Farm distilling, historic mash bills…
IRELAND'S WHISKEY RENAISSANCE: Part 3
In east County Down where the soil is much firmer, the sense of place and history runs deep in their whiskey and even in their labelling.
Revamped brands can be exceptionally tacky if not handled well but whether it’s Jarlath’s sheer sincerity or their stony demarcation between Dunville’s as a sourced stock ‘homage brand’ and the spirit that they themselves lay down, it all comes off just as local pride.
(The Dunville’s casks sell like sherry-soaked hotcakes nonetheless.)
Echlinville itself is a family farm. A bit like an Irish Daftmill and with a similarly disciplined trigger finger that’s kept them from putting out a drop of it so far. Their oldest malt will be eight this summer.
Aside from malt, they make both triple and double-distilled Irish pot still runs with varying malt and barley ratios and Springbank-like technical glee. The spirit I have here is the double distilled 35 per cent barley 65 per cent malt new-make and it’s Saharan, unapologetic, dry as a Triassic spine, traditional Irish pot still relieved only from its chalk-box breath by a skin off the milk-top texture and a filmy, not quite sweet vanilla, made all the more entrancing by the dryness underneath it.
I briefly lived beside a marble quarry in Carrara as a student (long story) and the two things I remember most are the white gelato and the pervasive taste of whiter dust. It’s fantastic, really.
Speaking of vanilla and a sense of place, Echlinville have also experimented with a recreated mash bill from Old Comber, the last old Ulster Irish pot still and one whose remains are only minutes up the road.
Double distilled from 40 per cent malt, 48 per cent raw barley, and 12 per cent oats, the original Comber was thick enough to clog a straw.
While its second life in Echlinville is certainly fat, there’s a creampuff, wafer, pastry-like vanilla from the oats. I swore I’d never say a new-make smelled like croissant but it really does. Even more curiously, Echlinville have tried it both with malted and unmalted oats. “It was more open with the malted oats,” their distiller Graeme told me. “Certainly during the fermentations. There were these stewed bananas and that was coming through at the end.”