Irish whiskey has been having a renaissance over the last few years, springing back from the dark days of retrenchment and consolidation that, by the 1970s, saw the entire industry working out of just two sites, both of which were owned by the same company. Things are rather healthier nowadays, but given the high costs and long lead times involved in setting up a distillery and being able to sell something that’s aged enough to qualify as a whiskey, a lot of the new operations are still using spirit sourced from the New Middleton or Old Bushmills distilleries whilst they get their feet under the table, so to speak.
It is in this environment that the recent Dingles’ announcement of a permanent core line made entirely from spirit distilled and aged themselves is so interesting – other distilleries have been doing great things with the spirit they’ve sourced, but this release means that Dingle are joining the still relatively small club of Irish whiskey makers whose bottles are filled with a spirit that’s really their’s.
To further add interest, this is a single malt whiskey, where much of the Irish market is based around the ‘single pot still’ style. Here, no unmalted barley is used, so you’ve a potentially intriguing differentiator from the rest of the pack.
Their single malt is bottled at 46.3%, and Dingle state that they don’t use chill-filtering or add any colour. I’m fairly agnostic about the strength of a release, as I’ll often add a drop of water anyway, but it does help if you’ve got an eye on using it in a highball or cocktail. The latter two are a good sign – not dispositive on their own, but neither filtration nor colouring add anything to a whiskey’s flavour or aroma, so why bother?
Whilst there isn’t an age statement, according to the press release the single malt is largely built from their six to seven year-old spirit, and matured in first fill PX sherry and bourbon casks.
Anyhow, onto what it’s like:
For something that has no colour added, this is an impressively intense colour – a full, almost woody orange.
There’s a rich, full nose, some raisins in with apples and pears, an interesting oily intensity, and some spice. Not very surprisingly for a single malt aged in first-fill PX barrels, there’s a definite Scottish vibe in there.
To drink, it’s smooth, with a sweet front that lightens very quickly after an initial rush, and as suggested by the nose, releases lots of spices and orchard fruit.
The finish has the spices coalesce around vanilla, with a light dusting of tannins/apple skin and a certain sweetness underneath.
As the tasting notes suggest, this covers a lot of classic Irish whiskey expectations (apple and spice, smoothness), but also has elements of both the intensity of a coastal scotch and the richness of a sherried Speyside. Not quite what I was expecting, in a good way. Very drinkable as is, but has enough about it to take a splash of water and open it up.
Whilst some feel that putting good spirits into a cocktail is a waste, quality in helps build quality out. Interestingly punchy in a highball, it feels far more present than the proportions of the one I made suggested – again, there’s that intensity. A quick Boulevardier with it, Vermò and Campari in equal proportions was a happy trio and I would think it might take well to the variant I tried a few years ago 3:2:1 of whisky (I was given it with an unidentified Islay), Antica Formula, and Campari.
A very solid way to show yourself to the wider world, I look forward to seeing what Dingle do next.