Dunville’s has been a reasonably common staple within the Water of Life repertoire; however, with Mike having conducted the last review, I felt I needed to bring some Belfast-ish-ness back to an Irish icon, partly, and possibly mainly, responsible for kickstarting Irish whiskey’s revival. This revival has seen annual global sales surge this year from 5m cases (60m bottles) in 2010 to 14m cases (168m bottles).
It wasn’t so long ago that Mike talked about the history of Dunville’s and its significance in the Irish whiskey industry today, but what I want to focus on is the future and why Ireland needs distilleries like Echlinville to come to the fore and lead the resurgence, putting Irish whiskey back on its pedestal.
Dunville’s, as we know, is a distillery that sells whiskey sourced from Cooley (but has Bushmills casks somewhere in its warehouse…). Most of these releases have been single cask, showcasing Echlinville’s finishing expertise. Oloroso, PX, rum and Palo Cortado have all been used to great success throughout and, as such, Echlinville has developed and solidified its foundation and justified its credentials. The way they have built up this experience has been tactically astute; their patience and reluctance to release their own whiskey has been refreshing; many other brands have jumped at the three-year mark. Most recently, theirs has turned eight years old, with glimpses of it within the ‘1808’ and ‘Old Comber’ releases; however, I think it is commendable waiting that extra while, especially whilst they are enjoying success: depsite question marks over the pricing of the bottles, demand has been high proving the brand’s successfulness. We all wait with bated breath for when Echlinville release their own spirit, whenever that may be. Still, I think we can all appreciate their perseverance, with an Irish whiskey 8+-year-old release a rare but anticipated sight.
We need new and old brands. Fortunately, we have both with Echlinville, or at least we will soon. Echlinville is custodians of Dunville’s, a responsibility they are not taking lightly, but their approach is refreshing. Throughout the releases, there have always been little nods to the past, with the labelling being most conforming. Mark Thompson has captured the spirit of Dunville’s whilst giving it a modernist look. Other pieces, such as the 18-Year-Old Port Mourant box, have kept its traditions and ethos alive. What will be intriguing is how Echlinville markets its own whiskey. Will they incorporate it within Dunville’s releases, or will it be its own complete entity? Whatever course they choose, there will be no doubt that it will be pragmatically and sensibly approached; Echlinville has already demonstrated this. Dunville’s has set the mark; Echlinville’s spirit will carry on the mantle.
Echlinville hasn’t rested on their laurels much either. Their ability to revive other brands has also been striking. Old Comber has been very much a lauded release, and for those lucky enough to get their hands on a bottle, the feedback has been excellent, with some calling it a replacement Redbreast 12. On the other hand, their acquisition of Mark D’Arcy has been less popular but is a testament to their ambition and determination to increase awareness of Irish whiskey brands from the past. Furthermore, their continued support for Bán Poitín has been evident, with more releases coming to ensure the ‘Year of Poitín’ is not just a year but a generation. These brands and subsequent releases are integral to Irish whiskey’s revival; established brands, ravaged by prohibition, War, and Scotch’s market dominance, have already demonstrated their popularity.
This brings me to the whiskey I will be reviewing today. This 10-year-old was one of the first to be released under Dunville’s name, with even earlier releases from Echlinville very difficult to acquire. The bottle is exquisitely decorated and adorned with Dunville’s branding, which really evokes feelings of nostalgia; let’s hope that the whiskey accomplishes the same thing.
Price: It was around £50 when released back in 2016 but expect to pay double that now at auction.
Nose: It’s beautifully light and zingy on the nose. First, there’s a hint of lime zest and chardonnay, but then completely overshadowed by a helping of marzipan. More fruit comes through exponentially too, with lots of unripened peaches, lemons and sherry-soaked raisins and sultanas. The PX finish is so evident with notes of Christmas cake and pudding.
Palate: The texture is stunning. For the ABV, it’s not bland, nor is it overpowering; the balance sits perfectly. Straight away on the palate, the Christmas cake again comes through, this time with a helping of warmed spiced vanilla custard. There’s a gradual warmth too; some cinnamon powder and nutmeg give it some needed depth throughout the palate. There’s a subtle hint of caramelised bananas and mince pies to really give this a beautiful palate.
Finish: Although the finish is relatively short, it’s creamy and spicy—lots of dark chocolatey notes with a hint of cinnamon spice.
This is so delightful. You can see why Echlinville chooses to utilise PX casks as their ‘main’ finish, and the casks and whiskey they have sourced are of equal quality. Getting the notes from the PX casks is no mean feat, but they have been really able to do it here. Lots of depth, balance and variety in flavours coming through. All the standard PX notes are there, but there’s such a vibrance and uniqueness that comes through with the freshness and crispness of the fruity notes.
Having not tried any Dunville’s from before Echlinville’s acquisition, I cannot compare, but given its critical acclaim, I can only imagine its quality. The quality of this dram makes me feel that Echlinville is doing a particularly good job reviving the brand; it’s in safe hands. Having embraced PX finishes into their dark series collection, they know what they’re good at, and I feel that if they carry on this constantly self-assessing awareness of themselves, Echlinville’s own spirit will also be excellent; I, for one, cannot wait to try.