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Knappogue Castle

Raise a glass to adventures, fake news and springing yourself from hell.

Not the entrance at Knappogue Castle

Happy St. Brendan’s day! What to say about St. Brendan the Navigator (c. 484-577) who wandered around Ireland founding monastic cells all over the place. Which must have been a barrel of monkeys – and if that had been it, we wouldn’t bring it up. Brendan is mainly remembered for a seven-year voyage detailed in his Navigotio de Santis Brendan, an account of his supposed voyage to Iceland and then onward North America some 500 years before Leif Ericsson and a 1,000 before Columbus. Brendan called the place the “Isle of the Blessed” and it was located somewhere somewhere out west beyond Iceland. Somehow, he was under the impression that monks never aged in Newfoundland.  


This business of the Irish discovering America may or may not be blarny. In 1976, Irish historian Tim Severn built a currah – a sort of gigantic leather canoe with a sail – from the specifications in the ancient text then sailed the specified 4,500-mile route from Ireland, to Iceland and then to Canada. Some of the yarns detailed seem made-up, like getting out and building camp on an island that turned out to be a sleeping sea monster. There is a Kristi Noem vibe to the episode where they arrive at a remote island and meet Judas Iscariot who, on his periodic furloughs from hell, spends his Sundays and other feast days there.


Other features of the story seem to be merely issues of description – the crystal pillars mentioned could easily be icebergs and the account of landfall do seem very much like Newfoundland. None of this proves that St. Brendan actually did reach America, but only that it’s plausible. And that the Irish are crazy. But perhaps, and just perhaps, God really did make whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.


To wit: We try Knappogue Castle – pronounced as if you’ve already had a couple nah’ pogue – is a twelve-year-old single malt Irish. That in itself is pretty rare – but not quite as extraordinary as Judas Iscariot sightings. It a malt forward whiskey that is softened through triple distillation, then a dozen years in bourbon casks for a lovely, smooth and lingering finish. A little peppery spice.


It’s a good whisky to toast voyages into the unknown, handling the truth in a cavalier manner, and breaking out of whatever fresh hell you’d made for yourself this week.


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