Recently I was lucky enough to spend a night in the City of Tribes, on a night organised by Aoife Carney from whiskey mecca Sonny Molloy's.
Galway has long been on my whiskey bucket-list as a city to explore - rich in its offering of pubs and bars, stunning streets and a reputation for fun-filled nights, simmering in a beautiful melting pot of friendly locals and curious tourists.
I will absolutely pay another visit in the near future, and write a more in-depth piece on some pubs, but for now can only write about some of the spots we flirted with on my flying visit.
First up - Sonny Molloy’s. When you first walk in the door, one thing is immediately obvious - you’re in a proper whiskey bar. The wall to your left is adorned with a full collection of Midleton Very Rare (1984-2018). The bar, situated on the right hand side, houses a library of whiskeys. There’s your standard offerings, some you may not expect to find and then there’s this fantastic menu...
Like the Palace Bar on Dublin’s Fleet Street, Sonny’s is a warm, cosy pub, with beautiful old-world decor. The bar counter is the original counter-top from the drapery shop which previously inhabited the space, run by Sonny Molloy himself.
Sadly, Sonny passed away in 2014, a few years before the bar bottled and released their own single cask potstill. In 2018 Sonny’s released their 16 year old Redbreast. Aged in a 500 litre Spanish oak sherry butt, and bottled at over 58%, only 570 bottles were yielded from the cask. Only 200 of these are being released for sale, at an RRP of €345. If you’d like to ‘try before you buy’ you can, of course, order measures at the bar for €28.50. You’ll be greeted by a rich sherry nose. Raisin leads the flavour on the palate, with nutty and dark berry undertones. What impressed me most was the mouthfeel - chewy and delicious.
Warm behind the eyes, from here we made for the Dail Bar. Situated in the Latin Quarter, at the corner of Cross Street and Middle Street. Warm and fitted in darkened wood, the Dail bar is another Galway gem with a fantastic offering of Irish whiskey. Asked for a recommendation, the bar man suggested either Redbreast 12 or Barry Crockett Legacy (“depending on your budget”) so you know you’re in good hands.
They, like the other pubs on the Galway Whiskey Trail, offer “Galway Bay Irish Whiskey” - a 10 year old single malt, a bespoke bottling only available in participating pubs. It offers a sweet, fruity nose with a short, sweet finish and is well worth sampling (when in Rome!).
For those visiting in the winter months, the Dail Bar (Dail is Irish for “meeting place”) boasts a lovely open fireplace, where you can sit with a dram and chat with the locals.
The bar is split over two floors; those who venture up stairs will find the “Front Door”. This ‘sister’ bar serves awesome cocktails and so, if the night takes a turn and energy levels rise, head upstairs where you’ll find a younger crowd tucking in to cocktails and craft beers, with a DJ on the decks ‘til late. The cocktails here are expertly made, by bar staff who seem to have a genuine understanding of spirits rather than simply combining ingredients which, tragically, tends to mask the base spirit.
I really feel like I’ve just skimmed the surface of what Galway has to offer a whiskey lover. Garavans comes highly recommended, as do several other spots. I need to spend more time (and money!) in Sonny’s, and so my next trip will certainly need to be more than 24 hours. The Galway Whiskey Trail, consisting of 9 pubs and an off-license, merits a weekend in itself.
To shake off the cobwebs, I highly recommend a visit to the Galway farmers market - I can personally vouch for the crepes and the veggie curry! Follow this by a sea-side stroll out to Salthill and you’ll be fighting fit and ready to get back on the Trail in no time!