Well it has been a while, the past 18 months have been pretty crazy for us all, and like most people, juggling work, home schooling, children and navigating this unfamiliar Covid landscape has been somewhat challenging. However, as things start to settle down, as we start to see what life post covid pandemic could be like, what the new “normal” may well be, we thought it was time to dust off the laptop and return to your screens, and what better way than with a brand spanking new interview, with none other than Dingle’s very own Graham Coull. You may recognise the name but not the distillery, and as one of Ireland’s relatively new start ups that can be forgiven. Graham spent 14 years as Master Distiller with Glen Moray, and with Ireland having a real resurgence in their whiskey industry, with several new distilleries springing up, he is a safe pair of hands for Dingle.
Take a seat, pour a dram if you wish and let’s talk all things, whiskey, Covid-19, pros and cons of collectible bottles, oh and elephants!
Morning Graham, so sorry that arranging this interview turned into a total technological fail (I somehow managed to block Ireland from being able to take part in my Zoom meetings, no idea how and it was not deliberate, honest), in fact this was the interview that almost never was when we were hit by even more technical difficulties and the entire recording was lost. Still we got there in the end.
I’m going to take you back a little bit now, where did your whisky journey being and what got you started?
Well I grew up in Elgin, my mother and father both worked as teachers, and my father was a chemistry teacher who had a real interest in whisky and in fact wrote a course on whisky production, so it was always a point of interest and influence. When I finished my studies there were no positions in the whisky field, it was a case of go into brewing or go into nuclear power, I chose brewing and that set me on the path to whisky. I started a job with Webster’s Brewing, and it was through there that I really got a taste for the whisky industry, as I oversaw the bottling process, I would also see the whisky bottling and it really piqued my interest. I was fortunate enough to land a position with William Grant back in 1994 on the bottling side of things. I was so lucky to be in with a company which had such a chance of progression. I worked hard, really hard, often taking on the jobs nobody else wanted to do and doing it with a smile. Hard work pays off, and the more I took on the more people noticed me and the work I was producing. I became the process leader in Dufftown, which gave me distillation responsibilities for Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. I was then offered to join the Glen Moray team back in 2005.
You were Distillery Manager/Master Distillery at Glen Moray for 14 years, in that time you put out many different expressions and built up a loyal fan base, why did you decide to leave and take a chance with a new Irish distillery?
I had a fantastic time at Glen Moray and put out many whiskies that I am really proud of, sometimes though you just need to challenge yourself. The opportunity came up and I was really at the stage where if I was going to make a change to my career it was really now or never. I felt I was ready for another challenge, I was happy that I had left Glen Moray in a great place, ready for a new pair of hands and another perspective. I wanted to see for myself what I could do, and it’s always exciting to have a brand new project to work with. I wasn’t there quite from the start, but it is still early enough in the journey to really make it my own.
So, Graham, you joined Dingle in 2019, it will have no doubt been a busy time, and then Covid-19 hit, how much of an impact did that have and how has the journey been?
Its certainly been strange, there is always the excitement and nerves which come with starting any new job. There’s always a risk and a challenge, and that excitement spurs you on, then Covid hit the world and everything looked different. The peace, tranquillity and isolation (Dingle is very remote indeed, once you cross the Dingle Peninsular you really are quite cut off) which seemed quite a bonus suddenly seemed to almost trap you. Luckily it meant we could really get out and about and meet the locals. It let Fay and I really fall in love with our surroundings, we didn’t feel as much of the pressure from Covid as we maybe would have felt elsewhere, as that remoteness really kept everyone here safe. Obviously though we have family and loved ones back home and suddenly you couldn’t see them, you couldn’t just pop home and that was a source of worry. The people here in Dingle and especially the distillery team really helped to keep things as “normal” as possible and there was still plenty of work to be done.
Although you undoubtedly have joined Dingle very early on in their journey you were not quite there from the start. Is there anything you would have liked to have carried out differently if you had have been there since the off?
Actually I am very fortunate that the new make is exactly what I would want it to be, it has character, it is strong enough to stand up to be being bottled at a spritely age, the barley and yeast is perfect, and the runs and triple distillation give it so much body and character. There is nothing I would change there. I guess the only thing that I would have done differently relates to cask management. When you are starting up these can be such a huge part of your budget and obviously that can force your hand. I would have liked to have more of a hand in bringing the casks in and selecting what I wanted in advance. That said I am now able to have control of this area, but if I were to change anything at all, it would be that.
Was it a risk leaving not only a position that you had held for 14 years, but also to pack up and leave your home behind?
Well any new job involves an element of risk and for me the stakes were higher still as it wasn’t just a change of company/distillery, it was a change of scenery, of packing everything up and moving to another country (albeit one that is fairly close). It wasn’t just a change for me, it was a change for my wife Fay too, and had she not been on board, or not been as supportive as she always has been, I could never have taken the opportunity. Even though I was fairly sure that I had made the right decision with Dingle there is always those nerves in the pit of your stomach, and you just hope you hadn’t made a big mistake. I just looked at it and thought, well if it does go horrible wrong, I can just retire. *laughing* I don’t think Graham is made for retiring, he is far too passionate about his craft
Are there any similarities between the whisky you produced at Glen Moray and the whiskey you are producing with Dingle?
There are definitely similarities between Irish and Scotch. The history of distilling is rich and reaches back through the years, the roots are steeped in history and community much like it is in Scotland, those things are so important even now. You need the people of the community to believe in you, in your story and the same is true of Scotch. In terms of flavour profile, both are a light spirit, but with Dingle the triple distillations and short runs really make a huge difference to the spirit that we can put out. Very true, it’s often the history of whisky and the distillery area that gets me hooked before I’ve even tried the whisky. What about the “E”, some people feel very passionate about Ireland’s spelling of whiskey, others don’t even notice, how do you feel about it? Honestly, I cant say I am bothered either way, in fact, does it even need to be there? It’s the style and the history of Irish whisk(e)y that makes the difference and sets it apart, not the e. We can have an “E” amnesty then? *chuckles*Definitely!
I have had the pleasure of “speaking” to your lovely wife Fay over social media quite often regarding Dingle and Fay seems deeply involved and passionate about the Distillery was that always going to be the case and how important was it to have Fay involved?
Obviously Fay was taking a massive leap of faith alongside me, and throughout my career, no matter how busy Fay was with her own career (*Fay worked as a nurse previously, so a real hero*) she always supported me 100% and was always interested in the whole whisky process and loved the sense of community and family a distillery brings. Being able to take that experience and have her on the payroll is a wonderful thing, although technically I am her boss, but when I pointed that out it didn’t go down so well. *We had a good laugh about this, with far too many jokes then I could type, this was the kind of interview that you genuinely felt as though you were chatting to a friend*
What’s a typical day like for you at Dingle?
Well the day can be so varied, you have you day to day jobs which will always be there, you have to keep an eye on how the distillery is running, we have two shifts a day, 7 days a week and everything is done by hand. That’s really important to us, we want this to be a team effort, not a machine effort, if you do everything by hand you can make small changes as you go along, you can play around with the runs and the cuts if you want/need to. It’s a much more organic product that way. I need to keep an eye on the stock levels, think about the direction I want to go in, I am a great believer in cask management, it is so important to a distillery to know what it has, to know what it needs for the future and how it is going to achieve that. I am big fan of forecasts, and will often be found running these reports, changing them slightly and rerunning them. I know for many that may sound dull, but for me it is so exciting, you are predicting the future before it happens and the decisions I make now have massive implications 20/30 years down the line. There are often meetings to be had about anything from cask shipment/procurement, to financial, marketing and everything in between. I need to ensure that we have everything we need to run the distillery. Everything happens here at Dingle, we use Irish malted barley, we distill, we mature, and we bottle, we even have our own well for our water source. Everything happens here at the distillery. So, there is plenty to keep me busy.
It’s been an exciting few years for the whisky industry, prices are driven ever higher and whereas new distilleries would struggle to sell their first offering, they now sell out in seconds at crazy prices, many flipped straight away at auction, or kept on a shelf somewhere. What do you think about this, does it have an impact on distilleries or the industry, is it a good thing?
In terms of being able to produce whisky as a new distillery and still sell it out, well that is fantastic, with prices at auction climbing so high then as a distillery we are able to ride those good times and take a piece of the pie for ourselves. It’s vital, as a new distillery, that we are able to recoup our costs and bring money back into the distillery and of course to our funders. So much money is tied up in time, and although the industry is now accepting younger whisky now and most whisky drinkers realise that whisky does not have to necessarily be old to be good, we still want to have the ability to produce aged stock. I still think that a standard distillery release of around 10/12 years is a good thing and something I personally would like to produce, therefore it’s not hard to see the need to bring as much funding in as possible.
That said, it is so important to get whisky out there into the industry and to have it being opened and drank. To have it shared around so that people know that you exist and what you can produce. Obviously when we started, we have put out several small batch releases. These sold out very quickly and we are grateful to all who brought them, but you will often see lovely pictures on social media, with all of the releases, and these are all closed, and you know that they aren’t ever going to get opened and see the light of day, they will just sit of shelf gathering dust, coming out for photo opportunities and then going away again. I love to see that passion and commitment but as any distiller will tell you, they make whisky to be drank, or to make memories, to tell stories, not to sit in a bottle. Now with the release of our core Dingle Single Malt (read my review here) which will be widely available, we hope that people will now buy a bottle and open it and really get to know what we can do. It can become a stable in homes and in bars, and people know that when they run out they can replace it, and lose the fear of opening the bottles.
What’s next for Dingle?
We hope to keep building upon our success so far and for that the people really are instrumental. We had so many of the local people buying a cask, becoming one of Founding Fathers and taking that leap of faith. Whether they work in the distillery, or local shops or farms or support us by drinking any of our line (Dingle also produce Vodka and Gin), their support means the world and we couldn’t have done any of this without them. We are planning on having a complete fit out of the distillery, we have a lot of space that we can use so it’s time to start using it. We would like a larger visitor centre. Usually in the summer, I am told that we have a lot of tourists visiting Dingle. There are a lot of Americans who have roots here and we can get 30,000 tourists in summer alone. We would like to make the Dingle Distillery a real experience for them, have it as its own journey.
I want to play around with different casks and finishes, also we produced a small amount of peated Dingle, and that is something I would be really keen to produce again but on a larger scale. We want to see Dingle hit the global markets too.
Interesting, so big plans. You mention different casks types/finishes, any plans to use rum casks (we love a rum cask here at Whisky Corner).
Actually I do have plans to experiment with rum casks, it’s really important that you get really good casks for that and keep a really close eye on the finishing process, ideally I’d be looking at 18 months maybe 24 months but that can be tricky, once you have all the rum influence out of the cask, the casks themselves are usually pretty old tired casks, so they don’t have anything to give themselves, its purely the influence of the rum we want to use. I think sometimes people think finishing can be seen as easy or lazy, but it really isn’t, you have to watch the casks so carefully to ensure you don’t over finish it and then lose all the work you have already put it.
Let’s talk packaging. I really love the quality of the bottle on the new Dingle release. It’s a very heavy chunky bottle with heavy duty cork, the tin is very simple, but seems in perfect keeping with the overall look and feel. It would have been easy to pick a much simpler bottle I am sure, certainly cheaper, how important is the look of the finished bottle for you?
I think it is really important, it makes a statement, and gives you an idea as to what you can expect. It really is hats off to the team here, as they could definitely have gone for a less expensive, less luxurious style, especially as a new distillery with so many costs, this was one of the places the costs could be shaved a little, but to scrimp on the packaging would feel like cheapening, or underselling the whiskey we produce. It deserves the nice bottle. We want people to feel as though they are getting something special right from our special releases down to our new core range. There really is so much competition at the moment you need to ensure you can stand out from the crowd right from the off.
Whilst on the subject of packaging I noticed that there are no tasting notes on the bottle or the tin, is this deliberate?
It was very much deliberate, a lot of people find that they don’t necessarily know how to explain what they are tasting, they may not have the words or are able to recognise individual notes, and although there are many who are really into tasting and tasting notes, we wanted to make this as accessible as possible. There is no pressure to see if you can find the notes we have printed on the bottle, or no preconceived ideas, it’s not up to us to tell the customers what they taste, let them find out for themselves. Obviously for those who are interested in notes they can read reviews, such as yours or others out there and enjoy those.
The Dingle Dude (as I call him) features very prominently in the design, and I must admit I find him both cool and terrifying in equal measures. Who is he?
Ah that would be the Wren Boy or Wren Man. This is a local tradition still popular today in many parts of Ireland, and especially so here in Dingle. We wanted to ensure that it was very clear how important location and local community are to making Dingle Distillery a success, most of our Founding Fathers are from here in the local community and it’s important they know how much we appreciate them. *Having researched this a little it’s a fascinating mythical figure concerning, as you may expect, a wren. Legend has it that there was a parliament upon the birds (others say that it was god who wanted an answer to the question) and it was asked which of the birds would be king of the birds, in order to find this out it was decided that whomever could fly the highest would be king the birds, one by one the birds dropped out of the running until the Eagle who was soaring highest, tired and dropped lower in the sky, at this point the Wren emerged from under the Eagle’s wing and soared higher still, thus becoming the king of all the birds. There are also claims that the Wren stands for treachery and it is said that a Wren betrayed the Irish soldiers fighting the Norse by beating its wings upon their shields. On 26 December parades are held, and people dress up in straw and historically call house to house to collect money which is then donated to charity. No Wrens are harmed during the making of this parade and in fact now days a fake Wren is used, but even before the Wren was not to be killed. If you want to know more Google has all the information you need*
What is your greatest whisky achievement to date?
That is a difficult question, I think for me I would have to say it is my cask management skills. It might not sound much but it is so important for me to be able to manage stock levels so that we can continue to manage stocks. I have always been interested in numbers and forecasts and these are instrumental in being able to futureproof your stock. I would hate to go into a place, use all their whisky and leave them with nothing and then just walk away. Poor cask management/stock management can destroy a distillery. It’s a real source of pride for me that for a good many years, people purchasing Glen Moray expressions will still be drinking my whisky.
When you get a chance to sit down and relax with a dram, what do you reach for (other than Dingle of course)?
There are some really great whiskies out there. I am not a fan of very sherried offerings, mostly I will turn to something bourbon matured or a mix of bourbon/sherry. I find the strong sulphurous notes just too overpowering. I have to say I am a huge fan of the Caol Ila 18, it is a fantastic drop, it has those Islay notes which are so unforgettable, you can really just wile away the time with a glass of this. You don’t have to try and pick it apart, although that’s not to say that it isn’t complex, but you aren’t forced to explore it unless you want to, you can just sit back and enjoy it. That’s really what I have tried to do with our Dingle expressions, they are complex enough if you want to try and pick out the individual layers and notes, but you don’t have to, you can just sit and relax and enjoy it. When Scapa 16 was still available I would have a bottle of that on the go. It is unmistakable in its style, the apple notes work so well with the coastal elements. Clynelish 14 is another go to for me, its waxiness is so appealing, its always perfectly balanced and deeply enjoyable *we then wax lyrical (see what I did there) about Clynelish for a long time*
For nothing other than a bit of fun: you have been given an elephant, you can’t sell it or give it away, what are you going to do with it?
Hmm this is tricky, which type is it, African or Indian *I don’t know, which would you like it to be* which one has the biggest ears? *no idea* we were then reliable informed that the African Elephant has the biggest ears. ok I think that I would use it wash out the mash tuns and also I’d ride it down Dingle high street. It would be quite a tourist attraction and actually we had a dolphin here in Dingle called Fungie, who was very playful and friendly. It was well known for interacting with the boats and the tourists. It became something of a celebrity actually although it’s not been spotted since. *I looked this up on google, and Fungie was first spotted at Dingle in 1983, and a news report published a few months ago has confirmed that Fungie is alive and well and has merely moved to a new spot. Whether this is temporary or not, they cant say, but fingers crossed Fungie will return back to Dingle again.
And that concludes our interview, thanks so much for your time Graham we managed to rack up a two hour chat and none of it felt like work (well not for me anyway, hopefully it wasn’t too hard going for you), it was a really great chat and here’s hoping we can get a dram in person at some stage. Hope to speak again soon.
Keep your eyes peeled for Dingle Distillery is you have not tried their products yet you will want to. For my review of the new Dingle Distillery Single Malt read here. You can check Dingle’s website here and take a look at the gin and vodka too.
Dingle Distillery’s hugely anticipated Core Single Malt release is finally upon us and is here to stay.
This Core Single Malt release has been years in the making and comprises of malt whiskey that has been matured in ex-Bourbon, and PX sherry casks. 39% Bourbon, 61% PX Sherry.
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. RRP €55.00
Lashings of vanilla clotted cream sandwiched between freshly baked buttery scones. Powdered lemon, not as sharp as sherbet, softer reminiscent of the powdered sugar you would find atop of Lemon Bon Bon sweets. There’s a spicy pink peppercorn prickle with sweeter, (yet still fiery) cinnamon and cloves and an earthy undertone. It’s the earthiness you would find when washing freshly dug root vegetables. It’s slightly musty the more it opens, and there’s a touch of fresh garden mint and juicy pears. There is a distinctly “wine” note, slightly astringent, a lively pinot grigio, fresh, youthful, almost effervescent.
The vanilla from the nose steps on to the palate straight away, it deliciously creamy. There are hints of orange blossom water and a touch of something floral, crystallised rose petals. The spice makes a sudden appearance almost catching me off guard, it’s hot and fiery, drying, hitting the roof of your mouth. It’s a dry spice heat, think piri-piri rub and mace as the spices from the oak and the youthful spirit meet. Quite a meaty note also as the spice stays very forward. Before it becomes too overpowering there are plump dried apricots, rich juicy raisins and toffee apples. This is timed to perfection and really lifts the more drying, spices. The slightly curious, acidic wine note from the nose starts to run parallel to the spice and the fruits, making your mouth water inviting you to take another sip.
Long, very long indeed, there’s hot fresh ginger root and dried crush leaves and oak branches. There is another brief nod to the apricots and the raisins, rich and mouth-watering, before it bows out in a soft toffee and chocolate gooeyness, like a rolo melted in your pocket.
This is a very interesting expression, its rich, fresh, fruity at times, drying and oaky at others. Despite the complexity of the notes it is actually very easy to drink indeed. The finish is so long it really urges you to return for another pour. The price point is very fair and you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. I would definitely recommend picking this up and giving it a try and watch this space as Dingle are going to around for the long haul.
Nose: A crunch sugared note is the first I notice, think sugared martini glasses and Hubba Bubba strawberry gum, it’s mouth-wateringly sweet, made sweeter still by notes of orange sherbet and fresh satsumas, tinned peaches and dried apricots and fresh cantaloupe melons. There are effervescent notes being carried to the fore with lots of lime zest. The fruitiness of the nose just swirls round and round, the fruits ducking and diving taking centre stage before being rudely pushed aside. Given a little while longer, there is a waxiness, akin to crayons held in the pudgy, warm, chocolate coated hands of a small child, waxy, yet still sweet. Given yet more time still those crayons become more grown up, it’s less crayon wax and now definitively beeswax being rubbed into an antique pine dresser. As this still continues to open up in the glass the orange notes return but softer this time, more orange water and orange barley sugars. There is a delicious fudge like quality to it, artisan fudge drizzled in white chocolate, creamy and sweet. There’s a rich vanilla note, think Farley’s rusks dipped into warm milk, comforting and inviting, the familiarity of childhood scents drawing you in, demanding you take a sip.
Palate: There is an initial rush of sweetness that the nose suggested, the orange note breaks away from the more gentle, soft, orange barley sugars becomes more concentrated and astringent, comparable more to a chewable vitamin C tablet or drinking the dregs of a Berocca tablet. It’s tangy and sour. There is drying bitterness rushing on the to the tongue and instantly taking away any hint of the tangy, zesty orange. The interplay between the oak and the spirit has imparted a heavy touch of wood spice, both dusty and brittle, evoking memories of Autumn forest walks with fallen oak trees littering the forest floor like sleeping giants. There is a savoury note on the palate in complete contrast to the fruity gentleness of the nose. Think Cajun spice rub, heavy on the mace, rubbed into well aged steaks cooked on a hot griddle pan over a fire of charred, dry, old oak branches. Occasionally, through the abundance of rich, dark wood spices, and prickly cracked black and green peppercorn heat there are fleeting hints of sun ripened orchards, with ripening apples and fruit laden pear trees. The scent of honeysuckle and pollen heavy in the air, with fluffy bumblebees buzzing lazily around the flowering fruit trees. This gives this rather rich, bitter dram a much-welcomed lift.
Finish: Long, very, very long indeed. Initially starting out very dry, with all of the damp oak notes, and heat from mace, cracked black and green peppercorns and savoury steak rub which featured so prominently on the palate, however as these notes start to slowly recede the orchard fruits, quietly and subtly appear bringing an much needed influx of sweetness before fading out leaving a creamy yet spicy mouthfeel to the very end.
Conclusion: This is a very interesting whisky indeed. One that you just cannot figure out. The nose is so very different to the palate, a complete opposite if you will. This demands you spend time on it, almost as though it were a small child shouting continually to its parents to watch it. One of the great qualities about whisky, for me, is just how different they can be, not just to one another, but also from person to person. Notes that I may love, you may hate, or vice versa. Some whiskies are gentle, soft, a crowd pleaser, others come along and are decisive, like Marmite, you may love it or you may hate it but you are never going to describe it as merely ok.
This, I feel, is going to be one of those expression. This will divide opinion, split households, split families and have you fighting to the death….too far? Ok, it may not be quite that decisive, but this is definitely the dram that gets you talking. If you love this, then you will love it entirely. If it is not for you, then it does not matter how much someone may extol the virtues of the cask interplay, or of how much this expression show cases the excellent cask used, it will quite simply not be for you. There will also be those who can appreciate the difference, the complexity and enjoy the surprise of a palate and nose, that are just so different. That is where I sit.
I absolutely adored the nose, I could nose this for hours, it is everything I think of, when I think pot still whisky. There is a gentle sweetness, the orchard fruits abound, the peaches and honeysuckle are mouth wateringly inviting. There are creamy fudge notes, white chocolate and that delicious waxiness. I could not wait to dive into this. The I hit the palate, and I was so surprised, where oh where were those fruits I was so looking forward to, where had the waxiness gone? Left in its wake was oak. Lots of rich, dark, damp, brooding oak. Without a doubt this highlights outstanding casks, but for me there was just a little too much cask influence, a touch too much spice. The fruits from the nose do make themselves known, however it is very fleeting, it no less pleasant, and does raise the dram a little, but not quite enough for my personal taste. Then we move on to the finish and it is so very long, its spicy yet toned down a little. The heat becomes more akin to a sweet chilli jam and the wood spice is muted somewhat. The orchard fruits come back and are juicy and sweet, its cheek coating velveteen in its softness as it tails off. Quite simply the finish is delicious.
So, there you have it, a real dram of two halves. There are elements I really enjoyed and ones that are not as much to my palate. It is a grown up, complex, complete Chameleon of a whiskey and that makes it interesting.
Love it or hate it, its really will have you talking. It is one you will want to give to all your friends to try to see what they think and to start the debate. For those reasons alone it really is one you will want to try. Find out whether or not it is the dram for you, or one you are not so sure on. There are some really spectacular casks married together, and Brian Nation has left a curio of a whiskey as his parting gift.
Give it a go, you will find something along the journey that you really love, and it will be a whiskey that you remember for quite some time.
Available from select retailers priced at approx. €180
It’s not every day you have a 30yo from a closed, (although now reinvented) distillery, and certainly not one as well known as Rosebank. So without further ado, lets dive right in.
Nose: A sweet, gentle nose, fresh ripe peaches, with soft lemon there is no sharpness with it, think hard boiled travel sweets, or more specifically the powdered sugar on them. There is a slightly sharper note of fresh gooseberries. Left a while longer there are hints of grilled pineapple, sticky, sweet, with sprigs of fresh mint leaves which really add a touch of freshness. Given time to breathe and on the second nosing this becomes sweeter, inviting with a dessert note akin to just baked apple pie still warm from the oven with thick homemade shortcrust pastry, with crisp apples grown in a back garden and picked fresh that day and topped off with lashings of thick custard with a generous dusting of nutmeg. Right at the very background there is a more earthy note, hessian sacks or potatoes still covered in damp soil. It takes time to develop and you have to look for it, but for me, it is unmistakable and really adds depth and balance.
Palate: On first sip, it’s all very gentle the apple pie from the palate becomes soft red apples which mingle with dessert pears. There is a richer, deeper note and at this time the oak marches to the fore. It’s not overpowering, but comforting, like a walk through the woods in autumn, the leaves starting to turn red, crunching underfoot, acorns starting to drop to the floor, the wind fresh and bracing. Rich, freshy roasted coffee beans make this feel very decedent, very grown up, almost dry, but just then the peaches from the palate come through, although they feel more akin to apricots now, not fresh, but tinned with syrup and with them the pineapple, intense and sweet. Given a little longer in the glass there is an almost musty note, like browsing an antique bookstore or boxes of antique lace. It balances the fruit and oak notes perfectly. Returning to the glass there are lashings of thick clotted cream the vanilla comforting and sweet.
Finish: Gentle, soft like suede. It coats the inside of your cheeks and tongue in a way the lightness in the glass belies. The apples are present throughout from nose to finish, however they continuity evolve from fresh and tart on the nose to cooked and soft on the palate and red and rich on the finish. The heavier, oaky notes from the palate become clotted cream and vanilla pods with a touch of orange blossom, and the pears from the palate. This is a long finish, there are no big surprises, but just when you think it has given all it has to offer there is just a touch of the mint found with grilled pineapple from the nose at the start. It’s elegant and beautiful.
Conclusion: It is no surprise to hear that 30yo Rosebanks do not come along every day, and its no lie to say I was extremely excited and a little trepidatious. I wanted to love it, it was so full of mystery and promise, I was almost afraid to open it. I shouldn’t have worried. There is no denying that this a beautifully crafted whisky. It is grown up and elegant, timeless, a real classic. It isn’t overly complex but this is by no means a negative, in fact it is its simplicity that really shines through. This is a gentle, subtle whisky, where no one flavour pushes itself to the fore for any length of time and no battle for supremacy. Instead each waits its turn, appearing one by one, almost as though waiting in line to dance, and it creates the most beautiful express.
Do not think that its subtly makes it boring as it does not, those 30 years have allowed the true magic of cask and spirit to marry together and to really shine. It is also so very moreish. It really does invite you in for another sip. I am very reluctant to even hint at the term “session whisky” when we are talking about a 30 year old whisky, and not just any 30 year old whisky, a Rosebank and at a rather steep price tag of £1,600, but I cannot deny that this is scarily easy drinking, and I feel that if I were lucky enough to open a bottle, it would not hang around for too long.
We must however address the elephant in the room; the price. It is undeniably pricy at £1,600, however I can understand why the price is as it is. Whisky prices as a whole have exploded over the past couple of years and prices continue to climb. 18yo whisky, which you could up at around the £60 mark a few years ago now regularly retail at the £200 mark, this of course impacts the price of older expressions. Now factor in that this is a whisky from a closed distillery. Yes Rosebank is being revived and that is hugely exciting, but this is old stock, it has lived, it comes from simpler, happier times, it is history; and what price that?
Whether or not you think that history justifies the price tag, only you know. What I do know for sure is that this is a beautiful, classic, elegant expression. One sip is not enough, it calls you back to the glass again and again and I was sorely disappointed to find my glass empty. I cant wait for next years’ release.
Nose: The first thing I notice is a lovely scent of lemons, like putting your nose in a small paper poke of lemon drop sweets. This is followed by creamy fruit, white grapes and gooseberries covered in single cream. Very light, almost floral in places and very inviting.
Palate: Wonderfully sweet, crisp, almost menthol feeling, this gives way to fruit but unlike the nose, this is more like apples that have been coated in toffee. Holding it in the mouth brings light spices, dancing on your tongue, but gently in a very pleasant way.
Finish: I would say the finish brings a freshness, like the first suck on a mint sweet, this lingers while you contemplate picking up the glass again and as you do the last hint of sweet crisp fruits dies away leaving you feeling very satisfied in the knowledge you have been drinking a special whisky.
Conclusion: I’ll be honest I’ve not had many Rosebank in my whisky drinking life and certainly not one as old as this one, so I cannot comment or compare to previous whiskies from this distillery, however what I would say is that this is a fantastic drinking whisky, it is really difficult to put the glass down as each sip positively encourages you to take another.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to purchase a bottle, then I would think it a great shame to leave it unopened on a shelf gathering dust. It may not be an every night dram but is certainly made to be drunk as it really demands tasting.
The only downside I can see is the price. Now I know that certain distilleries have a special aura around them and Rosebank is no exception, but at £1600 is it worth it? Is any whisky worth that? I suppose that is a discussion for another time and I would imagine there will be no problem in selling this, as people who can afford it will surely snap it up.
Available to purchase directly from Rosebank’s website.
ROSEBANK 30 YEAR OLD LAUNCH MARKS FIRST GLOBAL RELEASE UNDER IAN MACLEOD DISTILLERS
Rosebank Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has today announced the first in a series of annual, limited edition, releases – a 30 Year Old 1990 vintage, bottled un-chillfiltered at 48.6% ABV. To celebrate this year’s landmark launch, the distillery is giving a select number of customers the chance to “bank” a future expression of the rare liquid.
Rosebank 30 Year Old is a hand-selected vintage, laid down in 1990, shortly before the distillery’s untimely closure in 1993. The limited-edition bottles will be marked Release One, a nod to this new chapter in Rosebank’s legacy. Each year will see a new limited-edition release, laddering up to the first “new” Rosebank spirit under Ian Macleod Distillers.
Only 4,350 bottles of Rosebank 30-Year-Old will be available to buy worldwide, making this an incredibly rare purchase and demand is expected to be high. Bottles are priced at £1,600 and available directly from Rosebank’s website.
Rosebank is also giving its fans and connoisseurs the chance to get more than just a bottle of the rare whisky. The first 200 people to scan the QR code on the neck collar of their Release One bottle will be given the opportunity to enjoy a dram of Release Two at their nearest high-end, luxury bar or whisky retailer in 2021 as well as the chance to receive an early link to purchase Release Two before the general release. (A list of participating outlets for these customers to choose from will be sent to them in early 2021.)
“What makes Release One so exciting is that we’re giving Rosebank fans the chance to join us on this monumental journey over the next decade, as we revive the iconic distillery. With a chance to “bank” exclusive access to next year’s release, we’re not only inviting them to become part of Rosebank’s legacy, but to become part of Rosebank’s family.”
Ahead of its official release, Rosebank invited some of the world’s top whisky writers to enjoy the “First Sip” of Rosebank 30 Year Old, capturing their initial reactions to the bottle and whisky itself on camera. Renowned and celebrated writers including Felipe Schrieberg (USA), Alice Lascelles (UK), Mamoru Tsuchiya (Japan), Martin Eber (Australia/Hong Kong), Bernhard Schäfer (Germany), and Thijs Klaverstijn (Netherlands) feature in the short video, having received no tasting notes or samples in advance. See their reactions here.
Rosebank 30 Year Old’s launch also comes shortly after the brand released two limited edition, single cask whiskies in February (Cask No. 433 and Cask No. 625) and a Travel Retail exclusive 1990 Vintage Release in March, much to the delight of fans. Only 100 bottles of each 1993 Single Cask bottlings were made available via online ballot, with over 3,000 people entering for a chance of purchasing one of the rare bottles. The ballot was temporarily paused due to COVID-related restrictions, with the final successful entrants set to be drawn before the end of the year.
These releases come after Ian Macleod Distillers acquired the Rosebank brand and last remaining stocks in October 2017 and were granted planning permission to revive the distillery on its original site in January 2019. In November 2019, construction officially began on the highly anticipated redevelopment – with expansive plans for a 1,000-square metre, energy-efficient distillery, including a state-of-the-art visitor centre, tasting room, shop and warehouse among the canal-side buildings.
Once open, Rosebank Distillery is expected to generate 25 full time jobs and attract around 50,000 visitors a year to Falkirk. It will offer a wide range of distillery tours, with some featuring the very last drams of Rosebank distilled prior to the 1993 closure.
ABOUT ROSEBANK 30-YEAR-OLD
Nose: Soft and creamy with caramel wafer, gooseberry, white grape, almonds, vanilla, honey, lemon, and nutmeg
Palate: delicate and crisp, wonderfully balanced, light syrup, chamomile, pear, and delicate tropical fruitiness with pleasing oak spice
Finish: soft but long, candied violets, orange, and faint mint
Irish Distillers, maker of some of the world’s most enjoyed whiskeys, has unveiled the eagerly awaited Midleton Very Rare 2020, a unique parting gift from former Master Distiller Brian Nation.
In his final days as Master Distiller, Brian continued the long-standing tradition of hand-selecting whiskeys reserved for this coveted annual expression from Midleton Distillery’s exceptional inventory for the last time. The result heralds the 37th edition in the world-renowned range.
Chosen from the most outstanding quality single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys laid down over the past four decades in Midleton, Co Cork, Midleton Very Rare 2020 showcases an expression of whiskeys aged from 13 to 35 years in lightly charred ex-bourbon American oak barrels.
This year, Brian Nation selected a higher pot still inclusion when compared to previous vintages, while also increasing the use of refill barrels amongst his choice of casks. The result is a luxurious and balanced whiskey with rich pot still notes and elegant grain distillates that take centre stage thanks to the inclusion of refill casks – a fitting legacy from one of Irish whiskey’s great Master Distillers.
Kevin O’Gorman, newly appointed Master Distiller at Irish Distillers, and long-time collaborator of Brian Nation, comments:
“As a colleague and friend to Brian for many years, I could not be prouder to present his final Midleton Very Rare vintage and his legacy as Irish Distillers’ Master Distiller, to consumers across the globe.
“Selected each year with passion and precision, this expression offers an initial burst of tangy fruity sweetness on the palate, with pot still spices building over time to add a mild prickle of chili oil. Indeed, Brian’s love of a single pot still is reflected in this exceptional whiskey, while preserving the balance and beauty for which Midleton Very Rare is renowned.”
Bottled at 40% ABV, Midleton Very Rare 2020 is available online and in Ireland now, and will hit shelves in the UK, USA, Global Travel Retail, Australia, Germany and Canada in the coming months at the RRP of €180.
In a break from tradition and in response to consumer demand for the annual vintage to be made available earlier in the year in question, newly appointed Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman will reveal Midleton Very Rare 2021 in spring next year, honouring a rare changing of the guard at the iconic Midleton Distillery.
Only the third Master Distiller to influence one of the world’s most sought-after whiskey collections, the unveiling of Midleton Very Rare 2021 will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the world of Irish whiskey.
Official tasting notes:
Aroma Initial top notes of cane sugar and vanilla intertwined with pepper and nutmeg spices, complimented by sweet orchard fruits and white chocolate fudge all layered over polished antique wood notes, showcasing an intriguing balance between spirit and wood thanks to the complex interaction from the many years spent in the finest oak casks.
Taste Initial burst of tangy fruit sweetness of orange peel and sweet pear creating a succulent texture while the pot still spices build overtime adding a mild prickle of chilli oil. The presence of the charred oak remains constant in the background adding balance to the fruits and spices.
Finish Satisfyingly long finish with the fruits slowly fading, allowing the oak and spices to linger until the very end.
Christmas is fast approaching, but there is still time to get that special someone a very special advent calendar.
So whether it is a whisky lover, a gin fanatic or a rum obsessive, we are sure there is something for everyone available.
Following on from the success of 2017 with sales increasing by almost 75% year on year, Drinks by the Dram has refreshed its calendar line up and is pleased to reveal its 2018 offering, including new themed packaging, exciting collaborations and plenty of ways to ensure you countdown to Christmas in style.
This year some of Drinks by the Dram’s Advent Calendars have taken on a global feel, each featuring the finest liquids from different countries, all wrapped in unique, themed packaging. In the collection there’s the classic Whisky calendar, The Tequila calendar, The Scotch Whisky calendar, The Bourbon calendar, The Rum calendar and The Gin calendar — each containing 24 wax-sealed 30ml drams of fine global spirits.
Without giving too much away (we all know Father Christmas won’t visit if you open all of your calendar at once), there are some very exciting tipples to be discovered behind these doors. Enjoy rare spirits, award-winning expressions and distinguished drams from all around the world.
Whisky lovers are in for a treat with this year’s calendar offering; in the Old & Rare Advent Calendar you’ll find truly exceptional expressions, including The Blended Whisky Company’s XL Blend – aged for over 40 years and extra large in intense flavours.
The best-selling original Whisky calendar returns this year in festive red packaging, and inside you’ll find 24 delicious drams including the highly sought-after Lost Distilleries Blend Batch 8 from The Blended Whisky Company, and the incredible Japanese Nikka Whisky from the Barrel. And, new to the line-up for this year is the World Whisky Advent Calendar, showcasing exceptional whiskies from around the globe – try whiskies from Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, England, India and more.
For gin enthusiasts, there’s a whole host of calendars to tantalise the taste buds, and after the huge success of last year’s calendar, That Boutique-y Gin Company has once again teamed up with Drinks by the Dram to bring you 24 incredible gins to count you down to Christmas. Behind these doors you’ll discover gins with interesting botanicals, incredible flavours and unique concepts. Sample award-winning expressions from boutique producers, and even get into the festive spirit with Yuletide Gin, containing gold, an entire gingerbread house and even Christmas tree needles.
“Our Drinks by the Dram advent calendars have become an annual Christmas essentials for many consumers, along with the tree, turkey and festive jumpers,” said James Griswood, Senior Product Manager, Drinks by the Dram.
“We see great loyalty for these calendars, and a large number of consumers come back year after to year to treat themselves to one. With stunning new designs this year, on a range of our best sellers, they look better than ever and also make the perfect gift for any drinks enthusiast.”
Drinks by the Dram first launched its line of advent calendars in 2012, starting with The Whisky Advent Calendar. Since then the range has grown year-on-year, always showcasing the most exciting liquids across each category and price bracket.
This year the full Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendar range includes Whisky, Premium Whisky, Old & Rare Whisky, Very Old & Rare Whisky, World Whisky, Scotch Whisky, Bourbon, Japanese Whisky, American Whiskey, Irish Whiskey, Single Cask Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Rum, Cognac, Tequila, Armagnac, Mezcal and Absinthe.
In addition, the calendar range sees some exciting collaborations including with That Boutique-y Whisky Company, That Boutique-y Gin Company, Origin, Douglas Laing, Glenfarclas, The Hot Enough Vodka Co and The Gin Foundry, whose in-demand Ginvent calendar returns for another year.
Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has announced the release of the much-anticipated Teapot Dram Batch No. 006.
The sixth release in the coveted Teapot Dram series, Batch No. 006 is matured in first fill Oloroso sherry oak casks and has a natural, rich amber hue and notes of cinnamon, marzipan and cloves. Bottled un-chillfiltered at cask strength, 2772 bottles of Teapot Dram Batch No. 006 are available to purchase exclusively from the Glengoyne Distillery shop and online atwww.glengoyne.com.
The Teapot Dram series has been created in tribute to an oldGlengoyne Distillery tradition: until the 1970s, workers would be given three fingers of whisky, three times each day. Most distilleries gave their teams new make spirit, but not Glengoyne. At Glengoyne, the finest whisky from first fill Oloroso sherry casks was chosen for the distillery workers’ drams. The less seasoned stillmen would, to save face, discreetly pour some of their untouched drams into a copper teapot which sat on the canteen windowsill, ready for their older colleagues.
Teapot Dram Batch No. 006 was launched on Wednesday 21 November at Glengoyne Distillery by Duncan McNicoll and Billy Edmiston, two of Glengoyne Distillery’s original ‘teapot drammers’.
Katy Macanna, Brand Manager for Glengoyne, said: “The Teapot Dram is a firm favourite amongst Glengoyne fans, and we’re delighted to share the latest release in the series.
“We’re incredibly proud of our history here at Glengoyne, and that’s why we continue to craft our whisky in the same unhurried way as we have done for more than 185 years. Our team is a vital part of that history, and the Teapot Dram series helps to tell the story of one of our old and most treasured distillery traditions.”
Glengoyne Teapot Dram Batch No. 006 is bottled at 59.3% ABV. Exclusively available as a limited-edition release from Glengoyne Distillery, Teapot Dram Batch No. 006 retails at £90 per 70cl bottle.
Distilled and matured by the sea, Old Pulteney single malt Scotch whisky is the true maritime malt and we’re excited to embark on a new voyage with the launch of our new core collection featuring our flagship 12 Years Old, Huddart, 15 and 18 Years Old. This move marks a reinvigoration of the core range for the award-winning Caithness-based distillery, complemented by distinctive new design and packaging.
This new collection signals an evolution for the brand, with a renewed vigour around the maritime malt yet staying true to Old Pulteney’s rich heritage and traditions. This introduction supports a wider drive to ensure strong consumer relevance and appeal, with the new whiskies consistent with the renowned house style and provenance; yet bringing some new flavours to the fore.
Defined and shaped by its stunning coastal location, Old Pulteney has a highly distinctive character infused by the unique combination of brisk sea air and meticulous cask selection. Each of the new whiskies tell their own story and bring their own part of the Old Pulteney legacy to life.
Celebrating the birthplace of Old Pulteney, Huddart (ABV 46%) is rich gold in colour. A distinctively smoky take on its signature single malt scotch whiskies, Huddart is richly warming and combines influence from the salt-infused sea air with peat smoke, delivering a mellow and smoky whisky with real character, depth and identity.
A naturally rich, amber-coloured whisky, the 15 Years Old expression (ABV 46%) is Old Pulteney’s most balanced and smoothest single malt whisky yet. Bursting with aromas of rich dried fruit, ripe apples and citrus, with honey sweetness and a generous chord of creamy vanilla, 15 Years Old effortlessly brings together two different sides of the flavour spectrum. RRP £70.
Completing the new portfolio, 18 Years Old (ABV 46%) takes its character and colour entirely from the American oak casks and Spanish sherry butts in which it has been nurtured, delivering a deep amber colour. This indulgent and deeply warming expression features notes of chocolate and spice, but allow for the influence of more vibrant, zesty flavours. RRP £115.
The new collection is complemented with the addition of the repackaged flagship Old Pulteney 12 Years Old.
The golden-coloured 12 Years Old expression (ABV 40%) is the perfect place to start your Old Pulteney journey, with a flavour which is welcoming and effortless.
12 Years Old embodies the maritime malt characteristic that has become synonymous with Old Pulteney whiskies. It has been matured for 12 years in ex-bourbon casks, marrying together the salty flavours of the sea with the influence of American oak, to bring sweetness into play, and create a classic expression. RRP £32.
The collection of four whiskies also has a striking new design, which freshens up the overall look yet created around the existing, highly distinctive Old Pulteney bottle shape.