Book Review: From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by the publisher. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

Ireland has a long rich whiskey history. From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland is your companion guiding you around this extraordinary country. A guide sharing the insiders’ scoop to the distilleries and historic pubs.

The book begins with a brief, yet entertaining history about Ireland’s relationship with whiskey. The next section contains a brief explanation of Irish whisky styles and how it’s made. I appreciated the humor and brevity of the information and serves the reader as a simple reference.

The chapters are organized by province (plus the city of Dublin). Each chapter starts with a description of each distillery followed by a selection of well known pubs and their stories. Each distillery and pub have a map pinpointing it’s location. If you already know where you’re going then the book makes it easy to go straight to that province’s chapter.

From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland

From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland (image via Jeneen Bell/The Whiskey Wash)

Barley to Blarney is filled with stories about Irelands pubs. As with many distilleries, many pubs have stewards who keep the place living year over year. There are far more well known pubs in Ireland than distilleries. The majority of the book is dedicated to the stories of these sometimes century old pubs and the colorful characters that inhabit them. For example, E. Butterfield located in Ballitore, County Kildare.

“At a time when women weren’t much welcome in Irish Pubs, the first of three generations from the same family was running this one…The “E” in E. Butterfield stands for Elizabeth. Today, her granddaughter  Lisa Fennin stands behind the bar in the tiny, one-room pub she grew up in, and which she took over from her mother, Philomena. Philomena worked here every day for nearly fifty years. When she died, Lisa held the wake here, in her mothers pub.”

The majority of the book is dedicated to places. But what would a Dead Rabbit book be without a well thought out cocktail section? The cocktail section begins with a two page introduction for the basic techniques, tools, and ingredients for making simple cocktails. Followed by recipes that call out specific Irish whiskies, making it easier to replicate the custom designed recipes at home.

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I found this book to be more about stories than a planning guide. The stories are amazing and can make you day dream of traveling. However, it would be helpful to have a list to draw from or use as an index.

The information on the distilleries is great, however, some don’t have visitor centers. It would have been helpful if they provided a couple itineraries for visiting.  Or perhaps a table showing all the distilleries and key info (i.e. visitor center).

In Summary:

I found this book to be focused on the history and stories Ireland’s wonderful distilleries and pubs have to offer. Which makes it a great read whether your traveling to Ireland soon or are simply a history or whiskey lover.

However, if you’re planning a trip I recommend keeping a pen and paper close by or earmark your pages. Overall, it’s a fun read and will get you excited to visit and appreciate what Ireland offers the whiskey lover.