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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 24 January, 2018
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This Dingle whiskey distillery is selling vodka and gin to help fund the business

You have to play the long game if you want to get into the whiskey business, which is why the Dingle Whiskey Distillery is thinking outside the box.

GIN Source: Dingle Whiskey Distillery

SITTING NEXT TO the estuary of Dingle harbour is a business that hopes to put the town on the map for more than just Fungie the dolphin.

Oliver Hughes and his cousin Liam LaHart opened Dingle Whiskey Distillery in 2012. No strangers to the pub game, the two men have been passionate about beer since setting up the Porterhouse Brewing Company in 1990s.

Before anyone knew what ‘craft’ beer was, they were specialising in importing various craft beers from around the world.

Since then they have opened the brand of pubs in Dublin, Cork, Bray, London and New York, but just over two years ago found new love in whiskey.

Dingle town 

Dingle always had a special place in Hughes’ heart, which is why after a conversation with his distilling guru, John McDougall, he decided to give the whiskey business a shot.

In November 2012, the distillery was up and running, producing the first whiskey to be made in Ireland outside of the big three brands Midleton, Cooley and Bushmills.

While micro-brewies are popping up all over the country, it takes a bit more patience and commitment to produce a new Irish whiskey.

Legally, under the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, whiskey cannot be called whiskey until the spirits have been matured in wooden casks on the island of Ireland for a period of not less than three years.

What does this mean?

Essentially, it means paying out to produce a product for three years before seeing any profit return.

Entrepreneur John Teeling, who founded the Cooley Distillery in Co Louth, this month warned that many of the new distilleries opening up might never produce a drop.

I think some of them may not get started, I think they don’t realise that it will take them four or five years from now until they have their first whiskey and it will certainly take them a number of years before they get commercial after that,” he said.

For this very reason, the Dingle Whiskey Distillery has had to come up with other lines of revenue to keep the whiskey production afloat and it comes in the form of vodka and gin.

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“The vodka and gin line is just good economics,” explains distillery manager Mary Ferriter.

While the whiskey sits in casks for up to three years, the Dingle Distillery has been making its very own brand – Dingle gin and Dingle vodka – and it’s going down a treat.

The spirits are being stocked in most pubs in the town and many other establishments and off licences up and down the country.

Gin resurgence

gin1 Source: Dingle Whiskey Distillery

There has been somewhat of a resurgence in gin with festivals and new brands popping up on the market.

At present there are only two gins made in Ireland and one of these is the hand-crafted Dingle Original Gin.

Ferriter explains it is the product of a considerable amount of research, both technical and historical.

Dingle Original Gin is made in small batches of 500 litres. It’s what is categorised as a London dry gin but has it’s own unique flavours.

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The spirit is collected at 70% abv (alcohol by volume) and then cut to 40% abv using the purest of water which is drawn from a well 240 feet below the distillery.

The distillery is located in the old sawmills on the Milltown Road just on the fringe of Dingle. Behind the distillery is an old mill wheel which used to be in operation but has fallen into disrepair.

Ferriter explains that the long-term plan is to get it back up and running so a constant supply of Dingle water can be used in the production of the whiskey, gin and vodka.

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The vodka is another range that is gaining in popularity – it’s unique selling point is it is quintuple distilled.

vodka1 Source: Dingle Whiskey Distillery

Irish whiskey 

Ireland is known around the world for its whiskey, but it hasn’t always been so.

Our cheerful and enthusiastic tour guide Joe Joyce tells us Ireland slipped off the radar in the whiskey world back in the prohibition in the US.

Scottish whiskeys began to take over by supplying the states.

Two hundred years ago, Ireland had over a hundred officially recognised distilleries. However by the turn of this century there were just two.

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Supporting local

The Dingle Whiskey Distillery says it is not in the business of creating a mega brand.

Employing a local staff of ten people and one brand ambassador staff member in Dublin, the scale is modest producing just two casks per week. However, Ferriter says looking forward with the tourism offering on site they hope to increase staff by another 10-15 people over the next two years.

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The distillery prides itself on its artisan approach. Using three hand-crafted copper pot stills made specially for the Dingle distillery by Forsyths in Scotland, the Irish malted barley is used to make pure pot still malt whiskey. The largest pot still can hold up to 7,000 litres.

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Our tour guide Joe tells us to stick our head over the brew as the yeast cells eat the simple sugars found in whiskey mash. The powerful whiff of the brew and the carbon dioxide it emits is enough to knock the socks of anyone and the stunned faces of tourists on the guided tour definitely need a drink after it!

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It’s explained to us that whiskey is not whiskey until it comes out of out the cask, so until then it is pure spirit, also known as moonshine or poitín.

whiskey

Given a drop, we taste the spirit at it’s strongest of over 60% abv – not something you should do if you have work the next day.

Founding fathers

Thinking outside the box, the distillery also has another line of revenue.

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The first 500 casks are available to those who wish to become “The Dingle Founding Fathers”.

Print

Investors may choose to have the contents of their personalised whiskey casks bottled on site by the Dingle Distillery or after 5 years, cask owners may choose to take ownership of the cask.

Investors may choose to keep the cask at the distillery for a longer period to allow it to mature further before bottling.

If you want to taste the much anticipated Dingle Whiskey, you’ll just have to wait.

The first Dingle Whiskey will be released in 2016. Ferriter says is poignant as it is the centenary of Irish independence.

“Given our independent nature, we feel that this is a happy coincidence.”

Read: Irish whiskey is going through a resurgence – but not everyone will enjoy it>

Read: Inside the first whiskey distillery to open in Dublin in over 125 years>

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