By John Trump
An empty seat behind the driver on a large, luxury tour bus, usually reserved for a tour guide.
Think about that bus — and focus on this seat — parked near a breathtaking site or at a country rest area.
In Ireland. The mode of transportation for a 10-day tour with sensational Celtic-rock band Scythian, an amalgamation of three siblings and two friends. A band so vibrant to be almost magical, a vehicle for an irresistible transfer of boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Think again about that seat, on the bus parked in a flowery meadow amid, as Johnny Cash might say, some 40 shades of green.
Think just once again about that seat, but this time picture it filled not with a passenger but with rich, amber-colored Irish whiskey. Think finally, about the possibilities. The smell, the tastes, those warm feelings of fellowship and generosity.
Think about the Whiskey Fairy. Then raise a glass and offer your thanks.
The mythical whiskey god started with Teresa Fedoryka, a sister of band members Danylo, Alexander and Larissa Fedoryka, first-generation sons and daughters of Ukrainian immigrants. Fritz McGirr and Nolan Ladewsi complete the band lineup.
For the past several years these classically trained musicians have hosted a trip to Ireland — part tour, part party, part musical utopia. Teresa plays a large role in arranging the trip and ensuring guests stay happy. She loves all things about it.
But one year work got in the way. She couldn’t make it, physically. Her spirit, though, was palpable.
She pulled Alexander aside and handed him a wad of cash.
“I want you to buy a big bottle of whiskey,” says Alexander, remembering the words from his sister. “It’s on me,” she told him. “That was sort of the domino that started it, the tipping point.”
Brothers Alexander and Danylo happily complied.
“We didn’t think anything of it,” Alexander told me between sets at Merlefest 2018, an iconic Americana festival in Wilkes County, North Carolina.
“So the next day we come back from a stop, and there’s a bottle of whiskey with a note on it: “Courtesy of the Whiskey Fairy.”
It seems, the Fedorykos recall telling the the bus-full of thirsty travelers, that the Whiskey Fairy has visited us.
“We announced it, and then at the next stop we had three bottles of whiskey,” Alexander says. “The next stop, there were seven bottles of whiskey on the seat again. It was people buying whiskey of all types. We had Yellow Spot, we had, of course, Tullamore Dew. We had the classic Jameson, Powers — some of the stuff you could only get over there.”
Yep, Yellow Spot, a high-end product in the Jameson portfolio.
“We pulled it out of the brown bag, and we’re like, what?!
“Basically, what it became was kind of like a whiskey flight for a lot of people who never really had anything more than Jameson … at best.
“It was this spirit of generosity, like this Irish, mythical fairy that came and visited us.”
The band religiously hands out surveys to participants. What we do well, what we can do better … those types of things.
“I think on every single one of the surveys someone mentioned the Whiskey Fairy as one of the top three experiences. It’s one of the highlights of the trip.”
In the fairy’s early days the band poured the offerings into small plastic cups. People then used their time at rest stops to buy souvenir shot glasses. Now, Alexander drops a “Scythian in Ireland” shot glass in the welcome packets.
“So, as we’re going through the bus, everyone has a little glass, and we raise our glasses and do a toast. We do an Irish toast, or for somebody celebrating a birthday. A couple people came on their honeymoon for a trip, so that’s a reason to drink. We had someone who got engaged on our last trip. …
“There’s always something to raise your glass to. As we’re going through, people are taking photos, asking what whiskey is this? They’re writing it down, and adding it to the list. We ended up, I think, going through 10 different types of Irish whiskies when we were over there, and it ended up kind of being, unofficially, without us planning it, almost like a whiskey tasting trip.
“I love that, as it was kind of not really something we thought of. It kind of came up, a combination of the people on the trip and their generosity. That’s the best thing about it. Someone drops it off and says, Whiskey Fairy, wink wink. And some of them will take the bottles back, and we sign the bottles.”
The empty ones, of course.
Count on visits from the Whiskey Fairy — and overnight stays in legendary castles — during the band’s next tour of Ireland, planned for February 2019. The fairy will also make repeat appearances during Scythian’s fourth annual Labor Day music festival, Appaloosa Roots Music, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, at the Skyline Ranch Resort in Front Royal, Virginia.