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.