Countdown to St. Patty’s Day; Michael Collins, the man and the whiskey

What would be a St. Patty’s Day Countdown without a suggestion or two for the perfect Irish Whiskey to toast in the holiday?  My personal favorite for just the right drop of the “water of life” is Michael Collins.  (Well, let me clarify that and say “one” of my favorites!  There is a reasonable chance this not the only whiskey to feature in our countdown.)

This fantastic whiskey comes from the “last independent distillery in Ireland”, the Cooley Distillery in County Louth on the northeast coast of the Republic of Ireland.  Besides being very, very drinkable, Michael Collins is best known because it bares the name of one of Ireland’s greatest heroes and someone who should be remembered by all who celebrate during the Saint Patrick’s Day season.

Collins was born in West Cork in 1890 to a family of 8 children.  He was the youngest of three sons and his father’s namesake.  The young Michael was only six years old when his father died.  On his deathbed, the elder Collins was said to have told his family the boy would one day do great things for Ireland, certainly a prophetic statement.

Michael Collins was among those who took part in the Easter Rising of 1916, the event that set in motion a pathway to Irish independence.  In the years following the Rising, Collins rose to became a leader in the Republican movement.  He led a successful underground guerilla war against the Crown, essentially crushing the British Intelligence forces in Ireland, and grew into a mythic figure in the process.  He subsequently took part in the negotiations with the United Kingdom for Ireland’s independence.  The treaty he signed, however, caused a split in the republican movement and  a brutal civil war followed.  Collins was shot and killed in the town of Beal na mBlath in his native County Cork in 1922.

Michael Collins may only have lived barely more than thirty years, but in that time he accomplished things most men could only dream to accomplish in a full lifetime.  There is so much more about the “Big Fellow” I could say, but many authors have done a far better and more thorough job of telling his story than I ever possibly could.  So instead I ask that this Saint Patrick’s Day you raise a glass with me, perhaps of Michael Collins Whiskey, and toast to one of Ireland’s great patriots.

By Dave McBride

 


Whiskey or Whisky?

WC Fields with Mae West

WC Fields with Mae West

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”

–W. C. Fields (1880-1946)

  ———-

I wonder if W.C. Fields enjoyed Scotch, Canadian, American or Irish whiskey?

By simply observing the spelling of whiskey in his quote, we can quite possibly surmise that Mr. Fields enjoyed an American or Irish beverage; if he preferred the Scotch or Canadian version, the correct spelling would be whisky.

The words whiskey and whisky are derived from the Gaelic words meaning “water of life”:  uisce beatha in Ireland and uisge beatha in Scotland, both pronounced something like whishkeyba.

There’s a much storied and debated history regarding the usage of whiskey versus whisky. Until the late 1800s, all whisky was spelled without the “e.” At that time, Scottish whisky suffered a loss of reputation because it was made using a cheaper production method, so the Irish and American distilleries added the “e” as a mark of distinction.

Whiskey is still used today for spirits distilled in Ireland and America, and whisky is used for those distilled in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and Japan.

Curiously, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies whisky as the official U.S. spelling but allows the use of whiskey in deference to history and tradition.

Further reading on the subject is available here, here and here.

— Posted by Kathleen Connally who was delighted to learn that in Latin-American countries, photographers use the word “whiskey” instead of “cheese” as a way to get their subjects to smile.

— Photograph courtesy of Dr. Macro

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