“You have to try it, it’s amazing,” a friend assured me as we meandered through the streets and alleys of Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland. The promise was for an ice cream experience unlike anything I’d tasted before, but I wasn’t so sure. Murphy’s stands out amongst its neighbors in the touristy Temple Bar neighborhood. The baby blue sign a beacon of innocence and purity for which the area is not typically well known. Walking in I knew right away my friend was right and after my first taste I was hooked on Murphy’s ice cream.
Murphy’s Ice Cream started life in the seaside town of Dingle, along the southwest coast of Ireland in 2000. The flavors are intensely Irish and draw upon the rich resources the region offers. Caramelized brown bread, Irish orange marmalade and even Guinness are all available for the adventurous ice cream aficionado. The taste of the ice cream screams Ireland and because of the dependence on locally produced, high quality ingredients the ice cream is quickly on its way to becoming the national ice cream of Ireland. That’s why I was so surprised when I met the founders of the company, brothers Sean and Kieran Murphy in Dingle. I wasn’t surprised by their enthusiasm or passion; I was surprised by their nationality. You see the brothers Murphy are both American.
Well, that’s not quite true. Their father grew up in Ireland and while the brothers were born in the United States and lived most of their lives there, they have dual citizenship with Ireland. Inspired by the fresh dairy products found in and around Dingle, the brothers decided to start making ice cream without any experience or even an idea of what they were doing.
They started out rough, making mistakes and even breaking what little equipment they had. But they quickly caught on and before long were producing high quality ice cream that instantly become a regional hit.
What do they do differently?
The Murphy brothers say the ice cream is so tasty because of their insistence on using all-natural ingredients, many of which are produced locally. At the heart of this is the milk from the Kerry cow, which is creamier than most. It’s also a very rare cow. The Kerry cow used to be vitally important in Ireland, but as recently as the 1970s the number of cows dwindled to a mere 100. Today there are more than 1,100; still rare but plentiful enough so that they brothers can depend on the uniquely flavored milk.
Milk isn’t the only thing that makes the ice cream special; many of the ingredients are sourced locally, including the sea salt made by the two brothers themselves and the very Irish brown bread. While constantly creating new flavors, the current menu includes:
- Kerry cream vanilla
- Handmade chocolate chip
- Dingle sea salt
- Irish brown bread
- Valrhona chocolate
- Honeycomb caramel
- Plus several others
When I visited the Dingle store I tried some flavors not on their main menu including cheddar cheese and oatmeal; unusual, but classically Irish. Kieran says many people think they’re trying to shock customers with some of their flavors, but he swears that’s not true. Instead he considers the flavors they develop to be very traditional for the region. What may surprise people isn’t the taste, but the delivery through ice cream; a shock that is usually short lived. The brothers admit that they aren’t perfect though and Kieran still regrets making a batch of smoked salmon ice cream.
The brothers don’t make many mistakes though and the popularity of the ice cream has exploded not just in Dingle but also around Ireland. Today there are three Murphy’s Ice Cream shops: Dingle, Dublin and Killarney. Who knows what the future holds, but additional locations around Ireland and maybe even internationally seems likely.
Personally, the ice cream really was some of the best I’ve ever tried and I love the fact that they allow customers to combine any number of flavors in their order. So if you’ve always wanted to see what a Guinness, chocolate and sea salt combination tastes like, this is your chance. But even if you don’t go for one of their more adventurous flavors, a visit to any of their locations should be near the top of your Irish Foodie Bucket List.