Fun fact: we’ve not written anything about Scotch whisky on this humble blog this year. We didn’t write much at all to be fair. And if you were expecting a Scotch whisky review here, well you’re going to have to wait a little more, as we go back to Ireland today. And even almost as far from Scotland as we could without leaving the UK and Ireland, as we’re going to the Dingle Peninsula. Put down that map and that ruler, it was a figure of speech, I know it’s not the furthest point on the map by quite a few miles. Dingle Distillery released a few weeks ago their first permanent expression, a single malt Irish whiskey, after releasing their previous single malts (and single pot still) as batches. But today, they’re becoming big girls and boys, and we’re going to see how well they did. Oh, and we have a guest that will bring his Scottishness with him, so that’s almost as if we reviewed a Scotch whisky today, right? No, that doesn’t count you say? Anyway, let’s have a chat with Graham Coull, Dingle’s master distiller, then we’ll review Dingle’s Single Malt. And I won’t go into a presentation of Dingle Distillery, my good friend Brian @MaltMusings did one that I invite you to go read. Cue the intro! (Ahem, I mean scroll down, I know we’re not on TV.)
A Talk With Graham Coull
Hi! I seem to know you from somewhere… oh yes, you’re the lovely Fay’s husband! 😉
So, it’s been what, about 18 months since your move to Dingle in Ireland? Excluding what was changed due to Covid, what did it change for you in your everyday life outside work?
Almost 20 months now ! Time flies! I think the biggest change is the fact Dingle is a town small enough for everyone to know each other. There is a great sense of community and we have been warmly welcomed. We are spending more of our time now enjoying the local area and the wonderful choice of food on our doorstep.
Now, let’s talk about Dingle. Do you have a typical day at the distillery, “always the same”, and if yes, tell us about it? What do you do when you’re not spamming Twitter or being mean to David Marra?
Some people would say I am providing a public service by putting David Marra back in his box!
No two days are ever the same to be honest. Planning is a major part of my day and this can long term – whiskey stocks & cask management or short term ensuring we have cased good orders ready on time.
We are also looking at upgrading the Distillery which is sizeable project so I am devoting quite a bit of time doing the groundwork for this.
What changed compared to your previous experiences? Are you maybe more free to do whatever you want? For example, cask management, experimentations, or running the distillery the way you want to? You’re not breaking havoc anyway, right? Right?
To give a seafaring analogy Dingle is a smaller ship than Glen Moray and it is only just heading out of port whereas Glen Moray is well out on the high seas.
Therefore there is a greater opportunity to decide on the direction the Distillery will take. I have started to introduce new cask types and also peated spirit into our maturing stock portfolio.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I am not trying to rock the boat I’m just giving it a gentle shake!
Let’s talk now about your first permanent expression, Dingle Single Malt. You weren’t there when the first batches went out, but I’m sure you’ve tasted them and talked about them with your team. How would you see your single malt evolved between the first batches until the fifth and now the permanent expression? What were you and your predecessor able to change, enhance, make better?
As you would expect, the Dingle spirit has evolved as it has aged. It is impossible and unfair to compare the earlier batches with the later batches side by side. Additional time spent in maturation will always benefit a whiskey when it is in single figures age wise and Dingle is beginning to reap those rewards.
The Dingle Single Malt is a natural progression and it has allowed me to focus more heavily on one cask type namely Pedro Ximenez. The natural sweetness of PX combined with the influence of the ex-bourbon casks creates a whiskey which is very approachable and well balanced.
Dingle Single Malt is made using ex-bourbon, sherry and Madeira casks. Some lucky tasters were able to taste the individual components. What was the feedback you got, and is there any plan to maybe release single-component expressions?
Hosting the ‘deconstruction’ tastings has been a great way to gain feedback not only on the final whiskey but also the components that combine to form it. I am delighted that the Dingle matured in ex-bourbon casks has been so well received. Ex-bourbon matured whiskey can tend to be overlooked especially when pitched against a ‘full on’ sherry maturation but it is a great way to get an insight into the character of the Distillery without being overpowered with too much cask influence.
We will definitely be releasing single component expressions in the not too distant future.
Should we expect a permanent single pot still anytime soon or is there a bit of a journey yet to do to get there?
Our stocks of Pot Still maturing whiskey from the early years of production are less than the Single Malt. Therefore it may be another year or two before you will see a Pot Still core expression but it will happen.
On Dingle’s website, the “our team” page only mentions you. Does that mean Sarah and the others are imaginary people and alts of your social media accounts?
There is a saying that ‘Behind every Master Distiller is a team of people who do the actual hard work’ and at Dingle this is no exception. I must take this opportunity to thank them for all the hard work and enthusiasm, it makes my job so much easier.
Still about Dingle, our numerous nerdy spreadsheety readers (okay, there’s only me) love nerdy numbers. Can you tell us about the distillery’s numbers? Lpa/year, number and type of washbacks, mashtuns, stills, their capacity, what type of yeast and so on?
About 80,000 lpa per year.
1 tonne mash tun made of Oregon pine.
5 x 5,000 litre wash backs made of Oregon pine.
1 x 5.000 litre wash still.
1 x 2,500 litre intermediate still.
1 x 3,500 spirit still.
5kg of Mauri dried yeast per washback
Fermentation time 72 hours
Spirit flow rate in Safe 5 litres/minute.
Cask filling strength 65% abv.
Water source is from a well 240 feet deep.
I have a 34-inch waist and generally take an XXL shirt.
What’s next for Dingle?
We are getting ever closer to the Distillery becoming 10 years old (December 2022) so that will be a big milestone to celebrate. In the meantime, we have the project to redevelop the Distillery to keep us busy!
Thank you so much Graham, it was a great pleasure to have you here, time to have a dram!
But first, since I also have a bottle of the Dingle Single Malt batch Bo. 5, let’s review it before going to the new core range release.
Dingle Single Malt Batch No. 5 review
Dingle Single Malt batch No. 5 is a (not so) small batch of 30.000 bottles. Released in 2020, the recipe breaks down to this: 45% bourbon casks, 45% PX butts and 10% Madeira casks, with all components being 5 to 6 years old. It was bottled at 46.5% abv and the RRP was €69.95, though the price varies greatly between Germany (some shops have it for just a bit more than €55) to €75 at Celtic Whiskey Shop. In the UK, there’s one bottle left at The Little Whisky Shop for £69.95 at the time of writing but none on MoM or TWE.
There’s an immediate sweetness with vanilla and strawberry ice cream, whilst rhubarb tart provides an enjoyable sourness. The youth is discernable with some esters slipping through but it doesn’t scream 3 either. Rapeseed oil and sweet soy sauce give an oiliness to the nose and there’s something between a meaty and slightly sulphury smell I cannot pinpoint, but it’s far from being overly sulphury, it is in no way unsettling. There are also tropical notes of passion fruits coming through after a moment resting in the glass.
Lightly salty and peppery arrival, with the sourness of grapefruit juice and the faint bitterness of an oak log. Cinnamon and vanilla dusted rhubarb compote, chocolate with fleur de sel, dusty old books. Citrus notes all along underlining a fresh palate.
A slight oakiness and citrus notes linger with that dustiness feeling before slowly fading away, with a good length.
Dingle Single Malt review
As mentioned above, Dingle Single Malt is an assembly of ex-bourbon and PX sherry casks (respectively 39% and 61%, I wonder if that will change over time for consistency needs), aged approximately 5 to 7 years old. It’s delivered au naturel, nonchill filtered and with its natural colour, and reduced to 46.3% abv. And while Irish whiskey becomes quickly quite expensive, this is sold at the very reasonable price of 55€ in Ireland. Those in the UK will be able for the equivalent price in pounds, for example at TWE for £47.75, and just under £49 at Irishmalts. Those lucky Germans will get it for just 42 to 47€, I’m so jealous of their whisk(e)y prices…
Gentle spices tickle your nose. There’s a slight sourness, like liquorice and cherry liquor, and though immediately after being poured the nose felt less sweet than the batch 5, after resting for 10-15 minutes in the glass it does feel sweeter than batch 5 now. Apple and fruit salad syrup, blackcurrant jam, freshly pressed lemon juice and grape seed oil. The nose is always evolving over time, with the sweetness going like a rollercoaster up and down, over and under the batch 5’s one. There’s also a richness evocative of the sherry casks more present than with batch 5, probably because of the higher portion of sherry casks in the vatting with dried fruits (figs and dates).
The arrival is more citrusy here though still slightly salty. Vanilla and caramel from the bourbon casks are present, the bourbon casks really kept their influence and were not overpowered by the higher PX casks proportion. On a second sip the sweetness – crème brulée, honey, and fruits intertwined – comes through and well as black pepper, chocolate, fudge, and roasted coffee beans. The citrus notes from the start stay all along on the palate, in the background but never far away.
Medium long with aromas of roasted coffee beans, chocolate and wood spices.
These drams are fun. Each time you go back to nosing one, then the other, they changed. When the sweetness is more present on one, the next time you nose both, it’s on the other. Both are young, but not too young. They’re not “in your face”-young”. Nor “very active wood to hide the youthfulness” -young. I don’t know if it’s the same in Ireland for example, but in France we say that 7yo is the age of reason, and both those whiskies are getting there. And with Graham and the great team he has around him, the distillery is definitely on the right path. On the palate, there’s a progression going from Batch No. 5 to the permanent expression. Maturity, certainly. A bit less spice, a bit richer. With the bourbon and PX casks each shining through. And the price didn’t go up between the two, it went down. Sure you can find older whisk(e)y with an age statement for the same price, but Irish whiskey is usually (that I find) more expensive than Scotch, for example. And we’re talking about a small and still young distillery. So in the end? Batch No. 5 was good. Dingle Single Malt is even better, and at that price, for me it’s a no-brainer. Go buy one.
All images except the leading one
have been stolen from courtesy of Dingle Distillery.
But don’t take our word for it…
Some friends also reviewed either Dingle Single Malt Batch No. 5 or Dingle Single Malt ‘The permanent one’, so please go read their thoughts too! You can go to Brian @MaltMusings thoughts here, while Susanne wrote about it on Irish Drams here. Malt also wrote about it, and Andy at Malt Box should publish a video review of the core range one soon, so in the meanwhile go check his Youtube channel, and I’ll update here when it’s published. I can also point you to Ruben at whiskynotes who reviewed the core range expression. The Whiskey Chaps also reviewed the Batch No. 5 here and here.