Bottle Name: Dingle Fourth Single Pot Still Release
ABV: 46.5% Distillery: Dingle Region: Ireland
Whisky outreach is about more than a perfectly remembered buzzy catchphrase accompanied by a well-learnt sales pitch. Whilst there is still a large cohort of ‘by the numbers’ ambassadors and distillery hosts rolling out the company line (which invariable includes tales of the finest quality water), this number is steadily dwindling. As the Internet has become interwoven into the fabric of both our lives and of whisky – outreach has become increasingly undertaken by those who are working within whisky because of their inherent passion for the liquid, its creation and its enjoyment. Engagement has become less about staying on the rails of spoon-fed information and more about helping people explore and enjoy whisky through personal experience. The days of the robotic recital of facts and figures together with an outstretched arm offering a charged glass are a relic of the past.
Whisky has never been more competitive than it is today – even with the oddness that is 2020. And irrespective of circular discussions around pricing and allocations – as a consumer there has never been a time where you have had as much choice. The boom in whisky presents brands with a different set of challenges to those of the past. There is an incredible sea of noise out there. I’ve already had to mute #WhiskySanta on Twitter and it’s only been live for less than 24 hours.
Those representing distilleries in any function – whether that be inwardly or outwardly looking are all required to work to engender a brand and its products both to consumers and the wider trade. And with an increasing number of new releases and new distilleries with new releases – that takes more than tasty liquid, a snazzy bottle, a press release and VIP tasting launch. Particularly in 2020 when in-person launches sadly seem little more than a fond memory.
Virtually all engagement outside of distillery tours (where they have been able to operate) this year has been online. A sea of vtastings, a preponderance of digital fireside chats and the advent of the virtual pub. And yet, whilst the mainstream whisky media seem to be talking about Internet as if it’s either new or some form of panacea for whisky – there are many communities that have existed and thrived online for decades. And it’s these communities and the individuals within them who are driving brand engagement. Particularly in 2020.
My channel (community) of choice is Twitter. It’s a preference - I believe the people there (at least within the whisky circle) to be nicer and more focussed on actually enjoying whisky – as opposed continued bickering or to taking closed bottle photos on beaches, up trees, or accompanied by watches that cost the same as a reasonably priced family car. But there are many others to choose from – all with their own rules of engagement and personalities.
Regardless of the playground of choice – the brands who are choosing to engage openly, consistently and most importantly - authentically - are the ones who are thriving. And this cuts deeper than just bite-sized corporate postings – though these of course have their place. Reps, ambassadors, distillers, blenders – many are now playing an active part in the online whisky community. Not because marketing bod ‘A’ suggested that it was a good idea for the brand – but because they actively enjoy the scene itself, the discussions, the camaraderie and the people. And to my mind this personal, genuine approach does makes a real difference.
Brand engagement, whilst at some level quantifiable to the bottom line of a distillery (cost of engagement vs. sales), is about more than just relaying a set lists of facts and figures and persuading the customer that “our whisky is the bestest”. It’s about fostering longer-term relationships and humanising the brand/distillery. As the saying goes, its not what you know, it’s who you know. Understanding the knowledge level of your audience and their pre-experience of your whisky is of course vital – but it isn’t a trump card for authenticity. And when it comes to brand engagement whilst there’s always a need to know your stuff (whisky geeks are whisky geeks), the most successful, longer term engagement will always come from a shared sense of passion for whisky itself.
Dingle’s Master Distiller Graham Coull has a rep. Not just for his distilling and composing endeavours at Dingle and Glen Moray before it. But for his frequent, frank and often pithy Twitter postings. The man is certainly engaged. Far from toeing what might be views by other brands as a company line, Graham’s obvious inherent passion for whisky comes through time and time again – for every posting he makes about Dingle, there’s another where he’s enjoying a dram from another distillery. He’s not just on social media for lip service – he’s there because he clearly enjoys whisky and the whisky community (and particularly for winding up Whisky Daddy).
And it works. As part of the wider efforts to raise the profile of Glen Moray when he was at the helm, he has amassed quite the following. Some who love his personal insights into his role and the day-today things which take place in and around distilleries. Some (an arguably smaller group) who find his jokes funny. And since his move to Dingle mid-2019, his flock has continued to follow him – many now being introduced to an entirely different style of whisky.
Graham is far from the only Master Distiller who is actively and directly engaged with the whisky community. But he’s arguably one who actively enjoys the scene’s camaraderie and who realise that whilst it’s nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice
Earlier this month Dingle’s Fourth Single Pot Still Release was unveiled – alongside 500 bottles of Pot Still Cask Strength, in a first but given the feverish speed they were snaffled up, surely not a last for the distillery. Fortunately, whilst Dingle’s scale necessitates a small batch approach, the ‘normal’, non-lose-your-minds edition of the Fourth Release consists of 8,000 bottles. Ample. For the time being.
The expression has been crafted from a marriage of 25 casks of ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso matured pot still Dingle. No age statement is provided - but at a guess, I’d pin the tail onto a 6/7 year old donkey. The release is bottled at 46.5% ABV and comes with an RRP of €95. Half of the allocation has been reserved for domestic sale – so you’ll find it at retailers such as Celtic Whisky Shop and Irish Malts – who are offering it at a reasonable exchange rate for those based in the UK.
Nose: Immediate sherried berry influence with cranberries, mulberries and a glass of Ribena – and all possessing a sense of mulled spices with nutmeg and clove. Gooey toffee and honeycomb are joined by a milky cup of coffee, whilst aerated chocolate sits with vanilla ice cream. Reduction reveals a biscuity note – with wafer rolls and Kit Kats alongside more fudgy character.
Taste: The arrival is well-measured and offers a similar profile to that of the nose – though with a darker tone to its personality. Blackcurrant and blackberries sit with plump raisins and fig rolls whilst darker chocolate is served with a cup of freshly made filter coffee. Shaved oak comes with plenty of vanilla character whilst white pepper, nutmeg and stem ginger mingle with crushed almonds and dusty cask char. Dilution again offers biscuits – Tunnock’s Caramel alongside condensed milk and acidic berries.
Finish: Medium in length. The spices from the palate translate across to the finish, together with effervescence dry oakiness and spent coffee grounds.
Dingle’s Fourth Single Pot Still Release offers a soundly composed, characterful alternative to neighbouring country Cork’s better known, longer established and more widely available alternative. The pot still style runs throughout, and the combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks feels meaningful, with both bringing something to the party. There a notch too much astringency and sourness in places – but nothing that wouldn’t persuade me to happily return to explore future releases – particularly once the inventory becomes both older and broader.
Review sample provided by Dingle Distillery
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