“Where an Inch is a mile. Where a Goat is the king. A Rose is a beautiful girl and a Dolphin is a man’s best friend”. By god I hated that Kerrymaid commercial, but like it or loathe it, they got one thing right…..Kerry really is the kingdom! And if it is then Dingle is one of the crown jewels. There really is something special about the place. The welcome and the craic, the sights and the smells, the people and the places. It truly is hard to beat the place. Yes, of course, being a Kerryman myself I am biased but I rarely meet people that have a bad word to say about the place. Even less so in Whiskey circles. And this isn’t just due to the fantastic whiskey bars like Dick Mack’s, who have featured as Munster and overall Irish Whiskey bar of the year in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with a Gold medal in 2017. It is in part due to the renaissance that is taking place on the Ventry road out of the town. May I present, The Dingle Whiskey Distillery.
Founded in late 2012 by Oliver Hughes, Liam LaHart and Peter Mosley, the distillery has quickly won the affection of both whiskey enthusiasts and collectors. It is arguably one of the driving forces behind so many other distilleries now joining the Irish Whiskey revival. Founded in a corrugated shed that I believe was once a saw mill, it now houses 3 small custom designed copper pot stills for whiskey distilling, a mashtun and 5 wooden washbacks. The stills themselves incorporate a boil bowl which allows reflux to occur ensuring that the spirit is more refined and “smoother” by a constant process of rising, condensing and rising again. Due to the size of the stills the distillery can only turn out two casks of whiskey per day during production making it truly an artisan distillery. In fact, the distillery’s own website state they know they will not become a megabrand, they do not wish to. Their aim is simply quality over quantity. The distillery tour, which I took back in 2016, is a fantastic experience as you get to walk right around the working areas, much like you get in a lot of Scottish distilleries. But that I’ll leave for another day and another installment of the blog as it’s an excuse to return again for research!
My first real introduction to Dingle’s produce was on the 2nd of July 2015 where I walked into the Dingle Whiskey Bar in Dublin with another whiskey enthusiast, Mike Thompson, after an AC/DC concert to be greeted by the ever-knowledgeable Tom O Connor, a man I’ve known for years from meeting him in Ballybunion. As we chatted and ordered a few drams, Tom produced a bottle of clear liquid and asked us to have a try. The liquid? You guessed it, distillate from the Dingle Distillery at 65%. Even in those early days, I was very impressed by the raw spirit. With no aging and at such a high ABV it was relatively easy to drink……it could only but impress me. The impatient wait was on for their first release……
I didn’t have long to wait really, at least not as long as I expected. In 2016 a batch one Single Malt was released and bottled at 46.5% ABV. The 7,000 or so bottle first release quickly flew off the shelves with shops such as Celtic Whiskey only allowing two bottles per customer. I was lucky enough to get some from Jp Walsh in Fine Wines in Limerick. As an aside, at the same time as the Single Malt release there was also a Cask Strength released in a batch of 500 and like its brother, they flew off the shelves. Again, I was lucky enough to pick up a few bottles of it. Just goes to show how important it is to support your local off licences. It pays off dividends in times like this! The Single Malt bottle itself is very distinctive and I must say, one of the nicest on the market. The glass work is smashing (no pun intended) with the distillery logo by the neck and the name around the heavy glass base. Now before we go any further, you’ve done the maths haven’t you? First spirit ran in late 2012 which was for the Cask 2 release and founding fathers. So this batch one release can only be 3 years and a bit old. Barely legal. Considering most whiskeys are at least 6/7 years old before they are released onto customers, it was a bold move by Dingle. But they weren’t aiming it at taking on those matured whiskeys. This is a show of what they can, are and will be doing. Of course, we can now see the unfortunate consequence of their fast-found following is that the value of these bottles has sky rocketed with a Batch one cask strength now making between 5 and 600 euro whereby they sold originally for €120. Due to the price people now expect it to rival a Midleton Very Rare in taste! I mentioned its just 3 years old right? Just because the market has dictated a huge collectability aspect to the series does not mean it suddenly jumps to the pinnacle of Irish whiskey taste and flavour. But, that aside, for a 3 year old whiskey it is a seriously interesting dram. My tasting notes will follow but remember, if you get your hands on this to try, remember what you’re trying. A three-year-old Single Malt. If you are unsure on how to get the full taste from your whiskey, why not have a look here on how I drink my drams. A lot of people roll these bad boys right back the center of their throat leaving a nasty burning sensation that puts them off the whiskey and that’s just simply not how its meant to be done. So, lets try the Single Malt B1.
ABV – 46.5%
Nose – Cut grass. Lemon sherbet sweets which is always a surprise for me in whiskey. Fruity. Very light malt when water is added.
Palate – The young spirit leads a slightly fiery charge that mellows after a moment. Slight linger of spicy pepper that makes way for a little bit of richness. Surprisingly, with addition of some water I found that the mouth feel became oilier and covered more.
Finish – Medium in length with a warmth expected from a young whiskey. A pleasant warmth that releases more lemon flavour. The water added a sweetness and slight green apple flavour.
Overall – A truly lovely dram show casing what is to come from the distillery. It is not complex in anyway so don’t expect it to be. If you’re only starting out drinking whiskey, then maybe you should steer clear and wait for the later releases and more aged stock. The youth of the whiskey could easily be confused as being harsh or nasty when in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dingle now has 6 publicly launched whiskeys on the market. Single Malt Batch 1, Single Malt Cask Strength Batch 1, Single Malt Batch 2, Single Malt Cask Strength Batch 2, the SuperValu release and their Single Pot Sill. I expect huge things from Dingle in the next 10 years. Personally, with the expressions already on the market, I feel I’ve already seen huge things from them.
Finally, It would be remiss of me to complete my first Dingle review without a hat tip and dedication to Oliver Hughes, the driving force behind the distillery. In July 2016 Oliver passed away suddenly leaving a massive sadness in the industry. A man who was a visionary not only for Dingle whiskey, but for the Porterhouse chain that we see today. I have no doubt he would be tremendously proud to see how the Dingle brand has progressed today, driven on by his family, friends and colleagues. It is a fitting tribute that his name is on each bottle of Dingle Whiskey. Tonight’s dram of Dingle is dedicated to Oliver’s memory. Our loss is undoubtly heavens gain.