Saturday 1 October 2016

Travel Insider: How Mother's Ruin is bottling tourism magic

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. Photo: Deposit/Composite
Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. Photo: Deposit/Composite
Powerscourt Hotel
Castlewood House, Dingle

I peered deep into a bottle of gin the other day, and I saw the Wicklow Mountains.

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My vision wasn't an intoxicated one, I hasten to add.

It was down to a genius piece of packaging by the Glendalough Distillery, which carries a gorgeous image of the 'valley of two lakes' on the inside of its rear label. Viewed through the prism of crystal-clear seasonal gin, it's as simple and tempting an ad for Wicklow as I've seen.

Glendalough Gin is pricey (€44.99 in my local O'Brien's). But similar to Dingle Gin, or Shortcross Gin from Northern Ireland, it seems a truly artisan, small-batch effort.

Each season, distillers work with forager Geraldine Kavanagh to pick a mix of botanicals, berries and fruit for their still. It's a terroir-based approach, bottling the Garden County in unique batches. Seeing it on a shelf, or a menu, has the same effect on me as a Waterford blaa, Achill Mountain Lamb or Kinnegar craft beer from Donegal. I want to go to that place.

And that desire, in tourism marketing terms, is priceless.

Of course, mega-brands like Guinness and Jameson attract tourists. Of course, we're in the midst of a craft-beer explosion (a good thing, although I'm having trouble separating the wheat from the chaff).

But this is different. Craft gin is a hip but serious business (Brian O'Driscoll is an investor in Glendalough). By tapping into a hot trend, a rich heritage of hand-crafted spirit production and the modern visitor's thirst for authenticity and what foodies term 'place on a plate', Mother's Ruin has a very real potential to become tourism magic.

Wicklow

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Set just 30 minutes from Glendalough, the BrookLodge at Macreddin Village (brooklodge.com) runs its final Wild Foods MasterClass of the year this Thursday, October 15. A tour, tuition, masterclass and two-course lunch costs €95, while a winter warmer package, including B&B and a spa treatment, starts from €100pp midweek.

Also nearby, The Powerscourt Hotel (above, powerscourthotel.com) was just voted AA Ireland's Hotel of the Year, and Catherine Fulvio's Ballyknocken House (ballyknocken.com) does B&B from €55.50pp.

Dingle

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Dingle's Castlewood House (castlewooddingle.com) is justly famous for its breakfasts, but it also has a package bundling two nights' B&B, a bottle of Dingle Gin, a box of truffles, bouquet of roses and a private tour of Dingle Distillery from €200pp. The package runs from October through April 2016.

Private Dingle Distillery tours cost €10pp and should be booked in advance (dingledistillery.ie). A Whiskey School is also available with special guest Master Distiller John McDougall, priced from €95 for one day.

NB: All prices subject to availability.

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