After Fèis Ìle 2014 I travelled straight down to Liverpool - do not pass go, do not collect any clean underwear - and jumped on the Steam Packet over to the Isle of Man for the famous TT motorcycle races!
These legendary road races date back 107 years and the lap record now stands at 17 minutes 6.682 seconds for 37.733 miles, set by Bruce Anstey this year. That's an average speed of 132.298 mph! On narrow roads with over 120 corners!!! What's any of this got to do with whisky though? Well, last year the Joey Dunlop Foundation released a special limited edition blended malt Scotch whisky, which they sourced with a little help from Ralfy off of ralfystuff, with all profits going to the charity.
Joey Dunlop back in the early 1970s. Looking awesome.
The Joey Dunlop Foundation provides visitor accommodation that opens up the Isle of Man to visitors with disabilities. Joey Dunlop, if you don't know, was the most successful TT rider of all time with an incredible 26 race wins between 1977 and 2000. He was also voted Ireland's 3rd Greatest Sportsperson of all time in an RTÉ poll in 2009 (only behind Brian O'Driscoll and Pádraig Harrington). Tragically though, he died shortly after his final TT victory aged 48 when he crashed whilst racing in wet conditions over in Estonia. 50,000 people attended the funeral.
Eight years later his brother, who won 5 TT races himself, would also die tragically after a crash in Northern Ireland during the practice session for a race that his son, Michael, would incredibly not only still compete in, but go on to win. Imagine what was running through Michael's head, therefore, when he saw the wreckage of his older brother William's bike at the side of the course during the marquee Senior race on the Isle of Man this year. Fortunately, William only suffered a couple of leg fractures, whilst Michael still managed to win once again to take his TT race victories to an amazing 11 at the age of just 25!
It's an unbelievable story of a racing family that has just been made into a feature length documentary film titled 'Road', narrated by Liam Neeson*, that premièred last week. ITV also recently ran a documentary called 'Joey: The Man Who Conquered the TT'.
Road (in cinemas now)
If you haven't witnessed it, it's difficult to fully explain the thrill of the TT. Despite the fact that my girlfriend is from the Isle of Man** and I've visited the isle many times, this was the first time a visit had coincided with their biggest event of the year when tens of thousands of racing fans descend on Ellan Vannin in the middle of the Irish Sea. It's an incredible spectacle - the speed, the noise, the buzz. There's no over-zealous stewarding or barriers holding you well back from the action, instead there's an mix of trust, common sense and nobody trying to wrap you in cotton wool. It's refreshing. You'd never be able to start a new event like this these days - it would get laughed out of the planning meeting, but at least we have the TT. It is undoubtedly bloody dangerous though! And that's just for the onlookers, let alone the riders who are flying past stone walls and lamp posts and over drains and bumps at 130mph+ with no run-off area! A couple of fans have been killed in the long history of these races, but 242 riders have perished doing what they love.
If you want to understand a little more, you could do worse than watching the full version of Closer To The Edge (trailer below).
Closer To The Edge (2011)
Meanwhile, here was my view of this year's race with Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop flying past at Creg-ny-baa (I made sure I was holding on to my Bushy's and Okells beers very securely!):
Just mad. At one point John McGuinness went past us at this speed whilst doing a wheelie at what felt like about a foot away from us. Naturally, the crowd went wild!
I also met Keith Flint off of The Prodigy by the grandstand later that day - he's a massive bike fan (and a pretty useful rider) and has his own team that were competing at this year's TT. Between being mobbed by people wanting photos with him he made a point of coming over to talk to me about my bowling shoes. Good man! Apparently he used to have a few pairs himself.
Onto the whisky though, which is dressed in Joey's iconic yellow and black helmet colours and adorned with his famous number 3.
Joey Dunlop racing for Honda in his iconic helmet.
Limited Edition Joey Dunlop Foundation Whisky – 40% – £44 direct from the charity
Released in 2013, just 2,013 of these bottles will ever be available, marking 30 years since Joey's first win for Honda and 3 years since the Joey Dunlop Foundation opened its new specialist accommodation at Braddon Bridge House.
If you're wondering why it's Scotch whisky and not Irish whiskey, this is simply due to what they were able to source in this quantity at the time. The bottling is also the only official TT whisky (or whiskey) ever released, proudly carrying the Isle of Man TT logo on the back label. If you're interested in buying a bottle (and the money is going to a great cause remember) drop an email to Kevin Quirk [info(at)joeydunlopfoundation.com] at the Joey Dunlop Foundation.
Official Isle of Man TT whisky.
Tasting Note for Limited Edition Joey Dunlop Foundation Whisky
Nose: Oatcakes straight away with honey and some Jelly Babies too. Heather develops as well as a little fruit and nut.
Palate: A little thin to start with and primarily caramel centred but then *whoosh* some great wood spice appears mid-palate. By the second sip you're noticing more of the notes from the nose with that fruit and nut and Jelly Babies as well as a little heather smoke. Slight alcohol burn.
Finish: Sweet caramel before some pleasant, rich, drying peanut skin that lasts.
Overall: A bit of a grower at first, but this is a good blended malt Scotch whisky. As well as being a rather collectable 'thing'.
Ralfy, who's been living on the isle for the last few years, knows a thing or two about whisky. (And about British engineering too...)
Joey, meanwhile, still watches over the TT races each and every year.
* Fortunately Liam Neeson was available as he's being played by Kevin Costner in
Taken 3 Days To Kill. (It's the one where Neeson has to find someone, and kill them, but his daughter doesn't get taken. Quite the twist.)
** Her Dad has a team called thepeoplesbike.com that supports newcomers whilst sponsors can get their faces printed on the bike and join the team in the paddock, which is pretty ace.