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'People come in to see their dads on the wall': The eccentric beauty of O'Lochlainn's in Ballyvaughan

If it’s good enough for Steven Spielberg…

IN THE VILLAGE of Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, is a whiskey bar whose collection would make a spirit lover weep.

“I can’t say it’s the biggest collection in the country but it’s a very impressive collection,” says Peter O’Loghlen, proprietor of O’Lochlainn’s.

Indeed the modest pub functions as a whiskey museum of sorts. The pub houses 500 bottles of whiskey, the majority of which are not for sale.

“Much of what you see on the shelves isn’t for sale at all. It’s just for viewing. People like to come in and look at the old bottles because whiskeys change all the time. Either labels change, distilleries close, distilleries open, lines finish – all that kind of thing. There’s a lot of lines of whiskey up there that people admire because they may have never seen it.”

What an amazing time!

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O’Lochlainn’s has been in Ballyvaughan in its current format since the 1940s. O’Loghlen is the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the pub business, having inherited the bar from his father, McNeill.

A farmer by day, O’Loghlen runs the business with the help of his family including his daughter Eimear, who will be the seventh generation to work in the pub. Work on the farm means that the pub doesn’t open until 8pm in the evening.


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@guinness @tullamoredew @drinking.whiskey @whiskey_lovers at lochlans bar Ballyvaughan

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Little has changed over the last seventy years or so.

“We’ve maintained a very high standard of decor keeping in line with the old style in terms of colour and that,” says O’Loghlen. “We’ve got a lot of old artefacts and that in the bar, not in a kitschy way.”

Among the artefects are a large mirror from Persses’s Distillery, which operated on Nun’s Island in Galway from 1815 to 1913. “On the mirror itself there’s an engraving and it says, ‘Whiskey as supplied to the House of Commons’.”

There are also a series of vintage photographs of locals taken by photographer Veronica Nicholson.

“They really add a bit of warmth to the bar. They’re all local people and a lot of families come in to see their Dads up there. It really adds to the whole atmosphere.”


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Glass collection

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As for the customers, O’Loghlen says there’s a healthy balance between locals and tourists.

Among the notable faces to pop in over the years are Steven Spielberg and the stars of Desperate Housewives – not that O’Lochlainn’s would ever make much of a fuss.

“We don’t really make much of any celebrities. We just treat them the same as any other customer. They much prefer it. I wouldn’t allow any messing going on.”

The bar does, however, go the extra mile for visitors, guiding customers to the seventy Irish whiskeys and twenty Scotches available for sale. They offer tailor-made recommendations for customers based on what they’ve tasted before and regularly host whiskey tastings.

“Once we do open in the height of the season, we have a lot of tourists coming in looking for whiskey so I spend my night talking about whiskey and different choices. If a couple are there for two or three whiskeys, they’ll have six between them. We’ll take photographs of the bottles and they can buy them in the airport if they like.”

“If they’ve never had an opportunity to pull a pint of Guinness we’ll bring them in behind the counter, show them how to pull a pint and take picture.”

No messing and lots of whiskey delivered with a personal touch? No wonder Steven Spielberg popped in.

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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