Dingle Distillery – A Whiskey Experience Day (In Pictures)

The highlight distillery visit of my recent Irish whiskey adventure in September was on the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland.  The Dingle Distillery, in the town of Dingle, was launched in December of 2012 in the converted Fitzgerald sawmill.  I had arranged for a Whiskey Experience Day, a day of learning about distilling and spending time with some of the operators and managers of the distillery to truly understand their vision of Irish whiskey and the future of unique “frontier” Irish distilleries.  It was perfect timing as well as their new whiskey is set to be released at the end of November.

Our group spent the whole day at the distillery, from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm that afternoon.  The distillery closed for tours that day which made our group of six quite excited and honored.  The host for the day was Michael Walsh, the Production Manager at the distillery.  Michael was an excellent host who explained everything we wanted to know about the distillery and walked us through their entire process of making their whiskey.  We also had “hands on” experiences throughout the process.  Dingle is run by 10 employees, 7 days a week.

Below are photos, videos and descriptions of our Whiskey Experience Day.

Initial Founding Fathers List
Initial Founding Fathers List – the first 500 “investors” of Dingle whiskey
The coarse grist that is used at Dingle
The coarse grist that is used at Dingle
Michael Walsh filling up the Mash Tun
Michael Walsh filling up the Mash Tun
Quite magical!
Quite magical!
An explanation of the mashing process, coffee slowly kicking in...
An explanation of the mashing process, coffee slowly kicking in… only 10:30am
Shutting down the fill of the Mash Tun
Shutting down the fill of the Mash Tun
The stills in the back with the Mash Tun in front and washbacks on the right
The stills in the back with the Mash Tun in front and washbacks on the right
Testing the potency of the fermentation process in the washback
Testing the alcohol levels of the fermentation process in the washback
Michael testing the levels
Michael testing the levels – the yeast is doing its thing
Nice copper stills, only the wash and intermediate stills were running on our day
Nice copper stills, only the wash and intermediate stills were running on our day
The spirit coming off of the wash still
The spirit coming off of the wash still
Matt working the spirit safe
Matt working the spirit safe
Michael explaining the spirit right off the still
Michael explaining the spirit right off the still
Checking the fermentation again
Checking the fermentation again
Barrel love
Barrel love
More barrels all housed on site right now
More barrels all housed on site right now
We got to sample straight from the barrel
We got to sample straight from the barrel
Michael climbing high to get us a dram
Michael climbing high to get us a dram
Samples
Samples
Bottling line
Bottling line
Special bottle of Cask No. 2 - no sample but fun to look at and dream
Special bottle of Cask No. 2 – no sample but fun to look at and dream
Great line of seasonal gins that we did sample
Great line of seasonal gins that we did sample

Here is also a YouTube video link to our day at the Dingle Distillery: Dingle Distillery Visit Day

Overall we had an incredible day with Michael Walsh and the crew at Dingle.  They will be remodeling their entire operation in the coming years so it was great to be there early on to see how they started.  And what fun to taste some of their new whiskey that is coming out in the next few weeks.  I look forward to returning and spending more time with the great folks at Dingle.  They are really headed in the right direction.

 

Advertisements

An Irish Whiskey Perspective

Recently I returned from an 8-night whiskey adventure through Ireland.  The goal of the trip was to understand the history of Irish whiskey, the process of pot and triple distillation, and the reason behind the buzz of new whiskies being released.  My familiarity of Irish whiskey was somewhat limited due to the lack of selection or “interest” in this category at our local drinking establishments in Upstate New York.  Over the last year I had purchased more Irish whiskey out of curiosity including the Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix and Green Spot and had tasted others including the Red Breast line.  But my true interest was getting to Ireland to see first-hand and learn from the source.

Jameson Midleton Distillery
Jameson Midleton Distillery

Over the last year I have visited over 20 distilleries in Scotland and the United States.  Each of these distilleries taught me something different which is why I continue to make plans to visit more.  In Ireland I visited 6 distilleries during my week-long trip.  They included the Kilbeggan Distillery, Tullamore D.E.W., the Jameson Midleton Distillery, the Dingle Distillery, the Walsh Distillery, and the Teeling Distillery.  It was in this order that I visited these distilleries and it worked going from the older traditional distilleries learning about the history of Irish whiskey to the newer ones with their fresh perspectives on the future of Ireland and its whiskey.

The old Kilbeggan water wheel
The old Kilbeggan water wheel

Here are some of my conclusions from this whiskey trip:

  • Irish whiskey is really trying to brand itself. At Tullamore D.E.W. we learned of the fire in the town of Tullamore in 1785 and of the phoenix of their Irish whiskey distillery rising out of the ashes in the early 19th century bringing the town back.  Teeling also uses a phoenix in their branding.  This theme could be seen at each distillery where there was a new hope for the future for Irish whiskey.  They accept some failures or circumstances in the past and are really looking to take off in the future.  The new Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin had a great section describing the roller coaster ride of their whiskey history.

    The Teeling phoenix
    The Teeling phoenix
  • When visiting the Kilbeggan, Tullamore D.E.W. and Jameson Midleton distilleries, the tours were mostly about the history and past. They all included a detailed process of the stages of creating their whiskies, but they used props or antiquated equipment to show each stage.  There was very little “working” distillery viewing.  In fact, the Tullamore D.E.W. experience was in their old bonded warehouse which was converted into a visitor’s center.  You can visit the actual distillery if you do their high-end day tour, but most visitors are not able to see this.  This was different from many of the distilleries in Scotland or the United States that I had visited.  There is something exciting about seeing the stills in action and the washbacks full of bubbling yeast.  Kilbeggan and Jameson Midleton did have some stills that you could see where they did experimental distilling, but they were not the main working stills.

    Kilbeggan washbacks
    Kilbeggan washbacks
  • “Sourcing” of whiskey in Ireland reminds me of the challenges that some U.S. distilleries face when they are not transparent of where their whiskey comes from. I understand that the Cooley and Midleton distilleries supply many of the newer brands of Irish whiskey, especially the ones that have whiskies labeled over 5 years old.  I remember how big of an issue that became in the United States when this “sourcing” was not clear.  We didn’t visit West Cork Distillers or Hyde, but I would have liked to understand more about their whiskey production.  I understand how difficult it is to start a distillery and the reality of having to wait as your whiskey ages, but if you are coming out with a 10-year old whiskey, it would be nice to know where and by whom it was distilled.

    The "working" distillery at Jameson Midleton.
    The “working” distillery at Jameson Midleton.
  • Triple distillation is truly Irish. If there was one common theme among all of the distilleries we visited, it was triple distillation.  It almost seemed sacrilegious if whiskey was double distilled.  Sorry to the rest of the world… But it does give the Irish a unique way of labeling it “Irish”.

    Wash, Intermediate & Spirit stills at Teeling Distillery
    Wash, Intermediate & Spirit stills at Teeling Distillery
  • There is no love lost with the Scots. The Coffey still was a good example of this.  Invented by the Irish, it was determined that the whiskey distilled by the Coffey still was bland and tasteless.  Mr. Coffey then took his continuous still to Scotland where it was used to produce a lot of whiskey which eventually hurt the Irish through competition.  The other thing that we constantly heard was that “all” Scottish whisky uses peat.  It almost got to the point where I just smiled and laughed inside when I heard this.  But this is the image that they are trying to get across: Scotch is smoky, Irish is smooth and easy to drink.  To each his own…
    The old Coffey stills at Kilbeggan
    The old Coffey stills at Kilbeggan

    The new continuous stills at the Walsh Distillery
    The new continuous stills at the Walsh Distillery
  • It seemed that they all knew each other. It was amazing to see the connections and/or relationships among the distilleries, especially the newer ones.  Maybe this is due to the fact that this new era of Irish whiskey is just starting, or that they all worked together at some point in the past.

    At the Shelbourne Whiskey Bar in Cork
    At the Shelbourne Whiskey Bar in Cork
  • A lot of money is being invested in the new Irish whiskey distilleries. It was amazing to see the new Walsh and Teeling distilleries.  They were the most polished distilleries I had ever seen!  The Walsh distillery was interesting in that they said that this was the beginning of a 120+ year history.  They were looking generations out.  The Tullamore D.E.W. experience was also high tech with videos, lots of different lighting and effects, and a nice tasting room.  We saw Dingle’s plans for the future as well, and they are going to redo their whole visitor experience with a new remodel.

    At the Walsh Distillery
    At the Walsh Distillery
  • The highlight of the trip was the day we spent at the Dingle distillery. Being able to spend an entire day “working” with the crew was unforgettable.  Not only did we get to see and work their process, but we were able to discuss their vision for the future and the industry in general.  They were gracious hosts and I can’t wait to go back to Dingle.

    The Dingle Distillery
    The Dingle Distillery

Overall, it was an incredible trip and I came back with a new appreciation and knowledge for Irish whiskey.  I look forward to returning in a few years to revisit some that I visited and many of the new ones that are just starting.  Here are some interesting bottles that I picked up that we will use for our next tasting with the Saratoga Whiskey Club (www.saratogawhiskeyclub.com).20161002_112345

If you are interested in any of our future trips around the world visiting distilleries, make sure to check out: http://mytraveldirections.com/whiskey-tours/