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Come day, go day
Wish in my heart it were Sunday
Drinking buttermilk thru the week
Whiskey on a Sunday – Whiskey on a Sunday, The Dubliners (written by Glyn Hughes)
Well in truth buttermilk hadn’t been my chosen tipple during my recent stay in Dublin to watch the All Blacks play Ireland but I certainly encountered plenty of whiskey on a Sunday at Dublin Airport en route home to London.
I seriously doubt that there is any airport store on the planet (and I’m including specialist whiskey shops) with such an outstanding selection as that offered here by Aer Rianta International.
As you’d expect there’s a fine array of Irish whiskey, from malt to the mainstream, from cask-aged to craft distillers. But there’s so very much more, in style, presentation and geographic origin.
Rather than explain that thrilling diversity in words, I’ll let the pictures tell the story. And, hey, why not also in a bit of song? For as any student of rock or country music will tell you, whisk(e)y figures prominently in a surprising number of songs. Maybe that’s because of its ability to engender writers’ tears, which also happens to be the name of a great Irish whiskey (see below).
Whisk(e)y lies at the heart of some of the greatest lyrics in modern and traditional song. It’s especially popular in country music. There’s Brad Paisley’s deceptively named ‘Whiskey lullaby’:
We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said, ‘I’ll love her till I die.’
And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby
And Elliott Smith’s similarly bleak ‘Miss Misery’:
I’ll fake it through the day
with some help from Johnnie Walker red
Send the poisoned rain down the drain
to put bad thoughts in my head
One cannot possibly omit Don McLean’s immortal ‘American Pie: Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye/And singin’, ‘this’ll be the day that I die
There’s the powerful Liars’ Bar by Beautiful South, which you just have to listen to:
I’m a travelling businessman
I just stopped in for one drink
that I’m not like the other men
Their noses are red
whilst mine is only pink
And they didn’t choose their drink
their drink chose them
Rum by the kettle drum
Whisky by the jar
At Liar’s Bar
And the perversely named ‘Chivalry’ by The Mekons:
I was out late the other night
Fear and whiskey kept me going
I swore somebody held me tight
But now there’s just no way of knowin’
Whiskey also looms large in a great blues song by Willie Dixon, ‘If the sea was whiskey’:
If the sea was whiskey
and I was a diving duck
I’d dive to the bottom
Don’t know when I’d come up
The Telegraph even dedicated a recent column to the subject, dubbed ‘The 30 best songs about whisky’. There are some gems in there but I’ve also found a few of my own to add an extra flavour note to some of the more esoteric drams on offer at Dublin Airport.
Another Celtic tiger of a whisky, this time from Wales. Penderyn hails from the tiny rural village of the same name in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. It is said that early Welsh distillers were the founding fathers of America’s bourbon and Tennessee whiskey industry (in 2012 it was reported that the original recipe for Jack Daniel’s had been discovered in a dusty old book in Wales).
‘That try’ refers to a famous score by Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973 – widely considered the greatest try of all.
So what to sing when you’re sipping on a dram of this beauty down there in the valleys?
I have to admit this one really tested me. I nearly cheated and opted for Gillian Welsh’s Whisky Girl but actually it’s Welch so that won’t do (take a listen below anyway as it’s a great song by a great artist).
Mmmm… ok, I will opt for some Welsh verse instead. It’s by Richard Lloyd Price and it was used in a Welsh whisky ad way back in 1896. It goes like this: “And Ireland and Scotia will both cease to boast; When Welsh ‘white eye’ has got them both on toast; And this still-born idea will not perish still-born; When fame sounds Welsh whisky’s praise loud on the horn.” All we need now is a tune. A new twist for Cwm Rhondda perhaps?
This may be Irish whiskey’s spiritual homeland but there’s also an impressive range of Scotch whisky on offer here, representing all the production regions, from highlands to lowlands to Speyside, Campbelltown and Islay. There are almost as many Scottish songs that make reference to the spirit as there are whiskies themselves. But, spoiled for choice, I’m plumping for the bleak, fragile tune of ‘Farewell tae whisky’, not a song that paints a happy portrait of the spirit but in its haunting air transports you away to the highlands and mists of Scotland on a dreak winter’s night.
The bairns at hame are aa roarin an greetin
Nae meal in the barrel tae fill thair wee wames
While ye sit here drinkin ye leave us lamentin
Sae rise up, ma Johnnie, an come awa hame”
An Johnnie arose an he banged the door open
Cryin ‘Curst be the alehous that ere lat me in
An curst be the whisky that made me aye thirsty
An fare ye weill whisky for A’m awa hame’
And so, to the Irish collection. What a stunning homage to the nation’s heritage of whiskey-making. The pictures below portray just a hint of the thrilling depth of that range. So I’ll close out in song, with my two favourite Irish tunes that involve whiskey. It’s surely the right way to salute how Aer Rianta International has hit the high notes in presenting one of the world’s great travel retail offers.
First up from the genius that is Shane McGowan, latterly of The Pogues, I give you ‘Streams of whiskey’. I’m not sure lyrics (or songs) get any better than this:
Last night as I slept
I dreamt I met with Behan
I shook him by the hand and we passed the time of day
When questioned on his views
On the crux of life’s philosophies
He had but these few clear and simple words to say
I am going, I am going
Any which way the wind may be blowing
I am going, I am going
Where streams of whiskey are flowing
And finally, probably the most famous chorus in the global library of drinking songs. From ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, made famous by The Dubliners (and recorded by countless others), it is a song, like whisk(ey) itself, for the ages.
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da, heh, heh
Whack for my daddy, oh
Whack for my daddy, oh
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh, yeah
Whiskey in the jar, oh