SLANE CASTLE CONCERTS
All of Ireland was reeling in the early 1980s. The Troubles in Northern Ireland got the major headlines thanks to explosions and gun battles in broad daylight but the unrest was everywhere. Imprisoned Irish-Catholic militant Bobby Sands died on May 5th, 1981 after going on a hunger strike for 66 days; he was only 27 years old. His death prompted several days of riots and violence.
With this unrest as a backdrop, the Earl of Mount Charles (Henry Conyngham) hosted a concert for 18,000 people on his front lawn on August 16th, 1981. Thin Lizzy headlined the show and a young, up and coming Irish band named U2 opened for them. It’s fascinating to listen to the recordings from the show as an unpolished but surprisingly mature U2 play tracks from their debut album, Boy. Twenty years later the band came back to play two dates at Slane called U2 Come Home: Live from Slane Castle. Each show drew a staggering 80,000.
In addition to Thin Lizzy and U2, the concerts at Slane Castle have become a global music attraction headlined by acts the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Guns n’ Roses, David Bowie, and Queen to name a few.
WHISKEY BORN OF ROCK N’ ROLL
With the globally recognizable name of Slane Castle thanks to the success of the rock concerts, and a fully functional barley farm on the property, the Conyngham family decided to launch a line of Irish whiskey. It helped that Lord Henry’s son Alex Conyngham worked as a brand ambassador in the spirits business for a number of years. In 2008, Alex, his father Henry, and his stepmother Iona launched Slane Irish Whiskey by sourcing quality Irish whiskey from Cooley Distillery and employing a unique triple cask method to give it a signature taste. The whiskey is matured in a combination of casks made up of virgin American oak, used Tennessee whiskey and bourbon casks, and ex-Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. The final product was good but as sales of Irish whiskey continued to surge, they found it harder and harder to source the stock whiskies.
In 2015 the global spirits powerhouse acquired a stake in Slane Irish Whiskey and went about converting the castle’s stables into Slane Distillery. Now with the help and distilling expertise of Brown-Forman, the brand is set to take off. Since completion of the distillery, they’ve been using their three pot stills and six column stills to make the three types of whiskies that go into the Slane Triple Casked blend: single malt, single pot still, and grain whiskey. There are rumors that they plan to release the single malt and single pot still whiskies as separate expressions in due time., we’re here for all of that!
An extremely approachable Irish whiskey, everything about it is appealing to a broad swath of whiskey drinkers starting with the bright, golden color in the glass. In spite of its accessible price, I recommend that you treat this as if it was a high-end whiskey. In other words, drink it neat out of a Glencairn glass. You’ll find the nose to have subtle hints of bourbon aromas like vanilla and bananas Foster as well as fresh grain, spice, and dried fruit. The palate is rich and smooth with a sweet opening accompanied by grain, toasted nuts, and baking spice on the finish.
Cigar Pairing: Espinosa Crema
The Espinosa Crema is a medium-bodied blend with a backbone of smooth pepper, cedar, and roasted nuts complemented by a touch of vanilla. Neither overpowers the other as the nuts and vanilla present in both seem to be amplified while the sweetness from the whiskey creeps nicely into the cigar, especially as the whiskey opens in your glass. The increased sweetness and viscosity of the last couple of sips of Slane are glorious with the Espinosa.