Last weekend we carefully (and somewhat nervously) opened this beautifully battered and dusty bottle of original Dunville’s Three Crowns Special Liqueur Whisky.
While we aren’t sure of the exact year of bottling, this would have been bottled in bond at The Royal Irish Distilleries in Belfast some time before its closure in 1936. A throwback to a time when Belfast was as famous for its whiskey as it was for its ship building and linen industries and Dunville’s was among the world’s finest and best known whiskeys.
Earlier this year, this bottle has found its way to Dunville’s new home here at Echlinville. Since the moment it arrived, we’ve looked forward to opening it and taking a journey back in time to the heyday of The Spirit of Belfast.
So, what happened when we cracked the seal? Here are a few notes from our distiller Graeme on opening this very special bottle and sharing it with a room full of Dunville’s fans who had joined us to celebrate the past, present and future of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.
“A journey into the unknown. Bottles like this don’t come along very often. We were both excited and apprehensive at the prospect of sharing it with the room.
“The cork was sound but very delicate. Removing it carefully, it broke up a lot but smelled fresh – the first clue that what lay within the bottle had remained unspoilt for more than 80 years.
“The liquid level in the bottle looked like it had only dropped a little – perhaps just 15mm – during the years of storage, raising my hopes that the ‘spiritiness’ of the liquid had been maintained. The label read 70% proof – that’s around 38.4% abv according to the old English method of calculation (70% proof divided by 1.821).
“Now for the pour. A very careful pour. The colour was a rich amber and perfectly clear. Just beautiful.
“On the nose, a subtle and short lived medicinal note which is the only hint that this whiskey has spent many years in a bottle. I picked up delicate, sweet grain and a surprising freshness, a hint of wood and a little toffee and butterscotch.
“At last, the opportunity to taste this little piece of Dunville’s proud history. Creamy on the palate. Slight toffee and even more subtle liquorice notes. A sweet, barley rich flavour. If it was a contemporary whiskey I would say it’s double distilled with at least an element of pot still character. Mild pears and slight grain bitterness with no adverse signs of age. The balance is wonderful. It’s spirity, probably very close to the original bottling strength. A soft rather than an intense whiskey.
“The nose develops with building intensity of wood, the overall experience becoming more robust as the whiskey sits in the glass.
“What a privilege to be able to taste this whiskey and an absolute honour to share it with everyone in the room.”
Click here to find out more about the history and heritage of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.