America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

The ten homes of whisky

It’s the golden seal every country strives for, to be the home of something… so where are the ten homes of whisky?

You’d probably not to be surprised at the top five.

And so it’s more of a case of shuffling that pack to see who is tops.

The next five though is a bit more surprising.

So on this World Whisky Day join me for a distillery tour.

But do me a favour please, don’t ask about distilling or the mashing process.

It just holds us up on our way to the sampling.

Scotch Wahey

Fergie’s dram: Sir Alex’s bottle in his cabinet near Aberdeen

Scotland: And the reach of Scotch (just whisky in Scotland) became clear when the distillers held a whisky-tasting in Barbados.

Now we can blind you with science and stats… 44 bottles of whisky are exported from Scotland every year.

There are five designated whisky regions… Cambeltown, Highland, Lowland, Speyside and my own fave Islay.

They’re all heavenly and 

But my No.1 is Laphroaig. It’s so peaty, just like a bowl of water in an ashtray but stick with me here.

After all you have tried haggis.

United Nips of America

Mark of a whiskey drinker: Kentuckian Mark, Cath and Mum

USA: And, of course, when the Scots left home they took their whisky and its secrets with them.

And adapted it to the new world of America and went on to produce nectar such as Kentucky’s Woodford Reserve bourbon.

But US whiskey isn’t restricted to the Deep South… branch out to Oregon.

Where Westward Whiskey have released a reimagined single malt for World Whisky Day.

Green, malt and gold

The oul’ sod: The oldest distillery in the world

Ireland: And Teeling only made it into our Barbados tastings.

While Bushmills lays claim to being the oldest distillery in the world, established in 1608.

They were also responsible for the extra ‘e’, well the Irish are the masters of using two words when one will do, and more letters too.

Land of the Rising Suntory

Made in Japan: Suntory

Japan: Now this is a love story that drams are made of.

And is the result of a relationship between a Japanese chemistry student at Glasgow University Masataka Takaretsu and Jessie Roberta Cowan.

Masataka had been dispatched by the Settsu Shuzi liquor company.

A love Suntory if you will.

Maple leaf

We’re in the Club: Canadian Club

Canada: Right, we’re told that Canadian whisky has its origins not in its big Scottish diaspora.

But because the natives, the First Nations, got a taste for what they called the traders’ firewater.

It was a meld of rum and ‘high wine’ which developed into Canadian whisky, of which Canadian Club is the most recognised.

Sikh beatha

Basket of goods: Indians love their whisky

India: Or Sikh of life, my twist on the uisce beatha which is Gaelic for water of life and is what Scots call their favourite drink.

And long may the Indians keep up their love affair with whisky which they have been producing since 1948 since Amrut entered the market.

More than half of all whisky drinkers in the world come from India. 

Wizards of booze

Bonzer: Aussie whiskey

Australia: And we should have come to expect this with our ne’er-do-wells sent over there as convicts.

Specifically Tasmania is whisky haven with the best Aussie whiskies Sullivans Cove, the best Single Malt at the world awards, and Lark based there. 

A Swede whisky

That way, Sweden

Sweden: Now here’s something you don’t get at your local Ikea with your meatballs but should.

Mackmyra was Sweden‘s first distillery and the Swedes got it right first time, winning the First Edition Gold Award in 2013.

The Isle of Tai

Gold standard: Taiwanese whiskey

Taiwan: You see what we’ve done there. Yes, Taiwan‘s connections with the West probably plays its part here.

Kavalan whiskey won the World’s Best Single Malt at the awards in 2015 and the island’s distillery produces 9 million bottles a year. 

Ja beauty

Dram busters: Germans on the whisky

Germany: Now some of us have ripped it up in Germany at the Oktoberfest where it’s lager obviously but also schnapps chasers.

The Germans though are open to everything and they have around 250 distilleries and around 130 of them are focused just on whisky production.

So, on this World Whisky Day a big Slainte to the ten homes of whisky.





Food & Wine, Ireland

Ballymaloe BallyMasterChef BallyMurty

If your interest was piqued by the wonderful cookery school where the season finale of MasterChef is taking place.

Over three episodes this week it’s, er, Ballymaloe BallyMasterChef BallyMurty.

No the heat from the kitchen isn’t getting to me.

It’s just I fancy I should be mentioned in the same Ballymaloe breath as the master chefs who have been teasing us with their creations.

Their efforts have been beamed into the homes of around 7.5 million people across Britain airing on BBC One yesterday.

Although my artistry at making pasta in Ballyknocken, Co. Wicklow, seen only by readers of this blog (just slightly less).

Yes, that was when I joined a cookery class in association with Top Flight a couple of years ago.

Catherine the Great

Do you want a hand: With Catherine Fulvio

And I was supervised by the force of nature that is Ballymaloe Catherine Fulvio.

Nor was it my first stab at cooking in Ireland with a more than passable attempt at Spanish pulpo (octupus) in Dublin some time earlier.

Ole: With the Spaniards

Back to the special Ireland MasterChef cooking challenge.

And it took place last year and was supported by Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.

What a Corker

Girning Gregg: He must have seen mine

Viewers saw the final four contestants travel to Cork, together with judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

There they met with Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

For a whirlwind education in local Irish produce and the ethos of ‘farm-to-table’.

The finalists were challenged to prepare a celebratory dinner.

For some of Ireland’s finest food producers, food historians and relatives of the late, great patron of Irish cuisine, Myrtle Allen.

The second episode of this season’s MasterChef ‘Finals Week’ airs this evening and the third episode will air tomorrow.

Publicity and broadcasts like this are a key element of Tourism Ireland’s programme of activity.

To encourage travellers in Britain, and elsewhere around the world, to put Ireland on their holiday wish-list for this year and beyond.

Julie noted

Pasta master: Your bolognese will be with you soon

And so over to Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland’s Head of Great Britain.

She said: “Tourism Ireland was delighted that MasterChef chose to film in Cork and Ballymaloe Cookery School, as part of its ‘Finals Week’.

“With viewers across Britain waiting with huge anticipation to find out who will be crowned the champion of MasterChef 2022, this is a superb opportunity for us.

“To showcase our delicious local produce, wonderful culinary offering and beautiful landscapes to an audience of around 7.5 million.

“It will remind viewers across Britain that Ireland is a great choice for a ‘foodie’ holiday.”

Food for thought

And, I can vouch for that and though the best meals can longer be eaten in Applewood Heights, Greystones, now Mrs M has taken her recipes back over to Scotland.

But should you be in Dublin then Chapter One, The Ivy and One Pico were some of the faves I pushed my return to the office desk for.

While I must also mention my cousin’s The Workshop by the Liffey.

Although I haven’t quite forgiven my old restaurant critic writer Tom Doorley for giving them a less than favourable review.

What he’d have thought of Ballymaloe BallyMasterChef BallyMurty is anyone’s guess.

And an equally great Catherine

Here’s to you: With Catherine Murphy in Val D’Isere

A word here too to a great pal, the one I have come to know as Murphski, Catherine Murphy.

Catherine, who was good enough to be my ski writer and won that award year after year, has just been named Ireland’s Travel Writer of the Year.

I have been lucky enough to have joined her on some of those trips, from Las Vegas to Tenerife to just last month Val D’Isere.

My only regret is that I wasn’t in Dublin to clink Champagne glasses and say Slainte with Ireland’s best Travel Writer.




America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

The Streets of Boston

Now I’ve experience of the streets of Boston and the difference a turning can make, albeit 35 years ago.

So when I’d overshot Chinatown in Washington Street yesterday.

And found myself crossing the Mass Turnpike bridge I knew I was off course.

Way to go Shojo

Chop, chop: Shojo

I had been personally waited on by restaurant manager Jim at Shojo on Tyler Street.

And licked my lips and fingers tearing through his Wu-Tang Tiger Style Ribs, Jasmine rice and Japanese Saison Du beer.

And heavy of tummy had decided to take a walk down Memory Lane to my old workplace, the Black Rose, on State Street.

Now the proliferation of Asian spellings and smellings ought to have alerted me that I was on the wrong scent.

The Black Rose

Get on your bike: The Godfrey

So I doubled back, span into a vortex and was suddenly back in 1987.

With the singer, Irish Terry, singing The Dubliners’ standard Fiddler’s Green.

I waited patiently, cradling my Guinness, for the favourite when I tended door and bar here in the Eighties.

And was glad to put bread in his jar for a rendition of Black Velvet Band.

Filled with the best type of fuel I rolled home and let the tiredness of a three-country, 17-hour Aer Lingus journey drift me to sleep.

And dream of days gone and to come on The Streets of Boston.

Before hitting the Streets of Boston again and checking out its famous T trams.

And a tea party.


America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine

Chocs away on Easter Sunday

And for many it’s what today is all about… Chocs away on Easter Sunday.

And thoughts away of dem sweet places where I’ve savoured the treat of the Gods.

We have the Central and South Americans to thank for extracting the cacao which makes our chocolate.

And when we want to know more on anything our go-to people are the Smithsonians in Washington DC.

Jumping for joy: It’s Choccie Day

And Hayes Lavis, cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has the skinny on chocs.

He tells us that ancient Olmec pots and vessels from around 1500 B.C. were discovered with traces of theobromine.

And for those who know their chocs they’ll recognise that as a stimulant compound found in chocolate and tea.

So now we’ve done the science let’s sample the choccie tastes of the world.


Ground force: In Tobago

And the way to a man’s heart is the love of a daughterie.

So when you come across a chocolate called Laura in the West Indies then you get that special rush.

This Tobago taste of heaven is a French-Caribbean collaboration and named for the manufacturer’s matriarch Laura.

Sold in high-end shops like Harrod’s it’s still best sampled where it’s made, Tobago Cocoa Estate.

Swiss sweet

The Scary One is here: In Switzerland

We all know about Swiss sweets… Toblerone and it’s mountain triangular shapes.

And Lindt which is everywhere of which I was reminded from the minute you arrive in Geneva.

You’d have to tell me if SWISS airline still gives out comp choc to it’s passengers…

I like mine, my Lindt, though like the Asians who love to take selfies at the top of Europe.

To show off to family back home, at the top of the Jungfraujoch.

In Bruges

Flowing nicely: Easter in Bruges

Was I the only one who wondered why a restless Colin Farrell didn’t cure his boredom through chocolate and beer?

Mind you, it would have been a very different movie.

Yes, go up to the cathedral and also check out St Anthony’s tongue.

But the best taste of all in Bruges is their oh-so-tasty chocolate.

Cadbury’s and Brum

Smiles better: Cadbury’s

Now you might not immediately link Bruges in Belgium and Birmingham in England.

But they’re both canal cities, major historical trade hubs.

And they are both hooked on chocolate.

It is no exaggeration to say that Brummie Joseph Cadbury was a chocolate evangelist.

As a Quaker and teetotaller he saw chocolate as a healthy alternative.

Joseph was a general good egg all round (or Cadbury’s Creme Egg) if you will

He set up a village in Bourneville for his workers and provided for all their social, health, education and sporting needs.

And a great pacifist, he even took on Queen Victoria over the Boer War.

All of which you can discover in the excellent Cadbury’s museum.

And finally, a Big Chocolate Apple

The Big Bunny: At Jacques

I’ve always been a great advocate of only having friends in cool places or jobs, or preferably both.

And in return they get the pleasure of hosting me.

Kate is one such, a New Yoiker and food and drinks editor who took La Famiglia Murty around Manhattan.

Chinatown, her own office kitchen on Production Day, and Jacques Torres Chocolate factory.

Now Willie Wonka’s got nothing in Kate or Jacques.

I mean bacon-flavoured chocolate… you read it here first.

Enjoy! Chocs away on Easter.



Asia, Countries, Food & Wine

The Football Feeder and the Maldives

Wellington insisted an army marched on its stomach and so it follows athletes must do too which is where The Football Feeder and The Maldives come in.

The fact is I could have done with someone telling me what to eat and when when I was one of Scotland’s promising athletes.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that a Chelsea Bun an hour before a six-mile run gives you a stitch.

No such problem for the English champions Manchester City though and the players of the national team.

And that’s because of one man, personal chef Jonny Marsh, the Football Feeder.

Carbonara chaser

Kevin sent: Jonny Marsh fan Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne swears by Raymond Blanc’s former assistant and his spaghetti carbonara.

While Manchester United’s Luke Shaw loves his spag bol… must be all that red tomato puree.

Now your own personal chef won’t guarantee you’ll become an elite footballer but it doesn’t help to try.

Jonny will share his expert nutritional tips with Amilla Maldives resort guests via a series of hands-on masterclasses and bespoke wellness menus.

Gala evenings

Nature comes first: The Maldives

Alongside these masterclasses, Jonny will hold two gala dinners and a pop-up breakfast combining mouth-watering flavours and nutritional ingredients, whilst also showcasing Amilla’s Homemade@Amilla concept.

The bespoke wellness menus will champion nourishing, fresh ingredients grown in Amilla’s organic and hydroponic gardens.

And the resort’s ever-expanding selection of homemade produce, from pickles and sourdough to yoghurt, kefir and palm oil-free Nutella.

Healthy living: Island life

Now the Maldives are we know atolls south of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean and face challenges of their own.

Both from climate change and creating produce.

And I have seen first hand how they grow their own on islands which you can get around in a couple of hours.

And this approach is to their credit and also has benefits in the athleticism of those who work and live full time on the island.

Playing with the staff

Hot, hot, hot: Kuramathi in the Maldives

Like the Sri Lankan footballers and cricketers who gave this wannabe the runaround in our games there.

It’s Atoll tale and here’s a reminder.

The gala dinners for the Football Feeder and the Maldives will take place on May 20 and 27.

And the nutritional masterclasses will take place on May 21 and 28. For more information visit

The deal

Get on the bus: Maldives life

Inspiring Travel Company offers seven nights at Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences from £3,857pp.

That’s a saving of £2,090 per person.

The price is based on two adults sharing a Treetop Pool Villa.

And that includes a 30% discount on accommodation, complimentary half board, reduced shared seaplane transfers.

And return economy flights from London Heathrow.

Price based on May 18 departure. Minimum seven-night stay applies.  

Countries, Food & Wine

The world’s most popular cocktails

It’s my type of road test… the world’s most popular cocktails.

And I admit that I have made and slayed most in this latest survey by botanical brewery Fentimans.

During my lazy Saturdays in Ireland which I turned into a Jocktails treat for The Scary One.

Best bar none

Pour some on me: The Son and Heir

The baton has since been passed on to the Son and Heir.

And he went on to sate the thirsts of many a Dub, Belfaster and Liverpudlian.

Kissimmee cocktail: In lockdown

While The Scary One has also learned well as evidenced from her twist on Sex on the Beach for last night’s House of Gucci film night.

Right, on to the survey and you’d think it would be tastings but that would be too simple.

Insta gratification

The family that drinks together: Plays together

Fentimans has drawn in every social network gizmo to back up their findings.

They created a global index by analysing 36 different cocktails from around the globe on a number of different metrics.

They looked at the number of hashtags associated with each cocktail on both Instagram and TikTok.

One I prepared earlier: With Little Miss Cocktail

As well as global Google Search Data to discover monthly search volume.

Finally, Fentimans used a Twitter sentiment analysis tool to understand more about the positivity rating of each.

Google Trends has also been used to determine the top ten most popular in every country around the world.

Me? I just drink them.

The top ten

Poolside: With a Strawberry Daiquiri

So, here’s the challenge, here’s the top ten alas without my fave Strawberry Daiquiri so get drinkin’…

Pornstar Martini
Aperol Spritz
Old Fashioned
Pina Colada

I’ve a story on each and every one and if you want to throw them all in together you get a Long Island Iced Tea.

A sangria per favor: In Barcelona

And that almost did for The Scary One who on drinking one of mine said she couldn’t see the TV.

Yes, my cocktail memories range from cooling down on the hottest day of the year in Barcelona with Sangria.

Muddling limes during the Brazil World Cup for their favourite Caipirinhas.

Putting on the Spritz

Next one’s an Aperol Spritz: In Val D’Isere

Getting in ahead of the curve with Aperol Spritzs in Venice.

And it’s a drink I’ve stayed with and I highly recommended it for apres ski on the slopes of Val D’Isere.

It is after all one of the world’s most popular cocktails after all.


Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Mum’s bread and butter puds

We put our family’s height down to big meals and steam desserts little knowing the Spanish secret of Mum’s bread and butter puds.

She was doubtless putting sherry into it… with the rest going into her!

Bunny business: Easter is coming

Mum has got lazy in her mid-90s and the best I get now on my visits are digestives or Irish bran cake.

Easter has always been a very personal time for us when the two of us would go back to her homestead in Co. Donegal.

Apart from the one year when we flew to Ibiza, little knowing it was a recce to lure my Dad over for our summer holidays.

A Spanish Easter

Ola Madrid: Fast city

Back to Espana, as so many of us are and this most traditional of Catholic countries really does do Easter.

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, spectacular Semana Santa parades – including the Cristo de Medinaceli procession on Good Friday – draw huge crowds.

To the exuberantly decorated streets of Madrid.

Another Semana Santa tradition, torrijas are a dish born of frugality.

Pass the Sherry

Listen to the shrink: Frasier

Much like bread and butter pudding or pain perdu, but with an added spike of sherry.

Guests can benefit from 20% off their accommodation.

And those booking an Easter break of two or more nights at The Pavilions Madrid from 8-24 April will enjoy complimentary torrijas awaiting them in their room.

Prices start from €153 (approx. £129) per room per night including breakfast.

Mum’s the word

Raisin d’etre: The bread and butter pudding

Yes while calling something bread and butter has come to mean ordinary, in expert hands it is anything but.

And to think that I have a lifelong gagging reflex to bread and butter but in a raisiny dessert with custard.

And yes, the sherry that makes Mum’s bread and butter puds.


Countries, Food & Wine, Ireland

The perfect Guinness

The perfect Guinness before you leave the country.

Everyone knows you can’t come to Ireland without sampling the Black Stuff.

And now Dublin Airport is setting it up so that any visitor who might have forgotten (difficult) can imbibe in Terminal 1.

Airport drinking

Craic on: Dublin Airport

DA will make you feel as if you’re in the next best thing to the St James’s Gate brewery.

They have created a snug that offers visuals of the views they would experience if they were in The Liberties (Guinness’s neighbourhood).

Of course Guinness has a range of drink and foods to enjoy too but it’s the ‘plain’, the stout which you’ll go for, so Sláinte.

Now the old saying goes that the best Guinnesses are in Ireland although they cloud it (never done in a Guinness) in mystery.

Drinking rituals

Here’s Johnny: With Rain in Johnny Fox’s, Co. Dublin

Now I love drinking rituals as much as the next guy.

And I have learned to fix my eyes on the person I’m drinking with when I say Prost in a German bierhouse.

And not question the size of the frothy head on my Urquell Pilsner in the Czech Republic.

Now you don’t have to go to Dublin to learn how to pour the perfect pint although it helps if your cousins run the Liffeyside institution the Workshop.

The global drink

Mac and Black: With former Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

Just walk into any Irish bar around the world, and there are thousands from atop mountains to astride glaciers.

Whether Sean from Athenry will let you tamper with his taps though is a different matter.

One hostelry though where they’ll be glad to help, and in fact insist on it, is at Rí Rá Las Vegas inside The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay.

Glass Vegas

You could be in Ireland: Vegas

There they’ll give you the only ‘official’ Perfect Pint Experience class outside of Dublin.

Now I don’t want to give it away but there are six steps.

Follow them and you’ll not only get the perfect pint to swallow but also a photo, the glass and discount on the merch.

You can also dine in a pretty realistic recreation of an Irish snug… Vegas style.

Whether you’re fortunate to be in Ireland, passing through or want to escape for a while in an Irish bar somewhere in the world.

Nothing will taste as Irish as the Perfect Guinness.

Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

A popular meme for a vegan’s favourite meal shows a tray of ice but that’s a cheap shot and I’m toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

The Vegan and Tonic is the creation of Fentimans… well, the Indian tonic anyway.

Tonic for the troops: Fentimans

Whether this was the oul Greek Pythagoras’s tipple of choice when he was working out his theorem this shows Veganism isn’t a modern fad.

Ancients’ way of life

Laying out your stall: Kythera

The ancient world is a good place to start.

It’s accepted that they would eat fish, eggs from quails and hens, and cheese but they hoovered up veg too.

Legumes, olives, figs arugula (no, me neither), asparagus, cabbage, carrots and cucumbers.

So it isn’t a big jump to think that Pythagoras who philosophised and expounded about human rights as well as hypotenuses was a vegan.

After all his followers weren’t allowed to wear wool either.

So long before Briton Donald Watson is said to have coined the word in 1944 the ancients were going vegan.

All around the world 

Veggies rule: Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, Istanbul Airport

The Indian Subcontinent has historically been the bedrock of vegetarianism.

With the likes of philosophers Parshavnatha and Mahavira preaching what we would consider to be the vegan life.

We know, of course, too that what the Greeks started the Romans took on and ran with.

And so for every Pythagoras and Plutarch there was an Ovid and Pliny the Younger.

All of which permeates the Med, Aegean, Middle Eastern (note the Arab poet al Ma’ari poet), North African and Subcontinent diets to this day.

Brand new

Veggie heaven: Jordan

Fentimans is the go-to provider and guide for eating, drinking and clothing yourself in Veganism.

And as we all know when you’re drinking you always get the nibbles.

And so you’ll want to try these snacks:

Co-op Bacon Rashers.
McCoy’s Ultimate Sizzling BBQ ChickenUltimate Chargrilled Steak and Peri Peri McCoy’s.
Walkers Prawn Cocktail.
Smokey Bacon Hula Hoops.

Student life

Dig in: Pot noodles

While for students everywhere…

Bombay Bad Boy

Brazilian BBQ Steak 

Chinese Chow Mein 

Piri Piri Chicken 
Beef and Tomato
BBQ Pulled Pork
Jerk Chicken
Sticky Rib
Sweet & Sour
Asian Street Style Japanese Miso Noodle Soup

Wear it well

Packet in: Crispaholic
And, yes, I promised you vegan fashion…
Well, what about the Dr Martens vegan collection they launched in 2011.
Now, I’m not one myself but I know more and more and it’s you I’m thinking of toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

Matthew’s Canaries

Canaries life: With Matthew in Tenerife
And while we’re here let’s give a shout-out here to my old mucker and vegan evangelist Matthew Hirtes from my Tenerife trip.
And Canaries-based Matthew has forgotten more about vegan life in those islands than we’ll ever know.
Thankfully he and the Dreams Abroad team where I was Editor continue to show us a world where veganism has an exalted place.


Caribbean, Countries, Food, Food & Wine, Music

Let the bells parang out for Christmas

Let the bells parang out for Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago and from the Caribbean to the world.

West Indians are all about family and senior members of the community deserve the respect of being called Uncle or Auntie.

And so when you visit Tobago you return with a unique souvenir… no, not the goat you’ve raced.

Feast: The Blue Crab

And in my case that’s Auntie Alison.

Ali and her husband Uncle Kenneth run the Blue Crab restaurant in Scarborough.

And we all got on famously with Kenneth even allowing me to help out cooking the meal, island chicken curry.

Party time: At the Blue Crab

Kenneth and Ali are the ideal double act.

While he cooks she entertains the room with tales of their marriage.

With tips of how she keeps their long marriage fresh…

Culture trip: And Tobago and Irish fusion

She demonstrates how she keeps her knickers in the bottom drawer.

And she even wiggles her behind to show us.

This old girl has the moves and a laugh that fills the room.

Uncle Kenneth: A wizard of food

It’s that kind of spirit which underscores Trinidad and Tobago’s special Christmas parang music.

It’s Soca and South American-infused party music with cheeky end-of-the-pier entendres.

And it’s all the better for having the sun, a beach and a steel band at your back.

Can I help: With Uncle Kenneth

This is how Christmas should be.

Full of laughter, music and full to the belly with Auntie Ali’s Christmas dinner