Sweet smell of jasmine

Iorwerth Griffiths finds a comfortable seat at one of Dublin's great whisky havens
By Iorweth Griffiths
Ayoung Scotsman learns about whisky in the Channel Islands, establishes a whisky collection in a plush Dublin bar in the face of an initially sceptical management and the bar becomes the first Irish entry into Whisky Magazine’s Great Whisky Bars of the World.Atall tale you might think but, in a nutshell, that’s the story behind the Jasmine Bar in Dublin’s Brooks Hotel.The young Scotsman in question is Michael Foggarty who was introduced to whisky at 18 by a man from Islay, the whisky was Lagavulin and he hated it! Another Islay man was to have more success. When Michael was working in a Channel Islands hotel he got to know a fellow barman from Islay who enjoyed whisky. That’s when he also started learning about it, the more he learnt, the more interested and passionate he became. Now, as senior barman at Brooks Hotel, he is able to indulge his passion.Brooks Hotel opened in 1997 in down town Dublin but the Jasmine Bar didn’t come until the hotel was extended in 2002. Initially, although there were a few whiskies in the bar, it was pretty standard stuff. Soon after came a bar menu listing the whiskies among other premium spirits and sales began to pick up.A customer put Michael in contact with Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop and he persuaded the management to buy a few whiskies – the collection trebled overnight.The management were initially sceptical in spending money on bottles of whisky that they thought would be on the shelves for months gathering dust.Some of this scepticism started to wane once whisky was placed on the weekly specials board alongside a cocktail and a wine, and that first whisky special – Auchentoshan Three Wood – really started the ball rolling when two bottles were emptied on the first night. Rather than gathering dust it was a case of making sure they had enough to satisfy demand, it was clear there was a market out there.The collection continued to grow with Michael ensuring that bottles coming in as specials found a permanent home on the shelves. Growth has been organic, a few bottles at a time. This has been the key to the knowledgeability of the staff – learning about a few whiskies at a time and there are regular staff tastings to build up familiarity.With the number of whiskies growing, the bar menu was getting a little on the thick side so a standalone whisky menu was created. The whisky menu is well written with userfriendly, concise tasting notes. The menu includes a ‘Special Reserve’ section featuring bottles from the rarer and more exclusive end of the whisky spectrum.Today the number of whiskies is approaching one hundred with the range covering Scotland and Ireland as well as bourbon and others from around the globe.The culmination of Michael’s efforts has been the bar’s induction into Whisky Magazine’s Great Whisky Bars of the World.This honour swept away any remaining vestiges of managerial scepticism. Needless to say the resulting press coverage produced some new customers who wanted to try the liquid delights on offer. The first of these were, to say the least, somewhat unexpected – a couple of 21 year old Dublin girls on a Sunday afternoon! Further proof that whisky has the potential to reach beyond what’s seen as its ‘natural’ market.Whisky is now an established feature of the bar with themed tasting trays available, one Scotch, one Irish and whisky dinners are also on the agenda. The 10th anniversary of the hotel is coming up in 2007 and they hope to have a special whisky focus to the celebrations but remain tight-lipped as to what this might actually involve.It is certainly a great place to enjoy whisky.The furnishings, décor, and modern gas flame fire combine to create a feeling of warmth and luxury with the mirrored bar-back showing off the tantalisingly beautiful colours of the whisky. Your whisky will be served in Glencairn glasses by well-informed staff – tumblers only available on request!The Jasmine Bar is a wonderful place to sip and talk whisky in the company of enthusiastic staff or sink into the furniture in quiet contemplation of your favourite drop.Drury Street, Dublin T: +353 (0)1 6704000 W: E: