The Venue, The Duke of York, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 3177 miles as the crows flies from 30 Water Street, New York, the home of The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog.
You may ask “Why is an American bar holding a whiskey launch event in Belfast?” Well the two lads behind the Dead Rabbit, Sean and Jack originate from this fine city. So it’s home to them.
I’ve been lucky enough to drink in the Dead Rabbit a number of times, and each time it never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s a law if you’re from Ireland and in NYC you’ve to visit for a drink. With sawdust on the floors, endless amounts of whiskey on the back-bar, their comic book styled cocktail menus to read over, live music and very friendly staff who no doubt will be up for a good old chin wag. I can safely say I’m a fan of all things Dead Rabbit. For me their marketing is genius. Once someone mentions they’re heading to NYCthe first thing I tell them is to head to the Dead Rabbit. So yeah lads I’m still waiting on my recommendation pay cheque but I’ll settle for a free drink next time I’m over.
It’s 5 years and a few weeks since Sean & Jack left these shores for America and opened the doors of the Dead Rabbit. Within that short space of time they’ve achieved a few decent things. Worlds Best Bar 2015 and again in 2016 meaning they have a queue outside everyday with folk wanting to get a drink (expansion is currently happening, almost double the space) they’ve opened a second bar, The Black Tail NYC and have now launched a 5 year old blended whiskey to mark the occasion of being open 5 years.
As for the event itself, it started as always with a pre-pint or two with a few friends in the Harp Bar, 30 steps away from the Duke Of York where the event was being held. The pre-pints gave us the chance to come up with a plan on how to sneak another blogger who shall remain nameless but is a good Pal (That’s a clue btw) into the event. The plan was simple, hide him in the middle of the group as we gave our names and hope he wouldn’t be spotted, he wasn’t. Victory!
There was no holding back, a glass of whiskey was put into my hand within seconds and seemed to be on endless supply for the rest of the evening along with cocktails from a bespoke menu created for the event. Staff wearing the same uniforms you’d see in The Dead Rabbit. In true spirit of The Dead Rabbit there was some amount of messing, for example under cover brand managers getting pictures beside the Rabbit in their branded whiskey attire. We weren’t the only ones up to no good, there was a Rabbit there causing a ruckus and by the end of the night he could be seen ready to fight for that last drop of whiskey in the bottle. —->
We had few words about the whiskey from Master Distiller, Darryl McNally of Dublin Liberties and some thank you’s from Sean Muldoon managing partner of The Dead Rabbit, though needless to say the Rabbit himself had feck all to say.
NOW FOR THE WHISKEY….
As you know The Dead Rabbit doesn’t have a distillery (yet…, and never say never!) so they’ve reached out to the Dublin Liberties for liquid, but lets be honest, they’ve sourced that liquid themselves as their distillery isn’t yet up and running. (Due to open September 2018) So we can all guess where it has originated.
The whiskey is aged in what they call “old, seasoned bourbon casks” to me that’s at least 3rd fill then finished in specially made, first-fill American oak barrels (100 liters/24 gallons) by Kelvin Cooperage, based in Louisville, Kentucky. It was down to Master Distiller, Darryl McNally of Dublin Liberties to put the pieces together.
On The Nose – Wood. Despite being predominantly aged in seasoned casks, the saving grace is the wood from the new oak barrels. Little hints of vanilla and dark fruits.
In The Mouth – I get the oak, vanilla, spice and some fruit, but for me it’s just a little to gentle.
Down the hatch Conclusions – Short and very smooth. At first I thought it was 40% ABV but the bottle informs me it’s 44%. As I’m someone who 90% of the time drinks whiskey neat I’d like it to have a higher ABV, though I can see why its 44% as they’ll be using it in a good few of their cocktails. Very easy to sip on. I’ll finish the bottle I have and will more than likely restock it.
RRP – £50.
Despite what you or I may think of the whiskey, there is one thing we can’t say a bad word about and that is that Jack & Sean have donated the Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey brand rights to benefit Aware NI (Find out more about depression and the support available). As a famous Belfast singer by the name of Van Morrison sang “Fair play to you!” You don’t see that happen much these days.
Cheers to The Dead Rabbit for sorting me out with my invite and goody bag at the end of the evening. Plus thanks to Sean & Darryl for taking the time to stop and have a decent chat with me.
You can find the nearest off-sales to you stocking the whiskey here.
I’ll leave you with these words from Darryl McNally that we could all live by – “Dead Rabbit Style, here’s to cheating, here’s to stealing, here’s to fighting, here’s to drinking. So if you’re going to cheat, make sure you cheat death. If you’re going to steal, make sure you steal your sweetheart away. If you’re going to fight make sure you fight for your fellow Belfast man and if you’re going to drink make sure you drink the Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey. Sláinte”.
Until next time folks, keep safe & keep drinking whiskey responsibly, but don’t forget to check out the photos of the night below.
Over & out.
Jamie. Whiskey JAC
Drink Responsibly. Please visit Drink Aware UK for more information.