Dunville’s have always been fine purveyors of Pedro Ximénez finished whiskies. It’s their signature, their hallmark and ultimately something they do to an excellent standard; take a look at their 10 and 12-year-old core range offerings. But what happens when a brand diversifies? Albeit not entirely, but subtlety, like finishing a whiskey in PX and Oloroso? The answer is in the review.
Firstly, I think it gives a brand much more competitiveness and capacity; it showcases the brand, but it typifies all those who work within the business too, especially the Master Blender demonstrating critical know-how and knowledge for cask management. The difficulty lies in balancing a whiskey with two quite distinct finishes. PX sherry is typically more sweet, dark, and is the sherry of choice when paired with a pudding, whereas the Oloroso sherry is characteristically quite dry and nutty. There is a fundamental skill required, but ultimately, everything has to be of sufficient quality for a good sherry maturation in the first place: base whiskey, casks and maturation period.
Those who will have seen Mike’s review on the Belfast Whiskey Week bottling will know that Dunville’s whiskey remains sourced, i.e. not their own, but acquired from elsewhere and named Dunville’s. Echlinville’s own spirit is around 7-8 years old but is yet to be fully released. The base spirit for this actually comes from Cooley distillery, an Irish whiskey distillery on the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth, Ireland. In 1987, Cooley started making whiskey independently but was most noted for their Kilbeggan, Connemara and Tyrconnell whiskies. Cooley is critically acclaimed too, having won over 300 medals since opening, “European Distiller of the Year” in 2008 and 2009, and “Distillery of the Year” in 2008 from the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
In terms of the cask, Echlinville doesn’t openly state where they get them from, meaning that it has more than likely come from a brokerage. Therefore they know its quality is more or less guaranteed. My verdict of the casks will come in the conclusion…
Then, the whiskey itself. Cask 1717 is a 20-Year-Old Irish Single Malt finished in Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez Sherry casks. It’s bottled at Cask Strength 54.8% ABV and limited to a Single Cask of just 290 bottles. There’s no indication of the length of maturation in the sherry casks. It openly states that it is non-chill filtered on the bottle but has no suggestion of added colouring.
Price: £225; however, you will only find them available on auction websites now, bizarrely at the same or less of a price, disregarding the auctioneer’s fees.
Nose: a real sweety bonanza on the nose with zingy black kirsch cherries, caramelised brown sugar, ripened plums, orange peel and strawberry laces. This nose is seriously heavenly and continues with more sweetshop nostalgia giant strawberries, red liquorice and cola bottles. There’s even a creaminess to the nose, but still linked to the sweetshop vibe and characteristics, it feels like a dollop of melted Turkish delight lingering in my glass.
Palate: fizzy cherry coke, classic Christmas cake and heapings of strawberry jam. Lots of syrupy prunes and apricots coat the mouth. There’s some spice there too, with cinnamon and cloves, and it subtly brings about a gentle warmth rather than a spice bomb. Soft cinnamon and mellow ginger give it some heat but little depth in the overall character of the liquid.
Finish: The warmth lingers just a little more, but there’s still more sweetness that still comes through, albeit lighter, with dried peaches and cherries giving it more depth.
What an experience this dram is. I’ve tried the majority of Dunvile’s PX only finished whiskies, but they differ significantly from this. The oloroso has a profound effect, and it balances the whiskey. The nose, first off, is delightful, and for a sugar addict like myself, I can only envisage my trips to the sweetshop and the smells and notes that lingered from there. The palate has the PX come to the fore almost instantaneously, and just when you think that PX bomb is about to detonate fully, the oloroso kicks and almost mellows it out and adjusts it slightly. And that’s not meant to be a negative connotation; sometimes, people can find PX almost overwhelming. The oloroso balances it perfectly. It still generates heat but develops it into more fruit and sweetness than a spicey concoction.
In terms of the casks, I can only imagine the high-quality establishment that they come from. From the notes, depth and colour of this whiskey, one can only envisage the quality of the PX and oloroso that lay in them beforehand.
The whiskey could have scored half a point higher if it wasn’t for the price. This is steep, although all things considered: Irish, single cask, sourced, 20 year old and limited, these are the things making the price increase. The whiskey is excellent though, a real show of what proper cask management can achieve.