Day 579: Red Lion Scion

The route taken by the Mind’s Eye group from Browns Mills to Red Lion, their evening’s destination, was not direct. They went by way of two wildlife management areas, Assunpink and Colliers Mills, where they stopped to hike and watch birds. The group’s destination for the evening was Red Lion, a small community in Burlington County. The town’s unusual name stems from an incident during the early settlement of the area, when a hunter brought in a red mountain lion. It attacked after he wounded it, and as he struggled to kill it with his knife, both became covered with blood.

Mention “bourbon” to an American, and he or she will immediately think of whiskey. However, to much of the rest of the world, “Bourbon” refers to the dynasty of French royalty who originated in the town of Bourbon-L’Archambault. At the bar in Red Lion where Laetitia went for happy hour, a man, stylishly dressed in European clothes, was making the rounds talking to all the women. When he got to Laetitia, he told her in a French accent about how he was a descendent of the House of Bourbon.

According to him, his ancestor was forced to flee for his life during the French Revolution and had come to America. He made vague allusions about inheriting an enormous royal fortune in the near future. When Laetitia’s bemused look told him that she wasn’t buying his story, he moved on to the next female prospect. After he moved on, the bartender whispered to Laetitia, “The regulars call him ‘Bourbon Turban.’ You saw his French act. Sometimes he wears a turban and pretends he’s royalty from the Punjab in India. We suspect he got that one from Little Orphan Annie comic books.” Laetitia smiled, and after the bartender turned to make a gin and tonic for a customer, wrote the limerick of the day on her bar napkin.

A devious man from Red Lion
Told ladies that he was a scion
Of the Bourbons of France
To get in their pants
But most of them knew he was lyin.’

Day 63: Malt Fault

Today, Midleton is probably best known as the home of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  The Cork Distillers Ltd. facility in Midleton opened in 1825.  Jameson production moved there after the original Jameson facility in Dublin closed.

The distilled spirits known as Irish whiskey can be traced back to the twelfth century. The oldest surviving licensed distillery in the world is the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim in Ulster, which dates back to 1608.

Briefly, the whiskey-making process involves soaking grain (traditionally barley) in water until the seeds begin to germinate. Once the grains have begun to produce sugars, but before they begin to sprout, the mixture is heated to stop the germination process. In Ireland, the heating process is done in ovens; in Scotland it is done over open peat fires giving Scotch whisky its distinct smoky taste. The product of this process is called malt. The malt is ground and put in vats with water and yeast to ferment. The beer that is produced by the fermentation process is then distilled to make whiskey.

Irish whiskey is distilled three times; Scotch whisky is distilled twice; Bourbon is distilled once. The most expensive whiskeys are made from pure barley malt. Less expensive whiskeys are usually made from blends of barley and more abundant (and thus cheaper) grains, such as wheat. The whiskey is then aged in wooden casks, often ones used previously for sherry. The whiskey is often enhanced by additives (usually trade secrets) that give each brand its distinct flavor.

Laetitia and her group did a walkabout in Midleton, followed by a distillery tour and whiskey tasting. During the tour, Laetitia overheard an argument between a father and his adult son that centered on the son’s poor taste in liquor. It was the source of the limerick of the day.

Said a Midleton dad, “It’s a shame, son
And there’s none but yourself for to blame, Son
Drinking bar Scotch and Bourbon
Is mighty disturbin’
In the town where they make pure-malt Jameson.”