Glenn Patterson heads from Belfast to the shores of Strangford Lough to sip and soak up the work of a new generation of distillers who are resurrecting the craft
Cards on the table here: I have been led astray by strong drink.
A few weeks back, waiting to be served at the Woodworkers Tap Room on Belfasts Bradbury Place, I heard someone order a Jawbox, a name once associated with Belfast sinks, but apparently now shared with a craft gin, conceived in Belfast but distilled, the bartender told me, in County Down, at Echlinville Estate, outside Kircubbin on the west coast of Strangford Lough.
Next day I asked a friend whose in-laws lived out that way whether he knew the distillery. Never heard of it, he said, then added, that road, mind you, is full of surprises. Which was all the invitation I needed, that and the vague notion that Northern Irelands only other gin Shortcross was being distilled in County Down, too, on the opposite side of Strangford Lough. Sometimes the less you go looking for the more you find.
Finding Strangford Lough
Tourist numbers continue to rise in Northern Ireland, but for many visitors seeing the sights means the Antrim coast Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge Titanic Belfast, with a twist these days of Game of Thrones, and maybe a Troubles taxi tour. And no harm in that, but even so