Loran Smith: On Irish Whiskey

Home >

Loran Smith: On Irish Whiskey

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

There was this wife who was passionately into genealogy, which held absolutely no sway with her cynical husband.  One day she came home and excitedly advised him that she had found a connection with the family tree that “goes back to ‘nine-fifteen.’”

That prompted him to say, “A.M. or P.M.”





I have always been told that my forebears were Scots Irish, but I have never had the urge or the time to explore the past, although it would be nice to know that, perhaps, one of my ancient kin tossed the caber with Rob Roy or enjoyed a wee dram of Bushmills with Michael Collins.

For the longest time, I have nurtured compatibility for anything Irish, from limericks to shepherd’s pie to soda bread to potatoes to Black bush (as in Bushmills) to Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Any St. Patrick’s Day celebration has always been given priority in this corner.  The ultimate St. Patrick’s gala would be with a Black Bush over a trendy block ice and baked salmon (caught from the Bush River), all within view of the Bushmills distillery in Bushmills, Northern Ireland.  To say nothing of the “pinch me” experience.

Sometimes the company you keep, and the setting, enhance any memorable meal experience.  I enjoy a tumbler of Black Bush on my back patio in the cool of the evening, but to imbibe where that extraordinarily fine product is produced brings about the ultimate personal event.





When I was introduced to Bailey’s Irish Cream in Dublin, I concluded that I was enjoying an alcoholic milkshake.  I began to ask questions, most of them having to do with how the Irish were able to produce a product such as Bailey’s without the milk curdling.  In layman’s terms, the alcohol takes care of that.

It took the Irish a while to pull it off.  To begin with, there is plenty of whiskey in Ireland and also plenty of milk.  Merging the two products, as has happened with Bailey’s Irish Crème, has made the day of millions around the world. I can’t explain how it works.  All I know is that it does and a Bailey’s following a good meal makes slumber sublime.

Bailey’s Irish Cream was not created in Ireland but in London, where an advertising executive by the name of Tom Jago, who, according to the Internet, brought all the principals together to develop an alcoholic drink made of Irish whiskey and cream that “didn’t taste punishing.” Oh, yes, how smooth it is. The finished product, created in 1971, was brought to market in 1974.

Before there was Bailey’s Irish Cream, there was a popular drink called Irish Mist, another delightful liqueur.  A couple of bottles of Irish Mist from Duty Free would last almost a year.   Nothing goes better with Vanilla ice cream than a topping of Irish Mist.   

Early on, traveling in Ireland, I discovered that the Irish are great fans of country music.  Their most famous singer Big Tom McBride was as popular in Ireland as Hank Williams and Kenny Rogers were in the U. S.  

On a tour of the “Ring of Kerry,” I stopped for the night in some small town.  After dinner, I asked the hostess what took place in the town when the sun went down?

“Oh,” she said with the most convincing of smiles, “we are all going to hear Big Tom McBride.”

Then she added, “Would you like to join us?”   Why not, so off we went, a gaggle of waiters and waitresses, the hostess and a lonely Southerner, who grew up on country music.  We entered a nondescript arena which was filled with young people who swooned to the music of Big Tom McBride.  Everybody soon moved on to the floor, dancing in a fashion which would make one consider it a cousin to square dancing.  Oh boy, what a good time they had.  Young people having good clean fun.

At intermission, I made my way over for a conversation with Big Tom, who allowed that he had journeyed to Nashville to attend the “Grand Ole Opry.”   It was, he said, the fulfillment of a dream and an unforgettable experience.

When I told him that Kenny Rogers lived in my hometown of Athens, he was taken aback.   

These days as summer’s heat is heating up, I am finding more “porch time.”  I often sit in a rocker in the mornings and late afternoons and reminisce about the past, hoping that future generations will enjoy their past as much as I enjoy mine.





share content