The season of summer, which frankly has lasted considerably longer this year than most Irish folks are used to, is often considered the most romantic of seasons: the roses are in full bloom; birds sing in lush, leafy trees; the days stretch out towards beautiful, golden sunsets, perfect for long walks on the beach with that special someone; and of course, the coveted summer wedding.
Picture the scene, if you will: not a cloud in the sky, a wine reception in a vast, lavish garden of a grand country hotel, harp music drifting through the warm air from a nearby marquee as children race each other up and down the pristine lawn, staining their new suits and dresses green, while some distant cousin or another has an attack of hay fever in a corner. That said, anyone who has ever attended a wedding in – or simply been to – Ireland during the summer will know full well that idyllic, sunny scenes such as this are rarely guaranteed.
Regardless of the weather, however, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the Irish know how to throw a good party, and the amount of careful planning that goes into even the most low-key of weddings, Irish or otherwise, can be staggering. What better way, then, to ease the stress of organising, not to mention adding a little something special, into the festivities than by embracing the Irish spirit (possibly literally) and incorporating some good old Irish whiskey into the proceedings? After all, a good, strong drink is a long-held, beloved tradition of the Irish wedding, and undoubtedly for weddings in many other parts of the world.
Let’s begin with a little background on the spirit-based aspects of the traditional Irish wedding. Many Irish wedding cakes, like a great deal of the country’s cuisine, were hearty affairs made with honey and dried fruit, soaked in whiskey and covered with a sweet white icing. Toasts were made to the wedding couple, and while wine or champagne is the more common choice of toasting drink nowadays, the preferred Irish toasting drink was in fact mead… just in case someone didn’t get enough of a sweet, boozy kick from the cake, presumably. In the more rural areas, poitín (also spelt as potcheen or poteen), a whiskey made from potatoes, was a popular choice of wedding drink, with its flavour and strength varying from town to town, depending on the potatoes and equipment used. With all this in mind, as Irish whiskey is experiencing something of a Renaissance, reclaiming its celebrated title in the global spirit market, kindling new whiskey passions and maybe even re-igniting old ones, it seems only fitting to bring a little extra Irish charm into our most love-centred celebrations?
Of course, we all know that there is much more to a modern-day wedding than just a ceremony and reception, meaning that there are more opportunities (some may say excuses) to enjoy a whiskey or two with your loved ones, be they friends, family or partners-to-be. Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated talking point/aperitif for your engagement party or fancy a stag/hen party that’s a little out of the ordinary, many distilleries offer tasting sessions for their wares, an ideal outing for any whiskey-loving brides or grooms.
Popular choices for tours and tastings include Jameson Distillery at Bow Street in Dublin, Bushmills Distillery on the romantically scenic North Coast of Ireland, and Slane Distillery in County Meath. For those seeking a fun and imaginative wedding favour for the guests, you can hardly go wrong with an Irish whiskey miniature.
For the main event, a whiskey with smooth, honeyed notes would be appropriate to echo he tradition of using mead to toast the happy couple. Options to entertain may include:
- Hyde No. 5 1860 Burgundy Cask, a single grain offering from Hibernia Distillers with warming hints of vanilla and spices;
- The Pogues Irish Whiskey, which brings together Irish single malt and grain whiskey to give an aromatic, rich and sweet-tasting drink.
- Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Madeira Cask, which hails from the Kilbeggan Distilling Company, is a firm favourite with whiskey fans the world over, and combines flavours of dried fruit and toffee to make an ideal accompaniment to a traditional Irish wedding cake.
No matter what season the romance blossoms in, no matter what stage of the relationship you’re in, rest assured that there is a whiskey to suit just about any taste and any occasion, from cosy nights in together to all-out anniversary celebrations, and to offer a slightly unconventional blessing: may your love of Irish whiskey be as strong, exciting and ever-growing as your love for each other.