High spirits at Ashford Castle
The luxury Mayo hotel is collaborating with makers of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin
The Ashford Castle Gin Tray Tasting Experience costs €65 per person
The driveway up to Ashford Castle is enough to make half the people in your car lean out the window shouting “pull in, pull in, I need to get a picture” – at least if the evidence of our arrival is anything to go by. The castle, on the banks of Lough Corrib just outside the town of Cong in Co Mayo, has played host to presidents, movie stars and royalty, and frankly it looks the part. It would also make a great setting for a murder mystery. Or maybe just a game of Cluedo. Or, if you’d prefer, an intimate gin-tasting experience, which (spoiler alert) happens in the billiards room with a piece of copper piping.
On arrival you are charmingly welcomed and taken through some of the activities available on the grounds, such as leisurely walks, boat rides around the lough, falconry school or – as my travelling companion chose – a visit to the award-winning spa. Her treatment had something to do with rose quartz and a massage, but it was hard to glean many more details than that, as she had basically dissolved in a barely sentient puddle of happiness by the time she returned.
After that we put on our glad rags and headed to the billiards room. Gin is undergoing a renaissance in Ireland, and with wine and whiskey tastings becoming increasingly common, it makes sense that gin should follow suit. With that in mind, Ashford Castle has concocted a collaboration with The Shed Distillery, makers of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin – recently voted best gin in the world by tastemakers Flaviar.
World’s best gins
The Gin Tray Tasting Experience, run under the expert guidance of Ashford Castle bar manager Noli Alngohuro, gives guests a chance to compare a number of the world’s finest gins from Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand and the UK with Ireland’s distinctive Drumshanbo Gin. You’ll hear about the origins and production journey of the spirits, learn how to best appreciate the flavours, and then enhance them with prudent choices of garnishes and mixers. And you’ll get to swish and swirl some damn fine gins.
Guests will also get the chance to work with their own copper mini-still and a selection of botanicals to create their own gin – which is a lot of fun, and a clever way of making you appreciate just how good the professional distillers really are.
The following morning you can meet the dogs (a pair of amiable Irish wolfhounds) and walk the grounds to work up an appetite for the delicious breakfast. The only downside to the entire experience is that at some point you’ll probably have to leave.
The Ashford Castle Gin Tray Tasting Experience in collaboration with Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin must be booked in advance and costs €65 per person (a 15 per cent service charge will apply). For further information visit ashfordcastle.com or phone 094-9546003