Dingle Distillery gets creative to stave off impact of pandemic

'You get connoisseurs, and you get investors, and you get syndicates of 10 people and more'
Dingle Distillery gets creative to stave off impact of pandemic

Dingle Distillery’s Descendants cask programme kicked off in late October and they expect to sell all 100 casks. Dingle managing director Elliot Hughes is hoping the programme will keep the distillery on track.

A Co Kerry distillery has found a novel way to counter the impact of Covid-19 on its business:  The sale of casked alcohol.

Elliot Hughes, Dingle Distillery managing director, said the barrels would make a great present, although their price may be out of many people's range.

The casks start at €10,000 and go up to €13,000, although payment plans are available.

Dingle's Descendants cask programme kicked off in late October. While it wasn't the first time the distillery has had such an endeavour (a Founding Fathers programme was run in 2012), this one had its roots firmly in the unique year that is 2020.

"Covid has a lot of negatives," Mr Hughes said. "There are lots of people who have been put in difficult positions, including ourselves, but the downtime did give the opportunity to flesh out ideas like this, and others, for 2021." 

Mr Hughes, a director of the Porterhouse Group, son of Dingle co-founder, Oliver Hughes, got involved with the distillery in 2016.

The programme has been a great success — 93 of the 100 casks on offer have already been bought and Hughes expects the remainder to be gone in the next 10 days.

So what kind of person buys a cask and what do they get for their buck?

"You get connoisseurs, and you get investors, and you get syndicates of 10 people and more," the latter being people seeking to see the value of the cask rise materially, said Mr Hughes. 

Those who stump up get a certificate of ownership, together with insurance, annual deliveries of the distillery's latest single malt, sample cask tastings, and unlimited tour access to the distillery.

The casks come in three variants — bourbon, port, and sherry — ranging in size from 190 to 250 litres.

The different sizes have a practical application, with the three varieties losing varying amounts of their volume over time, absorbed into the wood of their container.

That the Descendants programme has helped the Dingle Distillery to come through the Covid-19 sticky spot is undeniable.

"We, obviously, had a very tough March, April, May, like everyone did. We didn’t even know if off-licences would be opening," said Mr Hughes. "But, as things started to open, we saw an upswing (not to 2019 levels), but we're hoping, with the cask programme, we'll be on track to getting back to where we were." 

But if you want to get in on the Descendants run, you would want to be quick, because it's unlikely to be repeated.

"For my mind, there won’t be a 2021 programme," Mr Hughes said.

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