Ireland’s best independent off-licences pick their favourite wine, beer and spirit

John Wilson: Three winning independent off-licences on their favourite drinks

Every year, Ireland’s independent off-licences compete for the National Off-Licence Association’a Off-licence of the Year. This week, I asked each of the winners to nominate a favourite wine, beer or spirit. The tasting notes are theirs too.

This year the supreme award was won by Molloy’s, Clondalkin, run by Hazel Fitzgibbon. Molloy’s also won the Guinness Beer Specialist award, this time for their branch in the Liberties, managed by Paddy Burke.

Richard Molloy is managing director and the third generation to work in the family-owned company. “My grandad bought a pub in Tallaght in 1933, so we celebrated our 90th birthday last year. We are a pub chain that gradually opened off-licences. We have seven shops and two pubs, including the original in Tallaght. Our shops are all in Dublin, but we deliver nationwide.

“We were known for our beers and spirits but have expanded into wine, bringing it in directly, allowing us to offer quality and value. We train our staff in the key areas of wine, spirits and beer, so our customers know they can get advice and recommendations. That’s what separates us from the multiples.”

The Doña Paula Wine Specialist Award went to McHugh’s in Artane. They selected the Cairanne featured here. “It is consistently one of our top sellers and represents great value,” says Aidan O’Neill of McHugh’s. “It is an excellent, more affordable alternative to more expensive crus such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”

Michael Collins, manager of O’Donovan’s in Midleton, winner of the Redbreast Spirits Specialist Award, went straight for the whiskey featured here, from his stock. “It comes in a quirky round bottle that looks good and it tastes delicious,” he says.

The Craic is 90! Anniversary Ale, Molloy’s x Rascals Collaboration

4.2%, €2.99

A nice crushable, pale ale, jam packed with Citra and Simcoe hops which gives it lots of peachy, citrusy flavours. It has a really pillowy, soft, fluffy mouthfeel.

From: Molloy’s.

Camille Cayran Cairanne Grande Réserve 2021

14.5%, €16.99

A perfect balance of cherry, blackberry, plum, dark chocolate and vanilla. It pairs well with a grilled steak, rack of lamb or beef casserole.

From: McHugh’s, Artane and Kilbarrack.

Sancho Garcés Rioja Reserva 2017

15%, €16.99

Soft, smooth, with rich savoury notes of balsamic, woodland and forest-floor, followed by damson and fig. Fantastic long finish. Great with roast or grilled meat, especially lamb.

From: Molloy’s.

Maritime range Port Cask Finish Single Malt Irish Whiskey, West Cork Distillers

43%, €47.99

A spicy fruity nose followed by the taste of sweet, dried fruit with toffee and vanilla, ending with a long finish. A lovely smooth whiskey, and very good value at around €50.

From: O’Donovans; Carry Out; Irishmalts.com; Celtic Whiskey Shop, D2; McHugh’s, D5; Bradleys, Cork; Next Door; Matsons, Cork; Baggot Street Wines; The Grapevine, D9; westcorkirishwhiskey.com/shop.

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