Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Competition for St Patrick's Day / Two weeks in Ireland drinking Bushmills whiskey

Bushmill's Irish Whiskey master distiller, Colum Egan, to reveal flavor secrets to contest winners

Colum Egan, Bushmill's Irish Whiskey master distiller, is holding a contest in which the winner will learn the tricks of the drink trade.
Colum Egan, Bushmill's Irish Whiskey master distiller, is holding a contest in which the winner will learn the tricks of the drink trade.

Colum Egan claims he has the greatest job in the world. And if you drink whiskey, you just might agree.

As master distiller of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey, Egan carries the goblet of flavor secrets that has been handed down at the company for 400 years. And for a team of lucky Americans, Egan is about to share some of them.

"We're having a contest and the winners will come over for two weeks to Ireland and I'll teach them a little bit about whiskey, a little bit about the pubs and a bit about the Irish sense of fun and humor," he says. "We want real people with real friends."
Contestants will have to submit mini-essays on the Bushmill's U.S. Facebook page no longer than 1608 characters — to commemorate the year of Bushmill's founding — expressing why Egan should pick them and their best friends who'll get to come and create their own blends. The first prize is $8,000.
Won't mixologists and moonshiners have an edge?
"They don't have to be experts," says Egan. "I just want people I can have fun with for two days."
Whiskey, from the Gaelic phrase meaning "water of life," first had a "brutal" taste, according to The Whisky Guide, because people drank it as soon as their mash of grains fermented. As Irish luck would have it, one man who found a forgotten barrelful dared another to drink what they both thought must have turned toxic. They discovered the smoothness of what some still call "the Devil's Buttermilk."
Egan performs his alchemy on malted barley, and the amber elixirs age in three different types of wooden casks for three, ten, even 16 years.
"We might use a sherry-soaked cask to produce a succulent fruitiness," says Egan. "Or a certain kind of oak to get those toasted notes of vanilla or caramel."
While purists drink their whiskey undiluted, or "neat," Egan has no problem if people want to add ginger ale or Coke.
"I don't like to have too many rules," he says. "I just want people to enjoy themselves."
Egan comes to the city Thursday to ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange, which could be quite a tintinabulation after a day of St. Patrick's Day festivities.
Actually, Egan is a model of restraint, even on the job. "I taste whiskey everyday, but I still have to drive home," to the tiny coastal village of Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, he said with a laugh.
The 41-year-old won't say which Bushmills blend is his favorite.
"Would you ask a mother," he says, "which of her five kids is her favorite?"
Bushmills will bottle the winners' blends, but  would it make the production line?
"You never know," says the master craftsman. "If it's a real classic, questions will be asked of my ability."
A good whiskey requires a great toast. Here's one from Colum Egan:
There are tall ships, there
     are long ships
There are ships that sail
     the sea
But the best ships are
And may they always be
Colum Egan's Original Irish Whiskey Sauce
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
Cream butter and sugar together; blend in the beaten egg. Put mixture in top of a double boiler over gently boiling water and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey.
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