Most Irish whiskey drinkers should be aware of its release. However due to its limited numbers, most will not have had the opportunity to taste The Irishman + Dick Mack's Coffee Stout collaboration. It went down extremely well with IWS members who came to our July Dublin tasting, featuring whiskeys across the Irishman and Writer's Tears ranges and voting it their favourite expression on the night.
Even if you haven't been lucky enough to sample it yet, you'll certainly appreciate how this collaboration came to be. It's a fascinating story, involving 3 distilleries, a group of friends, a small coffee shop, a pub with a brew-house and a brilliant idea...
Since late 2012, Finn Mac Donnell (of Dick Mack's) and Peter White (Irish Whiskey Society) have been on a mission to turn 47 Green Street, Dingle, into a whiskey lover’s mecca. They have certainly succeeded, and in the years that followed, as the pub's whiskey offering grew, so too did the guys' network, forging strong relationships across the whiskey community, both here and abroad. Having enjoyed a long relationship with Bernard Walsh of Walsh Whiskey in Carlow, a conversation over a few drinks between Peter and Shane Fitzharris of Walsh led to a very tasty and productive collaboration between the pub and the distillery.
Above - the finished product. Right - Dick Mack's Stout
The beginning of any good whiskey's journey starts with the barrel. For this project, a barrel from the Dingle Distillery was selected. This cask held whiskey which was in itself a collaboration between 4 friends who also happen to be members of the Irish Whiskey Society; Willie Murphy, Declan White, Finn MacDonnell and Peter White. A fresh, uncontaminated barrel is essential, and so moments after this single malt was disgorged into another cask, the barrel (first fill bourbon, American oak) made the 5 minute journey to Dick Mack's Brew House. Upon its arrival, it was quickly filled with their own coffee stout.
Dick Mack's Coffee Stout (5%) is made using Irish barley and Belgian chocolate malt. Drip-filtered cold brew is added to the fermenter a week before kegging. This cold-brew coffee provided by "Bean in Dingle", just 3 doors up from the pub, is a 50/50 blend of Guatamalan/Brazilan arabica beans, roasted to a medium finish on-site in the coffee shop. The barrel, filled with the coffee-finished stout, was left to mature for 2 months in the taproom at Dick Mack's. After 8 weeks, the resulting barrel-aged stout was tapped and available at the pub for a limited time. The cask, meanwhile, made its way to Carlow...
Above - Bean in Dingle, just 3 doors down from Dick Mack's.
Against the clock
Once the cask was emptied, the clock started ticking. Fear of oxidisation or impurities impacting the newly emptied cask's wood meant the lads were lead-footed in their 300km drive to Walsh Distillery in Carlow. Once it arrived, all the relevant checks and measures were taken and, satisfied with the quality of the barrel, it was quickly filled with a Walsh Single Malt.
The freshly filled barrel lay dormant for 9 months, with the coffee stout imparting its flavour on the whiskey. When initially disgorged, the ABV was 54%, however the stout had softened the wood, and the journey from Dingle agitated the staves, and so flecks of the cask were found in the whiskey. Although this would have no impact on the quality or taste of the whiskey, the guys were conscious of appearance, and so it was filtered, resulting in a whiskey that was bottled at 48%.
The end product
The cask produced 242 bottles of whiskey. Only available in Celtic Whiskey Store, they disappeared within a week. Those of you who are keen to taste can venture to Dick Mack's, where it's available for €12 a pour. Alternatively, keep an eye on auction sites, but expect to pay considerably more than the €65 it retailed at.
On the nose you'll be greeted with vanilla, with delicious nutty tones coming through. Spend some time with it, as I found the sweetness fades, and more complex notes come through. Once you taste, expect a creamy texture, with a caramel malt taste. It's a fantastic drop. Will it be repeated? For now, there are no plans to recreate the Stout finish. However, there is something in the pipeline and it's coming soon. Finn kept his cards close to his chest, but assured me that the next release, like its predecessor, will be limited to one barrel. So keep your eyes peeled....
Read more about Dick Mack's pub - here.
April 4th (4/4) saw the launch of the long awaited 4th release from Kerry distillery, Dingle. It's due to hit shelves off off-licenses and pubs from Monday.
This release, estimated at 30,000 bottles, will come as welcome news to whiskey drinkers in the US, Europe and Australia who have, since Dingle launched their whiskey in 2015, have struggled to get their hands on a bottle.
12,000 bottles will remain in Ireland, with the remaining 18,000 making their way around the globe. As for the cask strength, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, the release is limited to just 500 bottles. The vast majority of are for the home market only, with a few making their way across the Irish Sea to the UK.
I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Batch 4 yesterday and am very pleased at how they whiskey has come together. It's a marriage of spirits aged separately in 4 cask types - Basil Hayden bourbon, Pedro Ximenez, Oloroso and Port. Once matured, the four liquids are combined to produce the final product. For me, it's a balanced, well rounded single malt that challenges the palate, offering something new with each mouthful. This release has far more "going on" than previous iterations and has a lovely chew to it.
As to be expected with American oak casks, I was first greeted with a mild creamy vanilla sweetness. Beyond this, there's a delicious sultana or dark berry. Another mouthful had me getting my head around a buttery nuttiness, with some citrus lurking.
The cask strength version takes the flavour profile up a notch. There's less vanilla, more dark berry and tannins. Obviously, there's temptation to add a few drops of water to open it up, but I was enjoying my pour too much to take any risks.
Dingle Distillery are definitely on to something. If you're partial to a gin, you'll be interested to know that they recently won "World's Best Gin" at the World Gin Awards 2019 - 400 gins were blind tasted, Dingle came out on top!
All the ingredients are there for Dingle to continue to thrive in the spirit market. These guys know their distillate, they've established relationships with some incredible suppliers - ensuring a constant supply of barrels and casks, their packaging is premium, most importantly, their whiskey is damn good. It's important to remember that they're working with young liquid. As time goes on, this will continue to improve.
Michael Walsh, head distiller (pictured below), announced last night that he's to leave Dingle Distillery in the coming months. From myself, and everyone at the Irish Whiskey Society, I'd like to thank Michael for his contribution to Irish whiskey and wish him all the best. Michael, you played an important role in the resurrection of our national spirit - I hope you look back on this 6 and a half years with pride.
Dingle Batch 4 Single Malt is on sale from 8th April - RRP €70.
Dingle Batch 4 Cask Strength is on sale from 8th April - RRP €125.
Will you be picking up a bottle?
Waterford Distillery has successfully distilled 10,000 litres – totalling 50 barrels – from a heritage grain that has not been seen in the industry for 40 years.
The Waterford team are currently working with industry-leading researcher Dr. Dustin Herb from Oregon State University, as well as the Irish agricultural body Teagasc, to demonstrate the influence of terroir on flavours found in barley distillates.
Grace O'Rielly (Waterford Distillery), Pat Kennedy, Tom Bryan, Alan Dempsey (all of Minch Malt), Neil Conway (Waterford Distillery)
For those not familiar with the term, terroir is a set of environmental factors that affect a crop's makeup - including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop's specific growth habitat.
In the case of this grain, the guys at Waterford partnered with Minch Maltsto resurrect the "Hunter" malting barley variety, which was introduced in 1959 but last used in 1979.
This is the first in the distillery’s planned production of spirit from newly accessible heritage grains, in a journey to explore what flavours were available in the past. Most modern barley varieties are produced with grain yield in mind, not flavour, so the distillery aims to discover if a more flavoursome whiskey could be made from these old varieties.
Through their partnership with maltsters, Minch Malt, and following the distillery’s production of Ireland’s first organic and biodynamic whiskies, Waterford Distillery is once again putting terroir-driven production methods to the fore.
Head Brewer Neil Conway says: “Contrary to what much of the industry is telling drinkers, flavour starts with the grain and the terroir in which it’s grown. Hunter is an old favourite, a very successful variety, so much so that it dominated for 20 years. That’s why we’re working with Minch Malt and our growers – we’re on the hunt for profound sources of flavour, even if that means going back decades to find these forgotten treasures. What’s more, we’re producing these heritage spirits on as large a scale as possible, rather than a barrel here or there, so as many whisky drinkers as possible have a chance to follow our journey.”
More about Hunter Grain:
Irish farmers grew barley from home-saved seed from the previous harvest before the development of new hybrid varieties in the early 20th Century. This home-saved seed had poor yields, highly variable from plant to plant, and from farm to farm, and dependent on the weather.
Farmers struggled year on year and the crop was susceptible to the elements. Such practices were commonplace before the introduction of the Hunter variety.
Hunter is the result of a cross between Spratt Archer - which was the first hybrid variety bred by Herbert Hunter – and Kenia, a Scandinavian barley. Spratt Archer was grown very successfully in the UK but it needed Kenia’s characteristics for shorter and stronger straw to stand against the Irish climate.
Hunter accounted for 75% of Irish malting barley purchases by 1966. Hunter’s dominance of the Irish malting barley industry continued up until 1978-1979 when it was replaced by Ark Royal and Triumph both of which possessed significantly higher grain yield potential and better resistance to fungal diseases. Hunter was widely missed by brewers and distillers as it is thought to be one of the most flavoursome varieties compared to more recent varieties.
Please bear with us while we get our shop in order. Coming soon - distillery news, industry goings on, new releases and more...
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