Five Alcohol Factories To Kick Off Spring Travel

Spring is in the air, which means that most of us will be swapping our mulled wine and spiked apple cider for beer gardens and rooftop bars. Behind every good brew, though, is a distillery that made your buzz possible. And many of those outlets have turned into touristic destinations for the curious traveler in search of an off-beat destination – something in contrast to the humdrum monument or public art gallery. Here are five factories to get your planning started.

Beer
The Guinness Storehouse: Ireland
Unlike many bartenders in the US, the Irish take their Guinness drinking very seriously and after a day at the Storehouse, you too can learn the “perfect pour.” Tickets cost around 13 Euros and include a free pint of Guinness at the rooftop bar, which arguably has one of the best views of the city. The building’s seven-story exhibit takes you though the brewing process, giving guests a better understanding of just how much effort goes into creating good tasting beer. Student discounts are available and for a more in-depth experience, schedule a specialty tour.
St James’s Gate, Dublin 8

Scotch
Glenkinchie Scotch Malt Whiskey Distillery: Scotland
If you find yourself in Scotland, good luck avoiding a Scotch tour, as malt whiskey distilleries are scattered throughout the country. The Glenkinchie Distillery is close to Edinburgh, making it an easy day trip for travelers. Tickets cost 6 GBP and tours are offered daily. A complimentary taste of Glenkinchie’s 12 year old single malt is given to anyone who pays the 3 GBP entrance fee. More extensive tours are available for a slightly higher price but more freebies are provided, making it a worthy investment.
Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian EH34 5ETGin
Plymouth Gin Distillery: England
Black Friars Distillery has been the happy home of Plymouth Gin since 1793 but the buildings themselves date back to the early 1400s. The Refectory Room is a medieval hall and cocktail lounge that is the highlight for many guests, as it’s said to be where the Pilgrim Fathers sat before sailing on the Mayflower. Tours are held daily but have limited space so make sure to plan your visit in advance. Don’t forget to drink your free and flavorful gin and tonic before leaving.
60 Southside Street, The Barbican, Plymouth, Devon

Vodka
Filliers Vodka Distillery: Belgium
Belgium is certainly known for top-tier chocolate but it is also home to Filliers Vodka Distillery. Tours are offered Monday-Saturday for groups of 15-20 people and last around an hour and a half, giving guests a sneak peak into the distillation process complete with vodka tasting. The minimum price for guided group tours is 120 Euros. For travelers craving a bit or solitude, Filliers is perfectly situated in the middle of the countryside and surrounded by meadows and picturesque fields. The distillery produces a number of liquors including Goldlys Belgian Whisky, Van Hoo Vodka and the traditional Bols Genever.
Leernsesteenweg 5, Deinze, Belgium

Rum
Bacardi Rum Factory: Puerto Rico
Those who prefer a little rum to their drink should head straight to Casa Bacardi in Cantano, Puerto Rico. Starting in Santiago de Cuba, the popular brand has since made its way to Havanna, San Juan, Miami, Bermuda and almost certainly your local bar. Daily tours run every 20 minutes and include an interactive glance at Bacardi’s history starting with the origins of rum making to a demonstration of how to make mojitos. Each guest is given two free drink tickets but drinks during the tour are not allowed, so make sure to hold onto your vouchers for the outdoor Bacardi bar.
Road 165, Rte. 888, Km 2.6, Cataño, 00962

[flickr image via chacrebleu]

Whiskey and chocolate: the next big food pairing?

whiskey chocolateWhiskey and chocolate are two of my favorite things — but together? I was suspicious. That is, until I attended a pairing event at Union Square Wines here in New York City, hosted by Pacari Chocolate and Compass Box Whisky. Somehow, the flavors came together perfectly, and not just because of my whiskey buzz and sugar high (though those were there too).

The tasting consisted of five pairings, some traditional and others more off-beat. The one that blew me away was a pairing of the award-winning Hedonism, a vanilla and toffee-flavored Scotch grain whisky blend, with Pacari’s Amazonian Lemongrass chocolate. When the high citrus notes of the chocolate hit the sweetness of the whiskey a whole other flavor emerged, which lingered nicely in my mouth for quite some time.

Another popular pairing was Compass Box’s Orangerie, a Scotch whisky infused with hand-zested orange, cassia bark and clove, with Pacari’s Aji Chili-Coriander Spiced Chocolate. The sweet and the spicy came together just right and the coriander added an extra kick.One reason the pairing event worked so well is that both Pacari and Compass Box are artisan brands. Pacari is the first single-origin organic chocolate produced entirely in Ecuador with biodynamically-grown ingredients. Compass Box is a boutique Scotch whiskymaker and craft blender, known for blending specially-selected whiskeys from Scotland using natural processes, without chill filtering or artificial coloring. Because both the whiskey and chocolate are produced naturally and in small batches, they are able to retain many of the lipids that get lost in large-scale manufacturing — a big contributor to the flavor explosions I experienced from many of the pairings.

Drooling over your keyboard yet? New York-area foodies hankering for a taste can attend a pairing event on March 27 at the St Giles Hotel New York — The Court. Tickets are $35 and available here.

Photo of the day – Cocktail hour

photo of the day
It’s always cocktail hour somewhere in the world, they say, though if you’re 8 months pregnant like me, it’s not for another 5 weeks or so. Even as a non-whiskey drinker, I looked at this and wanted a nice warming glass of scotch and perhaps a fire to drink it by. Flickr user JRodmanJr snapped this drink (and presumably drank it) in Basel, Switzerland; it’s a 14-year-old single malt from the Scottish distillery Oban. A beverage like this one can inspire a trip to taste the drink at its source, or just provide a mini-vacation in a glass.

Photograph any refreshing beverages on your travels? Upload your pix to the Gadling Flickr page and we may use it for a future Photo of the Day.

Gadling’s 2011 NYC summit / NoFF happy hour recap

One week ago, the nefarious crew here at Gadling assembled from all parts of the globe to gather in the Big Apple for our annual team summit. Led by Gadling’s steadfast Editor-in-Chief & tequila pusher, Mr. Grant Martin, the team took to the bustling streets of NYC for a weekend of strategizing, socializing, pool sharking, and vital face time.

The highlights of the weekend (from what we can remember) included a travel/tech panel organized & curated by Gadling’s own Jeremy Kressmann; where Drew Patterson (CEO of Jetsetter), Geoff Lewis (CEO of Topguest) and Grant Martin discussed the present and future of social media’s impact on loyalty programs.


On Saturday evening, we had the pleasure of teaming up once again with the boys at the Nomading Film Festival to wrangle some of the top NYC-based talent in the travel industry for our second happy hour of 2011. Hosted at the Lolita Bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, we convened over a special pouring

of 17 Year Old Fine Oak & 18 Year Old Sherry Oak Single Malts from the Macallan. A sensible amount of scotch & tequila was consumed, new friends were made, old friends reunited, and when the fine folks at Mastercard & Travelocity started feeling generous, coveted gifts (and gnomes) were raffled.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better group to share the celebrations with; thank you to all that were able to make it. If you missed us this time around, then scroll through the gallery above to see the photos that we were allowed to publish. If you want the uncensored version, you’ll just have to join us next time!

Daily Pampering: Fine and Rare Macallan for $10,500

Ask a scotch drinker about their dram of choice and often you will hear two words: The Macallan. For today’s Daily Pampering, we head to Speyside in Scotland – the home of malt whisky and Fine and Rare bottles that can be yours for $10,500.

Pull into The Macallan gates to learn about the magic that happens inside.

The tour begins at the distillery. Visitors see the mash tuns, washbacks, stills, and casks and learn about how each part of the process works together to create the golden scotch deliciousness. Several exhibits explain the process of turning new spirit into whisky with stories about the barley, the wood casks, and the tasting notes. Visitors who book the Precious Whisky Tour (lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes for 20 pounds) continue into the nosing room for a tutored tasting of a range of Macallan whiskies. You might even catch a glimpse of Bob Delgarno, Master Whisky Maker working away in his office right next to the nosing room.

Next head to The Macallan shop to stock up on barware, logo-wear, and food products infused with whisky. Flanked in leather and embossed with he Macallan logo, the Hunters Flask included two small metal cups to share whisky on the go. This is the time to check out the Fine and Rare bottles. For the 1937 bottle, enough liquid for 174 bottles were taken from the cask in 1969 – it can be yours for for $10,500.

A visit to The Macallan Estate and Distillery reveals the intense passion of the team that make some of the best whisky in the world. A fine rare experience indeed. Slainte Mhath!

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.