Last night I had the pleasure of joining an all-Irish Whiskey tasting in the capital of Flevoland (NL): Lelystad! This tasting was given at the Van Gils liquor store by the lovely people from Dramtable, who provide whisky tastings all around the Netherlands. I met up with Dirk Jan Keijser for an interview about Dramtable (which I will publish soon) earlier that night, after which I was invited to stay for the tasting. An offer I gratefully accepted of course!
I like Irish Whiskey and it’s a category I love to explore. Recently, more and more amazing products are coming from the Island, that easily make it onto my top shelves. Waterford has some amazing whiskies, and what about some of the Redbreasts and Spots? But there’s one distillery that stole my heart in Ireland, and that’s Dingle. And Dingle happens to be one of the brands that Dirk Jan imports for The Netherlands, and it was also one of the brands featured in tonight’s tasting.
Last night the tasting was given by Michiel, a drammer (as the team from Dramtable like to call themselves) with a great passion for Irish Whiskey. Providing us all with in-depth knowledge about the whiskies. Starting from the malting process, all the way to the point the spirit get’s bottled. As a big surprise he started the tasting by providing us all with a cup of beer. This might sound strange at a whisky tasting, but there was a good reason for it. The beers they poured us came from Blacks Brewery. The same company that also makes Blacks Whiskey! And later on we could compare tasting notes from the beer, with a stout finished whiskey from their line-up.
Earl(y) in the evening
The first two whiskies of the night, both came from the Kinsale Spirit co.: The Great Earl, and the Spanish Earl. The reason Kinsale chose to name their whiskies after Earls lies in their location. Kinsale is a port city, with plenty of history surrounding its harbour. To give their whiskey’s a tale to tell they chose to name them after the earls that set out from Kinsale’s port on glorious adventures. And they chose casks for maturing their whiskies that fitted with the tale and personality of each earl in their line-up.
The Great Earl
We kicked things off with the Great Earl (named after Hugh O’Neill). A single grain whisky finished in Sangiovese barrels, a nod to the fact that the Earl spent his final days in Rome. The nose on this whisky is beautiful and was highly praised amongst all the guests. Personally, I found an abundance of white chocolate and walnuts, a delicious combination indeed. The palate fell a bit short compared to the nose, I mainly got yellow grapes and pencil shavings. Some liquorice root showed up in the finish, but aside from the nose I wasn’t all too impressed.
The Spanish Earl
Next up came the Spanish Earl, named after Juan del Aguila. This whiskey was finished in stout casks, which made a nice link-up to the Blacks beer we tried earlier. Despite its finish though, most people found it hard to pick up on the Stout influence in this dram. It’s a much more subtle finish than on the Jameson Stout Cask, for example. I got notes of caramel and fudge, which was once again very pleasant. But like the dram before, the palate is where it sort of fell flat. There was some shortbread cookie, some caramel and a little bit of crushed black pepper. But it all felt quite muted and unexceptional. I disliked the finish, which was rather tannin filled and made me think of chewing on popsicle sticks. Between the two I liked the Great Earl better.
Into the Black(s)
Next, we moved on to Blacks Whiskey. We got to try two of their bottlings, the Maple Mayhem and the Black Smoke. Though we tried the Dingle’s in between, as they saved the Black Smoke for last. A good call, as the peat in that one would have surely overstimulated the palate prior to the Dingle’s in tonight’s line-up. Before we moved on to Dingle, we did get to try their Maple Mayhem though.
The Maple Mayhem is a very unique whiskey, as in Scotland it wouldn’t even be considered ‘real’ whisky, as it is finished in casks made entirely of maple wood. In Scotland, whisky needs to be aged in oak. But since the Irish rules only specify that whiskey needs to be aged in wood, Blacks we’re able to release this spirit under the name “whiskey”. This is not a maple syrup whiskey though, it’s merely aged in maple wood.
The fact that it’s aged in maple gives the nose a very “honeyed” quality, and if you’ve ever tasted candied honey, you might find the nose on this dram to be very similar. Surprisingly all that sweetness was less apparent on the palate. Where instead I found apple, grape and nutmeg. But above all I got “café-noir” cookies, or “likkoekjes” as I knew them when I was a child in The Netherlands. A nice flashback to my youth is something I almost always appreciate in a whisky. The finish was rather short, with some orange peel showing up. But all-in-all this is a very interesting dram, with a more than decent palate.
At the end of the night, we got to try the Black Smoke. A whiskey with bold flavours and amongst the crowd several people started exclaiming what they found in the dram. Kippers we’re generally agreed upon, but the best note came from an unexpected corner. A lovely young lady at my table told the room she noticed band aids on the nose, which she thought people would find very weird. Instead she picked a note so often associated with peated whiskies, and soon the focus of the entire room fell on that one note. On the palate I got peppered roast beef, though that was not a note she could find as she was a vegetarian. Which shows once more that taste is ever so personal, as you can’t discover notes if you’ve never smelled or tasted the product it’s associated with.
Ding, ding, ding… it’s time for Dingle!
The moment a lot of people in the room had been waiting for. It was time to try some Dingle’s! Talking amongst the crowd I discovered that there we’re several hardcore Dingle fans there. Including a friend I made at my table, who collects all the single casks from the brand. The moment the first dram from Dingle came to the table was when he started to get excited, this was his cup of tea!
The first Dingle we tried was their Single Malt. And on the nose it was immediately apparent that we were dealing with a different beast altogether here. This is a full-bodied dram, with thick whisps of aniseed, liquorice, and crumbled cookies drifting from your glass. The palate provides a full mouthfeel as well, with liquorice once again taking centre place. In The Netherlands we have a specific kind of liquorice we call “kokindjes”, my personal favourite, and it’s exactly what I found in this dram. In the medium long finish, the liquorice notes continued. But I also found shortbread cookies. Altogether a truly enjoyable dram.
Next up was the Samhain. A dram named after a Celtic tradition, that laid the foundation for Halloween as we know it today. This dram held crème brûlee and passion fruit on the nose. Painting images in your mind of an exquisite dessert. The palate added some more fitting layers to that dessert, by adding toasted caramel and pecan ice cream notes. Finally on the finish there was some liquorice as well, making this dram by far the most complex one of tonight’s line-up.
A dram good night
After the tasting I was lucky enough to sample a wee dram from the Single Cask for the Netherlands. A dingle matured completely in ex-PX casks. A wonderful dram that I can recommend to anyone, regardless of whether you prefer Scotch or Irish. I don’t think anyone would say no to a second glass if given the chance. A must try! (You can still find it here)
And after that a nice night came to an end. It had been filled with some beautiful Irish whiskies and fun tales from Michiel and Dirk Jan, but it was time to say goodbye. I was very glad I got to experience this tasting and I’m sure I will be going to another Dramtable tasting very soon, as it was a pleasure to be a part of!