Barfly: Bowes, Fleet Street, Dublin 2

Some 227 whiskey bottles beckon from across the bar and, as well as every shade of Irish, you’ll find an enviable collection of Scottish, Bourbon and great Japanese brands.

It’s time Dublin rediscovered Bowes. This great Victorian pub on a literary side street holds one of the best locations in the city yet somehow stays in the shadows of more famous bars. Its dedicated clientele don’t mind – they get to claim a seat in one of the best whiskey houses in the city without crowds and are allowed space to stir up the banter with staff.

Some 227 whiskey bottles beckon from across the bar and, as well as every shade of Irish, you’ll find an enviable collection of Scottish, Bourbon and great Japanese brands.

I’ve dwelt too long among Irish whiskies recently so barman Shane McDonagh takes me on a journey of discovery, through Teelings magnificent white burgundy finish, an unpeated Glendronach eight-year-old, a wonderful taste of Bowmore 12-year-old from the Scottish islands and a glass of Hibiki from Japan.

It’s a terrific journey and McDonagh has my attention at every turn. His knowledge of whiskey is phenomenal and his easygoing manner reveals the world to me across this old Dublin bar. Only 25, he is a sure sign that the standard has risen again among Irish bar staff. If a pub wants to be taken seriously, it needs to be just as serious about finding people who can offer this depth of knowledge of their craft.

The Irish Whiskey Society was founded in Bowes but has moved on as the society grew bigger and the upstairs lounge was converted to other use, but historical starting points are never lost.

A new snug was installed some years ago. Visitors might wonder why a map of Africa takes pride of place in its stained glass window. It’s not Africa, of course, but a map of Co Carlow where owner Declan Doyle is from. It appears he’s rightly proud of his slice of rural Ireland in the capital.

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Published by Gary Quinn

Writer on the Sea Road

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