The first of these new initiatives was the new online hub "WhiskeyClub.com". Brought to us by drinks company Dillon Bass, "WhiskeyClub.com" launched with the aim to create a "one-stop shop for fans of Irish whiskey" allowing them to find out more about their favourite tipple.
The website hopes to bring together all the latest news and views with a guide to Northern Ireland's best Irish whiskey bars and stockists alongside a history of Irish whiskey, whiskey event listings, blogs and much more.
As Dillon Bass state themselves: "The Development of the new Whiskey Club initiative is the latest step in the company's efforts to share its passion for Irish whiskey, whilst celebrating the quality bars and bartenders that have played a role in shaping the Irish whiskey story."
For those of you who may not be completely aware of who Dillon Bass are, they are the owners of the largest whiskey portfolio in Northern Ireland. They are without doubt firmly in the stable of all things Midleton with such brands as Jameson, Redbreast, Powers and Midleton whiskey itself.
Here in Northern Ireland, Dillon Bass certainly seem to be at the forefront of Irish whiskey with their recent appointment of Joe Magowan, formerly of The Vineyard, Belfast, as a dedicated Irish Whiskey Ambassador and going forward they see a very bright future for the local market.
Commenting on the launch of the new initiatives, Joanne O'Hagan, marketing director for Dillon Bass stated: "We believe there is huge potential for Irish whiskey to become a bona fide tourism product in Northern Ireland. Our visitor numbers are growing and people want to visit Irish whiskey bars when they come here."
Now, whilst this first initiative may be solely for the domain of the internet the second initiative to be launched is a much more tangible experience.
In partnership with Dillon Bass, "Taste and Tour" have created Belfast's first ever "Whiskey Walk".
"Taste and Tour" have been going from strength to strength, for some time now, bringing to Belfast tours such as the "Belfast Food Tour", "Belfast Bar Tour" and their "Meet the Brewer - Brewery tour". Now they can add the "Whiskey Walk" to their impressive portfolio.
Phil Ervine, director of "Taste and Tour", has commented on the launch of the "Whiskey Walk", stating that it is their aim for "people to finish the "Whiskey Walk" with a new found appreciation and knowledge of Irish whiskey and the Belfast bars that serve it."
As stated, I was lucky to be invited to take part in the first tour and I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable.
The tour began at Belfast's Jaffé Fountain where we were introduced to Joe Magowan, not bad for a Whiskey Ambassador to be accompanying each tour, passing on his knowledge and expertise. From here a few steps took us into "Bittles Bar" for a Jameson, ginger and lime.
Inside Bittles we enjoyed our drink while listening to the story behind, what I would say is, Belfast's best whiskey bar.
From here we walked through Church Lane to "The National" where we were treated to a cocktail demonstration, showing us how Jameson "Black Barrel" can be used to create a whiskey sour, and of course we received our own whiskey sour to sip through.
Onwards we went, through Waring Street and on to Commercial Court, where we ended up at the iconic "Duke of York". Here we were served up a Powers "Gold Label" while Joe Magowan took us through the background of this legendary whiskey.
Another short walk and we were into "The Dirty Onion", which itself was previously used as a whiskey warehouse many years ago. As we entered the bar we were greeted by the sounds of traditional Irish music while the unmistakable aroma of burning peat wafted across our noses.
Here we were treated to a "Boilermaker", an old school serve consisting of a Jameson "Caskmates" alongside a half pint of local Belfast stout. Each drink complimented each other perfectly while Joe Magowan explained the history behind Jameson "Caskmates".
Last of all we ended up in the luxurious surroundings of "The Merchant Hotel" to enjoy a fine trio of Irish whiskeys. Here we received a flight which included Powers "Three Swallow", Green Spot and the heavy hitter that is Redbreast 12 year old.
All in all a perfect ending to an excellent tour.
I think the tour itself will grow from strength to strength as time goes on. Undoubtedly "Taste and Tour" will see how well it is received and add or change anything they feel they need to in order to make sure the tour lives up the high expectations us Irish whiskey drinkers have.
For me the only thing I would suggest is that the tour should maybe highlight the role Belfast played within the history of Irish whiskey. Maybe with a small nod to the likes of Dunville's or even Avoniel. Even if it was only to pay recognition, I still think it would be a nice touch.
I will also briefly touch upon the cost of the tour. The price of the tour is £60 which gets you, as stated, 5 bars and 8 drinks. Given the cost of drinks in Belfast city centre these days, and the fact that you are accompanied by an Irish whiskey Ambassador, I think the price point is just about spot on.
The fact that a company has come out with something new for local Irish whiskey lovers is worthwhile in itself and I think it should be applauded. Hopefully the tourists also take notice of this tour which will allow it to grow and become a firm fixture in the local bar scene.
Going forward there are 3 further tours planned between now and the end of January. The upcoming tour on Wednesday 19th October already appears to be sold out and there are still tickets available for the two other tours on Wednesday 30th November 2016 and Wednesday 18th January 2017. Anyone wishing to book a tour can follow the link posted below.
Lastly I'd just like to thank the whole team at Dillon Bass for the opportunity to be part of these new whiskey initiatives.
Until next time,
Taste and Tour - https://www.tasteandtour.co.uk/
WhiskeyClub.com - http://whiskeyclub.com/