable taste. When asked to push forward our favorite, everyone at the table selected Jameson…only the best. Asked to down our remaining shots, we did so with gusto. Looking around, everyone seemed to be polishing off their other two shots and remaining drinks.  I too, took care of my whiskey and cranberry, enjoying its taste thoroughly.
Before leaving the table, our tour guide came back to give each participant a certificate with our names donning the front, claiming us to be qualified whiskey tasters. Can I say, check?! There’s something I can now mark off my bucket list!
Leaving the distillery, I looked up to see probably the coolest chandelier ever. It was composed of nothing but Jameson Whiskey bottles. All I could think of was how many guys would kill to have something like that in their apartments. Okay, well I wouldn’t mind having it in mine either.
While many would recommend that visitors go to the Guinness Distillery, I would highly recommend that people go to the Jameson Distillery. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Even if you aren’t interested in becoming a “qualified whiskey taster,” the tour itself and the atmosphere of the distillery is enough to justify a visit. Great Irish Whiskey…there’s no better place to find it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Sign Says “Do Not Climb”

It is apparent that when people see signs that strongly suggest that visitors stay away from the ledge, not climb over walls, or better yet, the ground beneath you is eroding…they simply throw caution to the wind, say, “Nothing bad will happen to me,” and ultimately, go near the ledge, climb over the wall, and forget that the ground beneath them is eroding.

Just imagine, you are more than 600 feet above the ocean below, you have a breathtaking view of the sea and the skyline, the birds are flying frantically around the sea bottom in search of food, and you’re in Ireland. This was the scene in Galway when my mom and I visited the Cliffs of Moher. To see them from a distance, if you are lucky and it is a good day, they look almost like stairs…for a giant. However, like Ireland weather tends to be, if it is a bad day, the fog and rain can cause the Cliffs to disappear as if they never existed…a giant fairytale.
Luckily for us, we went on a good day. To see these iconic cliffs, it is an experience that words can never fully describe, nor can a camera fully capture. The walkway split two ways, right and left. To the left, one can walk what looks to be five miles out onto the cliffs. We opted to go right. Upon seeing the stairs before us, I knew I could handle it. Having a personal trainer tends to help; however, my poor mother…well, we had to stop once or twice so she could catch her breath. In her defense, anyone who isn’t used to climbing numerous stairs often would have a difficult time. These short stops however, allowed for great photo opportunities.
Me at the Cliffs of Moher and the safety wall behind me
Along the side of us, a chest high concrete wall lined the cliffs. Obviously, this is where my title comes into play. Signs were posted everyone, reminding visitors of the dangers of climbing over. The weather in Ireland can sometimes be unpredictable and our tour guide warned us that one strong gust of wind could knock you off balance, sending you over the cliff and into the blue abyss below. However, he did mention that if that were to happen, to look to the right and we would have a fabulous view of Galway Bay.
Crazy visitors posing on the Cliffs ledge
Opting to stay on solid ground, we both agreed that the view we were currently seeing was just as beautiful behind the wall. The weather that day was sunny, but the wind was whipping around us, making us glad that we had our heavy coats. Reaching the top, we looked back to our left and there before us were the Cliffs. Extending out into the sea, I had hoped to be able to compare the sight to others I have seen in the past, but I couldn’t…this sight was one of its own.
Chiseled and jagged rock built more than 600 feet into the air, grass that was alive and well standing high at its top, the edges so terrifying, yet, so inviting. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had come to this place to spend their last moments of life…so peaceful and calm. That thought was fleeting and terrifying all in one. The grass around us showed so green in the sun. The Ireland rain kept it smelling so fresh and crisp.

Taking more photos than what is “normal,” we simply stood at the top and stared out onto the ocean and the Cliffs standing high above it. I couldn’t help but wonder what my mom was thinking, seeing as she had never seen any sight like this before. I felt blessed to have her standing there with me, experiencing that moment.
Spending two hours at the Cliffs, we ventured back down to return to our tour bus. The time we spent at the Cliffs was one I will never forget. Seeing sights like this is what quenches my thirst for traveling. These are sights that only in person can it truly be cherished and appreciated. As a believer, it is amazing what God has created. I feel completely humbled to have seen these great Cliffs – a place that holds much importance to the Irish people, but much joy and beauty to any and all who visit.