Supposedly, patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait or – importantly – who are able to wait. In whiskey terms, this can be anything from a legally defined short process to an exceptionally long one, determined by the type of whiskey a distiller would want to produce.
What exactly am I getting at here? A good majority of Irish whiskey distilleries are not currently using their own distillate. This is absolutely not an issue; more than likely, the process of creating their own whiskey has already started and their own spirit is maturing. Typically, whiskey purchased elsewhere is bottled and sold as their own. The result is a game of “How long you can hold your nerve for?” Technically – as per the Irish Whiskey Act 1980 – whiskey only needs to be three years old to be classified as Irish. When do new distilleries start bottling their own whiskey? Five years? Seven years? 12 years?
I’m partly speaking tongue in cheek here, as distillers/blenders will only bottle it when it’s ready… surely? There are so many fundamental questions determining the right time for distilleries to sell their own whiskey, with the majority concerning the actual whiskey, i.e., taste, smell, colour, etc.
But, what happens when some rivals start bottling their own whiskey? Do distillers who wish to remain competitive compromise, say that it’s good enough, and begin bottling? All of these are hypothetical questions, but now is a very interesting time for Irish Whiskey; lots of the new distilleries are approaching a period when their own spirit is maturing nicely and getting to a point where distillers bottle it (no pun intended).
There are other factors at play here as well. The COVID pandemic may have had an impact on how quickly distilleries produce and sell something to keep their revenues up. The surge in the popularity of Irish whiskey is allowing distilleries to flourish, and also opening options for more rapid commercialization. There is nothing to stop a distillery releasing something now and then tweaking it via second batch, as opposed to waiting and potentially releasing something more fully developed at a later date when Irish whiskey may not be quite so popular.
At this stage, I must make a confession: I have tried almost no finished product from Dingle whiskey, which puts me in a unique position. I sampled the three components of the batch 4 bottling, and subsequent sample of the batch 4 via a ThreeDrams tasting. What I have experienced is the popularity amongst its fanbase, and I certainly understand the speed at which some of the most recent releases have sold out.
Having looked through several of the reviews on Malt and without trying to bias myself, what is apparent is that Dingle’s whiskey appears to be a bit, ‘hit and miss.’ Phil and Mark, although having reviewed different bottlings, both marginally come up with the same conclusions that it’s fairly young and could have possibly done with a few more years in the cask.
What I am interested to know is whether their newest and first-ever core expression single malt is a product of lessons learnt, a knee-jerk reaction to an increasingly overpopulated market of distilleries bottling their own spirit, or a happy coincidence of fully matured whiskey delivered at the right time.
As for the whiskey itself: it is comprised of mainly six- to seven-year-old spirit and has been matured in PX Sherry (61%) and Bourbon (39%) first-fill casks. Head distiller Graham Coull claims to be using first-fill only casks to produce a richer flavour, something which we will perhaps come across when sampling the actual liquid.
This whiskey is a welcome addition to the Dingle portfolio, to supplement their range of single cask offerings. I believe this bottle now gives Dingle a real base from which to promote their brand and whiskey and will please their fans. It also appears that Dingle predicts that this will be popular too; an initial run of 50,000 bottles has been released, with an ambition to produce 100,000 by 2023, a real show of intent by an intrepid brand.
The bottle and presentation are visually attractive. The standard bottle tube features the Dingle “Wren boy” front and centre, in eye-catching cerulean blue. It is a striking presentation that should ensure it stands out from its competitors, of which there are many at this price point.
Dingle Single Malt – Review
Colour: Amontillado sherry.
Nose: Initial faint smell of liquorice and aniseed, some fruitiness, less strawberries and more zesty limes, really fresh. Lots of sweetness, too; some After Eights and fizzy cola bottles drift into the nostrils.
In the mouth: Loads of vanilla! Clear influence coming through from the bourbon cask, Caramac bars for some nostalgia, some light fudge also. On the finish, there is more sweet vanilla, think burnt crème brulee, some spice actually comes through. Thanks to the ABV (46.3%) this lasts nicely in the palate.
I am genuinely surprised by this whiskey. At £49 (€55 from Dingle), this is a must. Considering the age of this single malt, and that it is Dingle’s first ever core expression, it is fantastic. Graeme Coull and his team at Dingle clearly knew what they were doing with this. The ABV is perfect for the whiskey. It is complex, but not overly so; any longer maturing would have over-complicated it, and less would not have given it the character that it currently has.
I really like everything about this whiskey: the whiskey itself, the fact the water they have used is from a well 240 ft down, the packaging, and the obvious attentiveness and reverence that Graeme and his team have shown this whiskey. This isn’t a rushed release in response to the current state of the market: this is a whiskey that has been developed through lessons learned and released by Dingle only once they were happy with it.
If I’m being picky, the price point is maybe a tad high. There are some very nice 12-year-old single malts or pot stills on the market for £50, but I think that the Dingle Single Malt will give them a run for their money.