Dingle whiskey is criminally good. That's certainly the opinion of crime writer Marie O'Halloran, who so loves the spirit that she has immortalised it in her latest novel entitled 'What Came Before'.
Indeed, such is their affection for Dingle and its whiskey, Marie and her husband Jonathan have also opened a further chapter of their connections with the area through the purchase of a Descendants Cask.
"Dingle whiskey is just so unique in its origins, how it is made and its connection to this wonderful part of the world. Becoming part of this whole extraordinary process by actually buying our own cask seemed like one of the most unique and amazing things we could ever do."
No strangers to the Dingle peninsula over many years, Marie and her family have become regular visitors to the area — especially during the town's Literary and Food festivals.
"We took the tour when the distillery first opened, and I was immediately taken with the idea of having one of my fictional characters in the novel actually work there. Graham Coull, the master distiller, was so generous with his time and information, we just jumped at the idea of actually owning our own cask. We now come and visit the cask every time we're down," she adds.
"Being honest, we love Dingle so much the idea of setting part of my latest book here actually gave us another excuse to be here more often."
Marie stresses that owning a Descendants Cask is not really about any kind of financial investment — rather the chance to own a little part of a place they have come to love: "The flexible payment plan allows us be part of something we might not otherwise have been able to consider.
"Dingle Distillery is a gem, really, and fits so well into the area in what it does and the products it produces. Buying a cask allowed us to be part of something unique that embodies the whole ethos of Dingle — that is what's so special about it."
The Descendants Casks programme invites ordinary people to take a journey with Dingle Distillery across several years in an exclusive investment opportunity of a lifetime.
The current Descendants Cask programme gives individuals, groups and businesses the opportunity to become one of just 100 'Descendants' keen to own a part of something truly unique.
Such has been the level of interest so far, almost half of the casks in the 2022 edition have already been taken up.
"The people who invest are many and varied, and it is pretty much evenly spread across groups and individuals," explains distillery owner Elliot Hughes. "We have always tried to highlight the Descendants 100 as a 'passion project' as opposed to a straightforward investment. In general, people who invest in a cask are passionate about not just whiskey, but Dingle and the whole area.
"For many people, owning one of these casks is an investment of the heart.”
Many owners in the 2022 programme are intending to keep their casks intact beyond the initial eight-year maturation, possibly looking at leaving them to mature to 15 or 20 years.
"Everybody is different, one of our early groups was comprised of 30 people, while we also have a few individuals who have bought a number of casks for themselves. Right from the start we wanted to make this an affordable option through a payment plan that suits the widest number."
Dingle, in its position as a major tourist destination, has also helped spread the word on Descendants 100 Cask programme, Elliot notes: "The last few weeks have seen a definite uptick in interest around the casks, and much of that would be from visitors to Dingle who come on a distillery tour and get very interested in owning a cask of their own. Tourists from around the globe do account for a number of casks purchased."
Going back a half-century to when the Oscar-winning film, Ryan’s Daughter, helped make Dingle’s glorious scenery a global tourism brand, the region has become an enduring visitors favourite. In 2022, Dingle whiskey is adding its unique appeal to the area’s attractions. Publican Daniel McCarthy of McCarthy's Bar on Upper Main Street has seen sales grow steadily over recent years.
"There is no doubt that whiskey is becoming generally more popular, and especially amongst younger drinkers," he says of the spirit's increasing popularity.
"Dingle whiskey itself is becoming very popular, and that's despite being up against the long-established name brands. People are asking for it specifically, and the fact that they are re-ordering it tells you that they like it."
Add the fact that the name Dingle is a global trademark in itself — another huge advantage for the local product: "Someone walking into a bar in Boston or Paris or Madrid and seeing the word 'Dingle' on a bottle will immediately make a subconscious connection — it's actually the best kind of advertising you can get. Dingle whiskey is a name that conjures up magic days in a special place for millions of people. You can't buy that kind of advertising."
Graham Coull points out that the Descendants 100 programme adds a wonderful dimension to his role as Master Distiller.
“Being able to create and share the spirit’s maturation journey with cask owners is a unique and highly rewarding experience. I’m always on hand to support and advise Descendants 100 owners in any way I can.”
Dingle Distillery's Marketing Manager, Doug Leddin, bought a Descendants 100 cask in 2020 — specially set aside for his baby, a boy born the same year.
He sees it as "a gift for the future" that will mature until the day eighteen years from now when father and son can clink glasses from their personal barrel.
"I saw buying a cask the same way as many people — a chance to own a special part of a special place."
Doug sees Dingle Distillery at the forefront of the Irish whiskey revival — a brand that will continue to gather global momentum in the years ahead.
"To own a cask is truly special, and over the coming years as that cask slowly matures, we can visit Dingle to view our cask and I'll be able to educate my son on the whole process of whiskey. It will be something tangible to have when he turns 18."
Jack Cantillon and his 12 friends are part owners of Descendants 2020 Cask number 32. With all of the group scattered around the globe pursuing different careers, the idea of joint ownership keeps the friendship intact — as well as being a fun thing to be involved in.
"We thought that investing together in a cask would be a great way of maintaining our friendship, and so we christened ourselves The Whiskey Barons," Jack explained of this spirited plan.
"Since we initially hatched the idea of buying a cask of whiskey between friends and family, it's all been about trying to bring as many people together as we can to have a bit of fun. It's been a great talking point amongst us all since we bought our cask and we're planning to run an event to bring as many of the members of the Whiskey Barons together as we can in the near future now life is back to normal again."
What the group will do at the end of the eight years' maturation period is the source of some debate, he admits: "Our friend and fellow Whiskey Baron, Jack Danaher, has insisted we hold strong and not touch a drop till as long as possible.
"Our rules are that we vote as group on all the major decisions, from when we bottle our cask to the shape of the bottles, so we'll have a referendum or two on our hands when that time comes around. We plan to make it a great occasion to settle such questions over a few Dingle whiskeys," he laughs.
"We have members of the Whiskey Barons all across Asia and I think no matter where you are in the world, the taste of Dingle will go down well."