Showing posts with label Cork Whiskey Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cork Whiskey Festival. Show all posts

Monday, March 27, 2023

Patience Pays For Dunville’s And Echlinville Distillery

Patience Pays For Dunville’s

And Echlinville Distillery

 We were told to expect sherry bombs from Dunville’s Jarlath Watson (right) during Sunday’s masterclass in Cask. No shortage of sherry influences but it seems Dunville are more about patience.

The patience is required to keep their spirit in cask until it is good and ready to go. And then they have a good steady climate (no extremes) in their corner of the Ards Peninsula, more temperate than even areas quite close to them.  

And Jarlath also spoke about the land, part of their own particular terroir. “We are a fifty acre working farm… we grow all our own barley… it is floor-malted (not the most economical method!)." And everything is done within a three mile radius. Thanks to their use of various sherry casks (an endangered species, by the way), they have many different expressions from their own micro-terroir.

This is all centered around the Echlinville Distillery. But while you can get Echlinville gin, you’ll have to wait for their whiskey. The makers have patience and that will have to extend to the customers! Maybe something later this year, if they are ready!

Dunville's is a old Belfast brand that they got in 2011 and fills the gap while waiting for Echlinville very own whiskey. All spirits for the Dunville are bought in and finished in sherry casks. Dunville’s has quite a fascinating story. Founded in 1808 and originally produced at the Royal Irish Distilleries in Belfast, Dunville’s was was among the world’s most famous whiskey brands until the distillery fell silent in 1936. Read more here.

Ready to roll in Cask

Now it is back and we started in Cask with their Three Crowns, an average age of 7 years, 70% grain and 30% malt “married after five years”. “It is lazy, mellow, chilled out, a light breakfast whiskey,’ said Jarlath, jokingly or not I don’t know!

Sherry didn't really feature in the next whiskey. This cask sample came via Dick Mac’s in Dingle where the casks had been used to produce the Kerry brewery's Honey & Hemp IPA. When they came back to Echlinville, they were filled and left for an expected six months. But they decided to keep it for another two years. Now they feel it is really finished and you may well be able to get their honey prominent whiskey in a couple of months.

Sample #3 was a favourite of mine, and quite a few others, and it is in bottle but you’ll have to travel to Fairley’s in Coleraine to get it as it was especially made for their “very old bar”. It is a 13 year old whiskey, raised in sherry casks from the bar, weighs in at 57% and is very impressive indeed.

On then to another different take, a whiskey made in a rather special Armagnac cask from Gascony (warning: don’t ask for Cognac if you’re in that area). Again Jarlath is expecting more from this one and is gambling on another two years, knowing that patience pays off sometimes as it did with the IPA.

“The big hitters are coming now,” said Jarlath as he introduced a 22-year old whiskey that has spent its last 6.5 or 7 years in Palo Cortado casks. Palo Cortado casks are very scare. “For every 6,000 bottles of sherry sold, just one is PC.” But going by this gorgeous drop, they are worth seeking out!

A 20-year old followed having spent the last 4.5 years in Oloroso cask and came with all the Christmas cake aromas and flavours you’d expect. And it was here that Jarlath reiterated their patient approach: “We don’t put it out too early. We keep it until ready… and then it should be excellent.”

There was one for the road and it was amazing. It was a 21-year old (finished for 3.5 to 4 years in Pedro Ximenez cask). The sweetness of the PX was a  feature of course but the distillery achieved a perfect balance. One to savour as we hit MacCurtain Street, the home of the superb Cork Whiskey festival 2023. Here’s to 2004!

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Spots Star At Cork Whiskey Festival.

Spots Star At Cork Whiskey Fest

Taking us to the high Spots at Gallaghers is Midleton Whiskey Ambassador Ger Garland

I met three of the Spots at the inaugural Cork Whiskey Festival, all part of a stellar masterclass in Gallaghers Gastro Pub where Midleton Legend Ger Garland and Brand Ambassador Matthew Smith guided us through the selection along with  some of their finishing wines.

My conclusion? That Green Spot is amiable, ideal for chillout moments if rather innocent and playful (a morning sip said Matthew). Yellow is more grown up, a little edgier (just a tad). Red is smoother, more sophisticated. By the way, if someone said to me "you can have the Green only" I would not be at all disappointed. 

And that 12-year old sherry turned out to be an unexpected favourite! Perhaps not that unexpected as Lustau is my favourite sherry.

The line-up at Gallaghers

The story of the Spots began under the hustle and bustle of cobbled Dublin streets in the early 1900s where a single pot still Irish whiskey brand was quietly making a name for itself. The first of the branded spots didn’t appear until the 1920s.

Mitchell & Son matured their whiskey in casks in a network of underground cellars. When the fortified wine casks were filled (exclusively with new make spirit from Bow St. Distillery) and brought back to Mitchells, they were marked with a daub or ‘spot’ of paint which identified how long they would be matured for. Blue for 7 years, green for 10 years, yellow for 12 years and red for 15 years – hence the name Spot Whiskey.


These along with the Green Spot Wine Geese series as well as limited editions such as Gold Spot make up the full selection of Spot Whiskeys. At Gallagher, we enjoyed the Green, the Yellow and the Red.

Back in the days when distillers sold barrels of whiskey direct to customers who finished them in their own way, there was a lot of variation in the market, according to Matthew.

The bonding business thrived for decades but was on the way out in the 1960s when the few remaining distilleries, consolidated in Midleton as Irish Distillers, refused to continue the supply barrels. But, as often happens in Ireland (and presumably elsewhere), someone knew someone and through that insider track, Mitchell had their supply continued.

While sherry and fortified wines are often quoted as being the difference makers in the Spots, credit is not always given to the influence of the Spanish oak in which these wines have been matured. This oak (from Galicia), Matthew told us, is spicier, drier and with more astringency, than other oaks.

And there are also different influences as we move from Spot to Spot though all are Pot Still. The first difference is ABV: 40% for Green, 46% for Yellow and Red. The second is age, 10 years for Green, 12 for Yellow and 15 for Red. All are matured in Bourbon and Sherry casks but there is a third cask used in the case of Yellow (Malaga wine) and Red (Marsala wine from Sicily). All these factors add to the variety in Irish whiskey even if Spot, though well-loved, is not a large share of the overall market here. Prices too go up as you move from Green to Red!

Green Spot with its light and delicate nose and flavours and silky mouthfeel is, like all the Spots, produced in Midleton. It weighs in at 40% ABV but the Cask Strength version, that we also tasted, has a hefty 59.1%. Ger said it is quite potent and hinted that you may need to add a drop of water!

Ger was very much taken with the 12-year old sherry and so was I. “Amazing with Gubbeen smoked cheese or their smoked sausage,” he advised. “With its nutty nose and rich flavours, it is a nice interlude on our whiskey journey today.”

Now we were on to Yellow Spot. Matthew: “Moving to a sweeter basis. The 12-year statement on the bottle means that the youngest whiskey in the product is 12 years old, it will also contain older.” He indicated that those with a sweet tooth will prefer the Yellow over the Green. And Ger confirmed that the Malaga wine is very sweet and syrupy, a dessert wine.

Matthew enthused over the Red saying it was fantastic,  with that dessert wine influence now from the Marsala "..darker.. more complex…sweeter..” For me though, it was also smoother than the Yellow. 

While Ger was enthusiastic about the Marsala, I didn’t really fancy it on its own - it was also part of the tasting. But it certainly seemed to do the trick with the Red Spot.

Time now to leave the packed room and head out into the city rain and prepare for another day on the whiskey trail tomorrow. And the good news, after a hugely successful opening night and a string of well attended events on the first day, that insiders are already forecasting that the Festival will be back again next year.

Like to know more about the Spot Series? Then please click here 

And Single Pot Still? Single Pot Still whiskey is unique to Ireland in general and is regarded as the quintessential style of Irish whiskey. Made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley and then triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills, Pot Still whiskeys are characterised by full, complex flavours and a wonderful, creamy mouthfeel. In order words, your Spots are very good to begin with.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Three Drams, Three Trumps! Plus: Cork Whiskey Fest coming soon!

Three Drams, Three Trumps!

Recently, I came across an early 2021 box from Little Island based Three Drams . They operate a subscription service, sending you three drams (3C) every month, 2-months or 3-months and follow up with an online discussion where you can join in and get lots of info from the producers. It is an excellent service. My trio, detailed below, were all excellent but it looks as if just the Dingle one is currently available. Then again you may strike it lucky just as I did!


Cork Whiskey Fest coming soon! Details and tickets here.


Dingle Single Malt 46.3% ABV

Widely available at c. €55.00

Up to the start of this decade, Dingle had been releasing Single Malts in limited releases, the batches by number. By then though, stock had been built up and they decided this was the time to release a Single Malt that would last into the future (though the intention is to continue to make limited numbered releases available). So what we have here is the core Single Malt and the aim is for continuity, that this particular whiskey will be consistent into the future.

None of this came about by chance. The plan had been there for years. And it wasn’t just stocks of spirit that were required. Dingle style requires predominantly sherry casks and stocks of these rare (and getting rarer) containers also had to secured.

And another element of continuity is the vat where the spirits (61% from those Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, the rest from Bourbon) are matured. There is something of a solera element here as Dingle Master Distiller Graham Coull disclosed on a social media tasting that the vat will not be totally emptied but will “always be topped up”.

He also said that the age of the spirit is in the 5 to 7 year old range and the basis will always be that Pedro Jimenez. “We set our stall out on having a high sherry input so we have relationships to get an ongoing supply of quality casks, not an overnight thing.” Dingle Distillery’s hugely anticipated Core Single Malt release is here to stay. 

This Core Single Malt release has, as you’ve seen, been years in the making and comprises of malt whiskey that has been matured in ex-Bourbon, and PX sherry casks. It is bottled at 46.3% and non-chill filtered. This is a very interesting whiskey in which the component casks come to the fore at different stages.

There’s a striking nose here with a lime zest and crushed mint standing out. Flavours are complex: juicy raisins, Christmas cake and honey, letting you know the major influence of the PX. And the honey and spice linger long. But nothing cloying or heavy here. A well-planned and well executed whiskey, one for the long term!

Killarney 8 Year Old Inaugural Whiskey 46% ABV

Killarney pic

This is the inaugural whiskey from Killarney Brewing & Distilling Company, a premium blend of 8 year-old Irish whiskey, paired with Killarney’s own barrel-aged Imperial stout. A limited edition whiskey, it was finished in their own Killarney small batch Imperial Stout casks. The stout is matured in the same Killarney Whiskey casks and designed to complement the flavours of the whiskey blend. And you do get a large bottle of the stout with the whiskey, at least you did, until the limited issue whiskey sold out!

Only 1092 bottles have been produced of this unique offering and it is in celebration of the year The Annals of Innisfallen (Killarney’s “Book of Kells”) were released. This collector’s edition pays homage to the storied monks of Innisfallen Island, located in Lough Leane, Killarney.

Killarney’s Brian O’Leary says the project was “started years ago” and they began to work on it with renowned distiller Noel Sweeney. While the whiskey was maturing, the company’s new distillery and brewery on the Killorglin road was taking shape, a very impressive complex now that includes a 170 seat restaurant and a fantastic cocktail bar on the roof with splendid views over  the spectacular reeks just to the south.

They wanted their first whiskey to be elegant with the beer barrel playing a role but not being allowed to dominate. It was huge effort but they came up with a very drinkable and balanced whiskey and Brian said there was a great response to it. Nose is fresh and light with hints of white peach and pears, flavours of caramel and banana, malt and chocolate, with a smooth and red apple finish. Light, elegant and subtle, as ordered. Perhaps, they’ll try and replicate it in the near future! Just don’t use my favourite Casey Brothers stout - I want that just as it is!

As I write, the Fossa complex is not quite completely open - no tours yet - but you can book a meal in the restaurant and the tap room is also up and running. Keep an eye on their social media for opening times; tours are due to start soon.

The whiskey, which is now sold out, cost €99.95 (including a large bottle of the stout).

Thomond Gate Miguel Hogan 60.11% ABV

Nick Ryan, founder of Thomond Gate Whiskey, has many interests and one is history. And that was how this whiskey came to be known as Miguel Hogan.

Colour is a fairly rich gold with tints of rose. The aromatics are quite a mix, mainly fruity, but also creamy vanilla, honey, even wine gums, all at play. Busy too on the palate with spicy cinnamon and sweet honey, more fruit (pears, grapes) and no real let-up as the finish lingers on. Very interesting balance between the grain and the ruby port cask. Doesn’t drink like a sixty per-center!

Nick Ryan: “Very much a Limerick brand… this is something I wanted to bring back to Limerick.. to put it on the whiskey map. Very pleased to have been able to source from Great Northern.”

And it was also in Great Northern that he, with help from the crew there, found the Ruby Port pipe. “It is straight from the cask, this is full character, big fruity nose… Taste it a bit and then add a drop of water.”

Oh yes, that magic drop of water. It never fails. Just a few carefully counted and inserted drops and everything is enhanced, especially in the mouth where the fruit, spice and honey seem to find a brio that had been in waiting for just a drop of the old H2O.

And Miguel? “..Galloping Hogan, the rebellious hero from the parish of Doon, Co. Limerick. Having following the Irish Brigade to France (in 1691), his service in the French Army was cut short. After duelling with his cousin, he left for Portugal under the punishment of death. Known as Miguel Hogan, his renowned night-time manoeuvres, perfected in the defence of Limerick, were quickly put to good use. In memory of Miguel Hogan and the blood he shed for Portugal, we have sourced a Single Malt Whiskey, which has been finished in a Ruby Port Cask. A tribute to his rebellious spirit, which found hope and peace in his adopted home and with a Portuguese marriage.”

And another little bit of history. “It has been 100 years since Limerick had its own whiskey and in memory, we pay homage to the long lost distillery of Thomond Gate which sat on the banks of the River Shannon between 1809 and 1919. The distillery was named after the fortified city gate which in times before the building of John’s Gate in 1494.”

Thomond make small batches (often just a cask) and release just a cask at a time. If you are (very) lucky enough and come across a bottle of this one on sale, it will set you back around €100.00.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Tasting a peated Dunville ahead of the distillery's masterclass at Cork Whiskey Fest 24-26 March

Tasting a peated Dunville ahead of the distillery's masterclass at Cork Whiskey Fest 24-26 March


Dunville's Belfast Peated Three Crowns Whiskey 43.5% ABV

A peated vintage blend of selected aged malt and grain whiskeys.. A quiet nose. Stunning texture. Beautiful delivery. Wonderful final kiss of smoke.

These are points that Dunville proclaim about the Peated Three Crowns whiskey. There is also an unpeated Three Crowns!

Hold it up to the light and you’ll notice the colour is a lighter than usual pale gold. Aromas are also on the delicate side, leaving a wisp of smoke to lead the way. Lively spices and light but definite smoke head up the palate, honey and apricot also in the posse, hints of aniseed, as we are led beautifully to the final stage, long and fruity and still that persistent yet friendly smoke. As they say, good things come to those who wait and, yes, this Dunville delivers quite a finalé.


A decade after a near 80 year absence, Dunville’s Irish Whiskey is well and truly back and it is more beautiful than ever. Dunville’s was born in 1808 and reborn 2012, with that long silence in between before the brand rebirth. This particular whiskey is a peated vintage blend of selected aged malt and grain whiskeys.

The excellent Celtic Whiskey site explains it in detail: “Comprised of a Single Grain Whiskey, a 10 Year Old Single Malt & a 15 Year Old Oloroso Sherry finished Single Malt which have been married together in a peated cask. A rare, delicately smoked Irish whiskey. Stunning!”

Master of Malts concur: “Exciting stuff, as peaty Irish whiskeys are not a common sight - and that's quite an understatement, frankly.”

Not sure that this particular whiskey will feature when Dunville visit Cork late in March for the Cork Whiskey Fest. Organisers tell me that Jarlath Watson’s Dunville’s Masterclasses have taken on “legendary status”. He always digs deep into the Echlinville Distillery’s stash of sherry bombs to blow people’s minds. Expect a lot!

The Echlinville Distillery, where Dunville is produced, is located on the Ards Peninsula in County Down near Ireland’s most easterly point. It is situated on the shores of Strangford Lough and it is surrounded by an internationally recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sounds like a great place to visit!

* The retail price seems to vary a bit - expect to pay 60-65 euro. I got my six ounces as a refill, part of the Hip Flask Club in Bradleys, North Main Street, Cork.

The Metropole will be a hive of activity during the Cork Whiskey Fest
24-26 March. Now over 125 years old, the hotel was "dry" for its early decades.
More info oin the festival, including tickets, here

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Cork Whiskey Festival Launched At The Shelbourne Bar

Cork Whiskey Festival Launched

 At The Shelbourne Bar

Midleton Whiskey Ambassador Ger Garland at the launch.

“It is going to be the best Whiskey Festival in the country,” declared Laurie O’Dwyer at the launch of the Cork Whiskey Festival in the Shelbourne Bar last Thursday night.

Laurie, co-founder and co-director of the festival with his wife Sonya, has the credentials for running such a festival. His Whiskey Chats Podcast  is now up and around the 180th episode and provided “a really good network” to help get the Festival off the ground.

Laurie: Going to be the best! Pic via CWF.

“Thirty four events over three days will see the cream of the crop in  Cork. Over half the tickets have been sold, a big surprise to us at this stage. Now we’ll be putting a big push on to make it a sellout and make it the best festival in the country.”

Laurie had a big thank you for the evening’s host: “We couldn’t have done it without the Shelbourne Bar and Phillip. And of course Irish Malts and Midleton Distillers. major sponsors. Check it all out on the website".

The Shelbourne Bar is the official Social Hub and info point for Cork Whiskey Fest 2023. "Whenever you want to chill out, meet with new friends or catch up with old friends, The Shelbourne is where you will find your fellow festival attendees and our info desk."

Ger Garland

Ger Garland, Whiskey Ambassador for Midleton,  admitted to being amazed at the growth of the whiskey industry in Ireland. “When I started there were just 3 distillers, now there are 48.” And he had news from Midleton where a new distillery (representing an investment of around a quarter of a billion) will be ready for 2025, "totally carbon neutral". 

He is looking forward to the festival: “The Cork Whiskey Festival will give you a glimpse of both the newcomers to the business along with the more well established….. Tastings will be great whether you are a novice or more experienced!”

Ger of course will be working at the festival as indeed he had some work to do on the launch night, guiding us through a tasting of Jameson Black Barrel and a Redbreast 12,  a couple of Midleton’s well-known spirits. We didn’t really need any guidance for our intro drink, a classic Jameson and Ginger serve in a tall glass with a user friendly grip!


Jameson were, of course, based in Dublin but became part of the Irish Distillers in Midleton when the few remaining distilleries came together for survival’s sake in the 1966. 

The Black Barrel is a step up on the basic Jameson and quite an economical one too, an all round whiskey. Ger filled us in on the story of the Black Barrel and  the “alligator”. The barrels in which it is matured get a second char, a deep one that “cracks open the barrel and leaves marks like an alligator skin, very black of course and that led to the name".

Enjoying the craic with Oisin Davis (r) of Great Irish Beverages 

Redbreast too has a long history, going back to 1912 and the Redbreast 12 is the biggest seller of Irish premium whiskey in the world. Ger: "It has been on the market since 1912 and the ruby hue is due to the sherry influence (raised in Oloroso barrels). It smell is wonderfully evocative, like Christmas cake in a glass, full bodied, buttery, spicy, sweet and fruity and with that soft warming effect.”

Lovely on a cold February night! And I left the Shelbourne with a warm glow, hoping that the third weekend in March will be a few degrees warmer!

* In the meantime, get your tickets at the website.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Powers 100% Irish Rye Whiskey. On the shelves today! Latest on Cork Whiskey Fest.

Powers Launch their 100% Irish Rye Whiskey today. 

 Latest on Cork Whiskey Festival.

Powers Launch their 100% Irish Rye Whiskey 43.2% ABV, 

RRP €40.00, widely available

The world’s first 100% Irish rye whiskey is on shelves around the world today. The producers are happy: “Proudly honouring the pioneering spirit of Powers Irish Whiskey, this ground-breaking release uses 100% Irish rye for the first time ever. The result is Powers Irish Rye, a complex and flavourful Irish whiskey that is set to shake up the increasingly popular rye whiskey category.”

It appears in your glass as a warm bronze liquid. Aromas are complex, barbecued banana, cherries and vanilla along with spicy notes especially of clove, with pepper and ginger also in mix. The rye announces itself more in the mouth along with the banana and clove and waves of sweetness (sugar and vanilla). A relatively mild but very satisfactory experience in the palate is followed by something similar on the finish, the flavours smoother, the spices enhanced, as they mix in harmony and waltz for quite a while.

Didn’t quite finish the 100ml sample provided on the first go. Went back a second time and was even more impressed. This 100% Irish Rye Whiskey is 100% compatible with this palate. Very happy indeed with it and thrilled to be able “award” a Very Highly Recommended stamp!

A few years ago at the little Micil Distillery in Galway, Pádraic Ó Griallais told me the three conditions needed to become a proper drinker: É a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar  (Pay for it; drink it; carry it.) When it comes to this Powers, I could well meet all three - not too expensive, not too harsh (far from it), and easy to drink and carry! A bigs thumbs up for this breakthrough from Powers. Not every day are you going to come across a whiskey of this quality at such a reasonable price.

The launch of Powers Irish Rye is grounded in the heritage of the whiskey brand, as Carol Quinn, Archivist at Irish Distillers, uncovered. Old mash bills and recipes reveal that Powers experimented with rye over their history, shows how, as the scientific knowledge of distilling expanded throughout the 19th century, they continually strove to innovate with new techniques and processes.  

This new bottle is born from trials at Irish Distillers’ renowned Midleton Distillery in Cork, Ireland, Powers Irish Rye balances the trademark earthy, peppery character of rye with the sweet flavour profile imparted from maturation in a full repertoire of American oak – with virgin oak, first fill and refills in the cask mix.

Rye is mainly grown in northern European countries and used in bread and beer. Not easy to find a farm growing it in Ireland. But Powers persevered and commissioned the planting of rye crops. With a commitment to sustainable farming, the Cooney Furlong Farm in Co. Wexford supply 100% of the rye used in Powers Irish Rye. Located just a short distance from Edermine House, the ancestral home of the Powers family, the farm guarantees ongoing Irish rye supply for this world first release.

In an interview conducted by Royal Commission on whiskey back in 1908, the Powers ethos was best described by James Talbot Power, ‘At Powers, we are producers of flavours, not of spirits`.  They are proud to continue this Powers legacy in 2023. And it is indeed the flavours that catch the attention in this latest release.

Bottled at 43.2% ABV, Powers Irish Rye will be released from 20th February in the US, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Dublin Airport and online at, and via The Whisky Exchange in the UK in the coming months at RRP €40.

The whiskey can be drunk neat but should also catch the attention of mixologists and Powers have already proposed this recipe for a Classic Manhattan cocktail.

Manhattan cocktail

Ingredients: 50ml Powers Irish Rye, 25ml sweet vermouth, 1 dash aromatic bitters, 1 dash orange bitters

Method: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass; Add ice and stir to mix and chill; Strain into a chilled coupe glass; Express orange oils from an orange zest and discard the zest; Garnish with 3 skewered maraschino cherries.


Cork Whiskey Fest 2023

Shelbourne ace Rory McGee.

The Cork Whiskey Fest 2023 continues to gather momentum and will get another boost with the official launch this coming Thursday.

Some 34 events have been organised over the three days and some have already been sold out. I'm looking forward to two events in particular: the Mitchell Spot Whiskeys & Wine Masterclass and also the Dunville Masterclass

Mitchell and Sons Wine & Spirits Merchants are the sole remaining licenced bonder with Irish Distillers. Their wine finished single pot still Irish whiskeys are a pillar in Irish Whiskey. Midleton legend Ger Garland and Brand Ambassador Mathew Smith will guide us through a selection of Spot whiskey along with their finishing wines, for this stellar masterclass.

Jarlath Watson’s Dunville’s Masterclasses have taken on legendary status. He always digs deep into the Echlinville Distillery’s stash of sherry bombs to blow people’s minds. Expect a lot!

Another event that promises much is the Jameson Tasting in the helbourne Bar on Sunday March 26th at 12 noon. Here, Tommy Byrne who is the lead educator in the Irish Whiskey Academy in Midleton and Deirdre O’Carroll (of the Blending Team) will host a lively informative session, bringing an exciting liquid insight to this historic brand. A masterclass not to be missed!

Tickets for this and all the events here.