Seven hour round trip to Belfast

It’s Friday evening, the phone goes beep. It’s a message from Jamie Cotter, which reads ‘How do you feel about getting on a coach to Belfast for 5pm-7pm Monday?’ This is quickly followed by ‘Dingle tasting with their head distiller?’ Well the answer to that one is fairly simple, in fairness. Yes please!

This is immediately followed by the asking of my wife what we’re doing Monday the 26th to which I’m told she’ll be away down in the home place with the kids. Now, as much I will miss them, all this has worked out quite nicely.  Quick reply to Jamie and its all systems go.

It’s now Monday and I’m on the 14:30 Dublin Coach direct service to Belfast. I’m slightly apprehensive about hitting the road on a long journey as the ‘Beast from the East’ weather front is slowly making its way across the U.K. and, we’re being told, is due to land on the East coast here on Wednesday or Thursday, but what if it arrives a bit earlier? Will I get stuck up in Belfast? Well let’s see what happens!

Dublin Coach are true to their word and we arrive in Belfast just before 16:30, so I’ve time to stroll down to Bittles Pub to meet up with the lads and look in amazement at their fine Whiskey collection on offer. A broken bottle is pointed out to me and I’m informed that up until recently that was a bottle of Midleton Pearl and it had unfortunately been involved in an incident which resulted in it being no more. Some of you may have come across the story recently of the guy who purchased two glasses of this very drink in a Galway bar after the races and was left with very little change from €2k, so you can only imagine the value of this bottle that was now no more!

We moved on from Bittles and made or way towards the Dark Horse Bar, where this evening’s event was to take place, stopping off on the way in the Duke of York for quick drink.  The event was scheduled to kick off around 17:00, so we joined the other invited guests and waited for proceedings to commence.

Everyone took their seats and we were introduced to Michael Walsh, who is Head Distiller at Dingle Whiskey and Neil from the sales side of the distillery. They both gave us a talk about the history of the Distillery and the future plans for Dingle Whiskey.

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Michael and Neil of Dingle Distillery

Michael explained that, from day one, the distillery has been about ‘making the best whiskey and not about profit’.  He outlined that the size of the distillery, with its production capability of 800L per day, reflects that and in the five years that the distillery has been producing its own liquid they have distilled less then Midleton would do in one day! I find that an extraordinary statistic and found myself repeating it over and over in my head as the event went on.

At only 27 years of age Michael is very young to be a head distiller but don’t let his age fool you. If you’ve tasted his product you’ll know what I mean. He gave us a quick insight into his background and explained how he had literally walked into the distillery one day and asked for a job. He started at the very bottom, but very quickly the guys at the distillery knew they had someone special working for them and gave him the opportunity to do more.  He hasn’t looked back from there. I found him to be very approachable and down to earth, a typical Kerry man I suppose…. I might be slightly biased though considering I claim to be an honorary one myself!

The tasting on the evening started off with their recent Batch 2 release and Michael gave us some information in relation to this. It is sourced from whiskey aged in Bourbon, Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry casks. Despite having bottle No. 310 in my collection, I hadn’t yet tasted it, so I was looking forward to this.  For a whiskey that is so young there was a lot of flavour and it didn’t disappoint. I’ll crack open a bottle in the future and get a review up online.

On this particular blog I won’t be giving you any insights into the tastes and smells etc., as I decided not to take any notes on the night.  I didn’t want to come across as rude in front of the other guests, with my head buried in my phone, but I can tell you that I liked what I tasted in this taoscán of Dingle Batch 2.

We moved on from this to the Dingle Single Pot Still which made history when it was released, as it’s the only SPS made outside of Midleton, not only in Ireland but in the world. This particular type of whiskey nearly disappeared altogether but for the folks at IDL keeping it going.  It’s great to see another release in the form of Dingle SPS. The SPS was a lovely drink and definitely had me looking for a second pour. For a distillery that’s so young they really are producing some fine whiskey. There were only 800 bottles of this released and I was fortunate enough to pick up bottle number 466/800.

The third and final sample of the night was one that Michael grabbed before setting out to Belfast.  For me, this stole the night.  Number one without a doubt. Michael did ask us, politely, not to talk too much about it, so I’ll respect his request and just say that once it’s released I’m buying it (and not for collecting but for drinking!!).

Talking about bottles being released. He did give us a rough timetable on the 2018 releases.  We should expect to see Batch 3 in April, Batch 4 in October and another SPS release in November. I must admit I got quite a shock when he said there would only be 50 cases of Batch 3 released but thank god he then clarified that this was for the Northern Irish market, so my heart rate dropped back to its normal rate after hearing this!

After the official tasting was done there was a chance to mingle and chat to everyone.  I spent most of this time listening to Michael discuss his passion for his job and for Dingle and I think this comes across in their product and hopefully will do for many years to come.

I was conscious of the time when chatting at the end as I had to catch the 19:35 coach back down to Dublin and I must admit I cut it quite fine. In fact it was Jamie who pointed out that I really needed to go if I want to make it. There was running involved, which wasn’t pretty, but I got on to the coach at 19:33 and had a whole two minutes to spare…. Loads of time Jamie! We rolled back in to Dublin at 21:30 thus completing my ‘Seven hour round trip to Belfast’.

I really enjoyed the whole evening and it was great to attend my first Irish Whiskey industry event. Hopefully it’ll be the first of many!

Hope you enjoyed my review of my ‘Seven hour round trip to Belfast’. Till next time….

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