The Festival Director of Belfast Whiskey Week’s thoughts on fantasy sagas, enjoying a good dram, and the people who succeed in life and those who make life succeed for others
The best time to get up at the weekend is?
Waking up each morning early with three children eager to get to school and a baby looking his first feed, you’d think that the weekend might provide some respite – not in my house. There is never a dull weekend and the kids have plans of their own; yet I’m usually seeking some extra sleep after delivering a whiskey tasting on the Friday night. If 11am was an option I’d take it, please.
Breakfast or brunch?
Brunch. I love bacon with hash browns and syrup or a full fry, or porridge. Weekends however give me the opportunity to eat with the family, time to have a proper sit down breakfast or out early to St George’s Market for filled baps and crêpes.
What does an ideal Saturday look like?
School pickup on the Friday and straight up to the North Coast for a couple of days at the caravan. Clean air, beaches and good food allows me to wind down, spend time with my wife, who works super hard and deserves my attention and support with our energetic kids.
What would your perfect Sunday be like?
A Sunday where there are no deadlines and where the hustle of work is silenced by the noise of kids messing about and a family day trip.
Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors?
I’m a country boy who spends a long time in the city; I crave being surrounded by green fields and being outdoors. So I enjoy taking the kids to their trainings and matches, playing in the park and taking family walks.
How have weekends changed as you have gotten older?
I’ve swapped parties on Saturday nights with friends and colleagues, to having home movie sessions with my family. I now deliver bespoke whiskey tastings during the week and host Belfast Whiskey Club at The Duke of York twice a month, where I meet like-minded enthusiasts and whiskey novices who want to chat about taste, distilling, collecting and heritage.
If you could eat out anywhere tonight in NI, where would you go and why?
My tastes change constantly and reflect my mood and indeed my levels of hunger. I think for tonight I’d like to explore Ox. I’ve heard great things.
What would you have?
I just read their seasonal menu and my eyes are veering towards the côte de boeuf.
At weekends you’ll always make time to…
Watch a film, although I might never get it finished; the children usually have other plans, but that’s ok – I love their company.
Do you sometimes work at weekends?
As the co-owner of a football team (Belfast Celtic) I am blessed with the opportunity of watching the lads compete weekly and on the odd occasion we get a nice trip to one of the country’s top clubs in the Irish Cup. Most weekends I am always catching up with whiskey chats and podcasts as well as responding to messages from around the world in relation to Belfast Whiskey Week. We have patrons from as far away as Canada, Argentina, Singapore and Australia.
Who would you most like to go for a drink with and why?
Love this question. There are so many people out there who I know would love to drink whiskey and chat. I’m torn between Marie Curie and Oprah Winfrey. Imagine knowing Marie Curie and having the opportunity to delve into her mind set as a female intellectual in the late 19th Century. She was a game changer, she is a turning point in history, she is an inspiration to many and provided so many firsts for women. To meet Oprah would be humbling for sure. I’m blown away by how influential, caring and strong she is. There are people who succeed in life; there are those who make life succeed for others. Another woman who has broken barriers in so many different areas of her life.
Are you a weekend cook?
I used to be. If was able to find time to go wild in the kitchen at the weekend, I’d opt for a duck and orange stir fry with smoked bacon. I love using fruit to cook alongside meat; I feel the need to engage with healthy produce when working with rich foods.
What’s your dream Sunday dinner?
It is a fully loaded Sunday roast that includes thick gravy, roast potatoes, broccoli, glazed carrots, creamy cheesy mash, Yorkshire puddings and succulent chicken.
Who do you normally eat Sunday dinner with and where?
My wife’s parents cook for the masses, with plenty of grandchildren to feed. Sunday dinner at the Carrolls’ house is full of good food, good fun and good vibes.
Too tired to cook – what are you ordering from the takeaway?
Pizza answers all problems. Easy to share. A multitude of topping options to suit different occasions and melted cheese.
Heading for the cinema? What are you going to see?
I enjoy getting lost in the Marvel Multiverse and living some childhood memories with my own children. I never thought I’d see the day that characters that belonged in my tattered comics would grace the big screen and resonate with people 30 years younger than me.
Staying in… what TV/streaming/catch-up programmes are on the menu?
If I need some humour, I’m looking for Chewing the Fat, Derry Girls and Still Game, and if I’m looking to escape from this world, you can’t beat fantasy sagas such as Game of Thrones and A Discovery of Witches. I am obsessed with thrillers such as Hannibal, Homeland, The Tunnel, True Detective and of course the randomness of The Flight Attendant.
What are you reading? Fave type of book?
Harry Potter was fun and it came after my reading of an all-time great: Ursula Kroeber Le Guin’s The Earthsea Cycle. If you like Harry Potter you’ll love the Wizard of Earthsea, it’s more grown-up. I’m only picking up books that make me think beyond the four walls. I love to be challenged.
Depends on my workload. Sometimes I find myself finishing days with a good dram, while others I’m drinking plenty of water and getting to bed before 11.
Belfast Whiskey Week returns on July 22-30. Featuring over 100+ events, spanning nine days in partnership with a variety of venues city wide, the programme includes heritage walking tours, music, talks, food pairing sessions and even a speed dating event. For details, visit www.belfastwhiskeyweek.com