St Brigid’s Day Festival at Powerscourt Distillery
February 1st is the feast of St. Brigid. In Celtic times this was also known as Imbolc – an ancient festival marking the beginning of Spring. This year saw the introduction of a new Bank Holiday in Ireland and at Powerscourt Distillery we celebrated the new holiday with a festival in honour of Brigid and the welcome arrival of Spring. This follows the great success of our inaugural Imbolc event last year.
On Sunday 5th February our award-winning Visitor Centre was decorated with Spring flowers and traditional St Brigid’s crosses, as we welcomed visitors to the event.
Our festival focussed on Brigid’s associations with food, farming, dairying, brewing, hospitality and love of nature. The programme included a farmers market featuring local producers from Wicklow Naturally. We also hosted whiskey tastings, whiskey masterclasses, food and whiskey pairings featuring Fercullen Whiskey and local Wicklow Food producers, and cocktail classes featuring Irish female-led brands.
Our luxurious AV room was the venue for a variety of discussion panels many of which focused on Brigid’s associations with nature, entrepreneurship, farming, and brewing.
We were delighted to welcome John O’Brien from Enniskerry Antiques in conversation with Rosi Goswell from Tuath Glass to discuss the material culture of whiskey in a talk on Whiskey Glasses through the Ages.
Caitriona Nic Philibín was the keynote speaker on the day. A chef and Irish Research Scholar, Caitriona spoke about the food and folklore of St Brigid’s Day with an informative and entertaining presentation.
Other speakers included Mead maker Kate Dempsey of Kinsale Mead, Celina Stephenson from Wicklow Way Wines, Mary from Fire & 5th and Lisa Kleiner from Nibbed Cacao, who all participated in a discussion about Women in the Irish Food and Drinks industry, reflecting Brigid’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Chef and filmmaker Tadgh Byrne led a dynamic presentation on The Future of Food. Tadgh even included some cricket smoothies for the audience to taste, which certainly encouraged some interesting conversations!
The presentations ended with a fascinating talk from Brian O’Toole and Gilly Taylor on their rewilding project in County Wicklow. Their presentation included wonderful images from their Wildacres project with lots of advice on how to begin rewilding in even the smallest garden.
As Brigid was the patron saint of brewing and mead making, we held ale tastings from Wicklow Brewery and mead tastings from Kinsale Mead. These were complemented with tastings of Irish-made cocktail ingredients from Beara Bitters.
Food and Whiskey Pairings took place all day in the Mill House and featured Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese, The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, Goatsbridge Trout, Lismore Biscuits, Nibbed Cacao, and Ollys Farm Honey. One of the most popular whiskey and food pairings on offer at The Powerscourt Distillery is Fercullen Whiskey with local cheese Coolattin Cheddar. Tom Burgess of Coolattin Cheddar held popular cheddar tastings and demonstrations in the Mill House throughout the day.
The menu on the day was inspired by Brigid’s famous generosity with the contents of her family larder. Legend says that no matter how much bacon and butter she gave away to the poor, the larder and dairy were always replenished. Our menu included Biddys Bacon – A bacon roll with organic bacon from An Tairseach in Wicklow town. We also offered Brigid’s Dairy – a sandwich of Coolattin Cheddar and local chutney from Janet’s Just Delicious.
Bridies Brack, a locally made brack soaked in Fercullen Whiskey was included in the selection of sweet treats. The cocktail list was inspired by the legends of Brigid and included our Brigid’s Cloak – an Irish ingredient version of a Manhattan with Valentia Island Vermouth. Other cocktails included a warm mead cocktail – Mead and Miracles – using Kilmullen Farm Apple Juice, Kinsale Mead and Fercullen Irish Whiskey. Brigid’s Bramble was a seasonal take on the classic Whiskey Bramble and the mocktail was Brigid’s Eternal Flame – a fiery and refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail using Fire and 5th non-alcohol spirit and Poachers Ginger and Chilli soda.
Music on the day was by local band The Victory Dolls, who kept visitors entertained with their unique style and lively music. Fiddle player Anneliese Hogan provided plenty of traditional tunes and the visitor centre was full of music and a wonderful spring atmosphere on the day.
Forager Lorraine O’Dwyer of Gallivanting.ie provided rushes for her Brigid’s cross-making workshops which were a hugely popular feature on the day.
With a bustling farmers market, live music and the spirit of Spring in the air, our first public event of the year was a great success and we are already looking forward to next year!
“Anois teacht an Earraigh”- Spring is here! Let’s raise a glass to Brigid and Imbolc, the season of new beginnings.