“The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.”James Joyce
The Joyce of Whiskey
Bloomsday is an annual celebration of the infamous Dublin writer James Joyce and his much loved and debated novel ‘Ulysses.’ It takes place on the 16th June as a touching tribute to his wife Nora Barnacle as this was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora.
Joyce was noted as a whiskey enthusiast and had quite the ‘grá’ (gaeilge for love/affection) for a dram of whiskey, so much in fact he used the JJ Jameson whiskey typeface to initial his wallet with his own JJ initials. Though for most you can see his love for whiskey flows through many of his novels of which most were centred around Dublin and based on people he knew.
Joyce was born to May (Mary Jane Murray) daughter to a Wine and Spirit agent and John Joyce who was secretary of the Dublin Chapelizod distillery company. Sadly his father’s foray into the whiskey business was to end with quite a substantial loss to the family of which was not helped by his father’s preference for many a glass on an evening. As you can glean from this, Joyce was familiar with this “life giving elixir”, which took centre stage in ‘Finnegan’s Wake.’
Coincidently Joyce was very good friends with Guglielmo Marconi, who lived in Montrose House, owned by his relatives the Jameson’s and today the house is part of the site for RTÉ (Irish television studies). More interestingly he was great-grandson to the founder of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, John Jameson, surely a point of great interest to Joyce.
Joyce is celebrated by many, with some even paying homage to him an independent bottling of single malt whiskey, a limited edition of fifteen casks which is a nod to ‘House of the Dead’ featured in Joyce’s Dubliners, which is set at No.15 Ushers Island in Dublin City.
It is not the only honour paid to Joyce within the whiskey industry, Walsh Distillery in county Carlow who has a range of whiskey’s under the title of ‘Writers Tears.’ They even have mini versions of these whiskey’s set within a book-shaped package which features extracts of James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’, it feels like you are opening a book but one with a thirst quenching story with the only text being “19th and early 20th Ireland was a golden era for both Irish whiskey and, perhaps, coincidentally, for great novelists, poets and playwrights.”
There are a myriad of pubs around Dublin city that Joyce frequented for an ‘elixir’ and inspiration for his novels. Many of which at the time bonded and blended their very own whiskey recipe and served directly from the cask. The Brian Boru Pub (near Glasnevin cemetery where Joyce’s mother was laid to rest), did so with their Powers White Label, they also feature a collection of paintings depicting landmarks Leopold Bloom, from Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ passed on his odyssey through Dublin. .
The closer you look at the whiskey culture in Dublin the more Joyce you see. Perhaps join us on one of our special jaunts around Dublin’s fair city to celebrate the many allusions to distilleries and whiskey in Joyce’s works whilst discovering Dublin’s rich whiskey culture. This two-hour tour will be led by a local expert and features stops at three Irish pubs where you can sample two unique Irish whiskeys and sample some delicious tasting plates of local food.