For St Patrick’s Day this year, ditch the green beer and find out why Exiles Irish Gin is the perfect way to toast the saint.
This week, people across the world will be celebrating the patron saint of all things Irish, with a combination of parades, drinking, shamrocks, more drinking and turning everything green. In fact, in many places, America especially, drinking dyed green beer is a tradition. Although, it should be noted that actual Irish people are horrified by the idea that you’d do anything so awful to their beer.
But do you know why St Patrick is celebrated in particular and why drinking green beer might be the worst way to honour his memory?
St Patrick’s Day celebrates the patron saint of Ireland, a titanic figure in folklore famed for many tales, including casting the snakes out of Ireland. The actual historical man was a 5th Century Roman/British missionary whose father was a Deacon and Grandfather a priest in the British church. As legend would have it, he was kidnapped, at age 16, by Irish pirates and spent six years as a slave tending to sheep. Then, one day, God gave him a vision of rescue at the coast that allowed him to escape back to Britain. He would later return to Ireland on his own terms and spent many years evangelising to the native population.
St Patrick is strongly associated with shamrocks, three leafed clovers, and is traditionally depicted with a Shepherd’s crook in one hand (a symbol of Christianity and his former life as a shepherd) and a shamrock in the other. As legend has it, Patrick used the shamrock as a way to teach early Irish Christians about the trinity. Just as a shamrock was one plant with three parts, so too was God one being with three parts.
There’s possibly some truth to this, as pagan Irish religions had many triple-headed gods and using these as examples might have helped him in his efforts to proselytise. However it’s more likely that shamrocks (derived from seamair óg, young clover in Irish) were already associated with Ireland and so became associated with Patrick by proxy. Shamrocks are common in Ireland and feature in much early Irish literature and were probably considered sacred by the druidic religion that existed before St Patrick began his missionary work.
The wearing of the green has everything to do with Irish nationalism and precious little to do with St Patrick himself, who used to be mostly associated with the colour blue! In fact the Knights of the Order of St Patrick wore blue in his honour and there is still a colour known as St Patrick’s blue.
So, St Patrick is associated with blue shamrocks, which makes Exiles Gin (the only gin made with shamrock) the perfect drink to toast him!
Ireland has not always had a proud history of gin making. For most of the 20th Century there was only 1 native Irish gin, Cork Dry Gin, produced by Irish Distillers, the only distilling company in the republic. That’s all changed now though, as the craft distilling revolution that’s taken England and Scotland by storm has finally spread to the Emerald Isle.
Exiles Irish Gin was one of the first craft gins to launch from Ireland. Produced by Wild Geese Premium Spirits, Exiles is inspired by its homeland in a way few gins are. The botanicals that mark Exiles out on the palate all come from Ireland; red clover flowers, honeysuckle flowers, rowan berries, bog myrtle and, of course, shamrock.
That inspiration also extends to the name and design. Ireland is a land, almost uniquely, of exiles. Nearly twice as many people claim Irish heritage as live in Ireland. In fact, that longing to be in Ireland, to reconnect with home, is part of what has spread St Patrick’s Day so far across the world. Exiles is a gin that aims to capture Ireland so clearly in a glass that drinking it feels like a return to the old country.
This is a mellow gin. Gentle, but not lacking in complex flavours. On the nose, Exiles is especially floral with lemon and fruit flavours supporting a prominent pine aroma. As you drink it, there is a dryness and an almost damp earthiness, thanks to the shamrock and clover. Finally, it finishes long and smooth with some refreshing zestiness.
So if you’re a gin lover, or just fancy a change from Guinness, then this year the perfect drink to toast the Saint could be this incomparably Irish gin.
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