Travel Insider: How Mother's Ruin is bottling tourism magic
I peered deep into a bottle of gin the other day, and I saw the Wicklow Mountains.
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.
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'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.