It isn’t often that you see a new name on the liquor shelf, and even less frequently that the same new face claims a heritage over 200 years in the making. So while Dunville’s might be a new brand to us whiskey drinkers here in the States, for those in Northern Ireland it might practically be considered a household name.
The Belfast, Ireland based Dunville Distillery was founded in 1808 by William Napier and John Dunvill. Dunvill would eventually buy his partner out, and through the years he and his family grew the business into an Irish icon. The distillery repeatedly gave back to the community, creating a local football team, and donating the land that would become Dunville Park.
Ownership of the distillery passed down through the family until in 1935, when the fifth generation owner Robert Lambart Dunville died unexpectedly leaving no one to inherit the role. The distillery stopped distilling, and in 1936 the company was liquidated with the distillery facility destroyed.
Seventy seven years later, in 2013, the Echlinville Distillery was founded in Belfast as the first new licensed distillery in the city in 125 years. They decided to use the Dunville name for one of their lines of whiskey and started putting bottles on the shelves with that historic name once again.
Despite the historic name, there really isn’t any connection between this modern expression and that original version. And there isn’t much information about what is in this bottle, either.
As a blended Irish whiskey, they claim that this spirit comes from a mixture of grain alcohol and versions of malted barley based alcohol — but the exact grains used or the production method aren’t disclosed. Whatever they are, we can assume these components are cooked, fermented, and then distilled to create the raw alcohol.
Also missing is any discussion of aging. Usually, whiskey is placed into oak barrels for a period of time to impart some interesting flavors and color, but no information regarding the aging process has been disclosed here.
There’s a lot of text on the bottle… but it doesn’t say anything.
In general, it’s a pretty good design with a label that evokes late 1800’s Victorian era advertisements. The bottle itself is glass, with a cylindrical body, pronounced shoulder, and a rather large bulge in the short neck. Wrapped around that bottle is an angled white wrapper, similar to how the Johnny Walker brand does their styling — but this is taking up the majority of the space on the bottle. It’s to the point that you can barely see the contents.
It’s fine… but it looks like they spent a ton of money on flashy branding to get you to try and ignore the contents.
Despite the light color, there’s actually a pretty good aroma coming off the glass. It isn’t just the usual alcohol element — there are some good age induced items in here. Specifically, I’m getting a good hit of caramel with a little bit of vanilla backing it up. There’s also some fruit mixed in there with a touch of orange and some sweet pear.
Taking a sip, this is pretty good for what’s technically an Irish whiskey. There’s some malty graham cracker flavors that start things off, followed by a bit of honey, some lemon citrus, and finishing off with a hint of vanilla. On the aftertaste, I might even see a bit of black pepper spice that kicks in, contributing a bit of tingle to the lips.
Ice can be a deceptively tough challenge for a spirit. That added dilution and lowering of the temperature tends to eliminate many of the lighter and sweeter aspects of a spirit, leaving behind only the deeper and more well saturated components. Which is exactly what has happened here.
All that remains is the malty graham cracker component and perhaps a touch of brown sugar sweetness. The honey and the citrus which made this an interesting spirit when taken neat have all but disappeared, leaving behind something much more mediocre.
I appreciate the consistent period branding but the problem is that, just like the original gilded age, there’s nothing under the surface. It’s all flash with no actual details. It’s a bottle of unknown origin and contents, produced under a famous historical name that they have no direct connection with, using branding from an era over a hundred years prior to when this specific whiskey producer opened up shop. Given that this blog favors honesty and transparency, that’s not really something that we can endorse.
As for the spirit itself, there are some good flavors here… but it isn’t blowing my socks off. I’d be more impressed if this was an in-house product that they were putting on the market for the first time — but due to the unknown provenance, it’s hard to decipher how much of that good flavor is purchased versus how much the distillery themselves created.
|Dunville's 1808 Blended Irish Whiskey|
Produced By: Dunville'sProduction Location: Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $24.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
I prefer when distilleries spend a little more time on the contents of the bottle than the bottle itself.