If you go, be forewarned. W.J. Kavanaghs is in “the dodgy part of town.”
At least, that’s what we were later told, having gone there to meet up with one of the founding partners, Michael Foggarty. Honestly, it didn’t seem dodgy. But to three people from Denver who’re enjoying only their second day in Dublin city, maybe they have no idea what dodgy looks like.
W.J. Kavanaghs is Michael’s second place, in addition to what has become a rather famous drinking and eating emporium, L. Mulligan Grocer, situated on a far less dodgy Stoneybatter street just north of the River Liffey, and made famous by its massive selection of craft beers (in blessed relief, no Guinness!) and, of course, whiskey.
So what happens when a Scotsman who grew up with two distilleries on his doorstep, decided at the age of 14 he wanted to grow up to be a whisky maker, studied chemical engineering at university, worked as a barman, won some whiskey bar awards, met an Irish girl, moved to Ireland, sold whiskey to pubs for the Celtic Whiskey Shop, and moved a lot of whiskey everywhere he worked because he actually knew what he was talking about?
He ends up owning his own place, with a simple vision all its own.
“We’re doing something very clever and very different,” says Michael. “Bars in Ireland are funny. You go to the bar to drink, then you go a restaurant to eat, then you come back to the bar to drink. We’re unusual because we provide the whole experience in one place.” (Okay, maybe not different if you’re not in Ireland.)
He has also become the name you hear over and over and over again, as you wander about Dublin in search of THE GUY to talk to about Irish whiskey. And, in his current partnership, he’s the guy who does the whiskey, providing a selection of 100+ bottles. Including, more than a few Irish. So he’s the perfect guy to ask, why drink Irish whiskeys?
“Irish whiskeys are unique,” says Michael. “Nobody else in the world uses a single pot still and a combination of malted barley and un-malted barley.” Of course, while that might make some sort of sense to a distiller, it’s not so helpful to us. So we pressed him further.
“It’s more accessible — I don’t like to use the word, smoother. It’s more rounded.”
“Creamy, caramel, toffee.”
“Clings to your palate, a bit oily on the palate.”
“No smokiness. Easier to taste.”
“Used to have a cult following, but now it’s in a revival.”
Michael says single pot still whiskeys are the perfect trade-up for a 21-year-old drinking Jameson today. “In ten years, they’re going to be drinking Red Breast 12 Year. It’s a step up. So if you still can’t afford to drink it yourself, buy it for your father, and he’ll let you drink it anyway.”
Here are three other Irish whiskeys, as recommended by THE MAN:
Jameson Crested Ten — A high proportion of pure pot still, matured in sherry barrels. “A high quality whiskey that won’t break the bank.”
Kilbeggan — Making 100,000 cases now. Beam bought the brand and plans to sell a million cases in the U.S. alone. “Get in and join the cult, before it becomes fashionable.”
The Tyrconnell — Whether you try the single-malt version, the sherry finish or the Madeira finish, it’ll be “Just brilliant, the ultimate after-dinner experience.”