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Dick Mack's   As we continue our series on great whiskey bars, Peter White chats with Finn MacDonnell and discusses the history and magic behind this this multi-award winning bar in Dingle, Co. Kerry.egal Definition of Irish Whiskey & its Misconceptions   PW: Finn, it’s wonderful to be here again. Can you tell us about the history of the bar, a bit about your background and how you got involved? Finn: My great grandfather Tom Mac Donnell was the stationmaster of the light railway which ran into Dingle town at the time and he opened what is now Dick Mack’s pub in 1899. His son Richard MacDonnell who was born in 1905, later assumed control of the bar and it was his name that went over the doors in accordance with his father’s wishes. Dick Mack had 5 children in total; Maurice, Tommy, Fidelma and twins Ronald and Oliver. Oliver (my uncle) was the mainstay of Dick Mack’s and he would often attend markets including the Dandelion Market at St. Stephens Green in Dublin to set up his leather stall, spreading the good word of Dingle and Dick Mack’s whilst there. Dick Mack’s opened to serve light refreshments to the rail passengers and locals alike. It served as a bar and also as a goods store where one could purchase anything from a tin of beans to loose leaf tea. It was also the main leather store in Dingle and today this tradition still continues. My grandfather also used to purchase whiskey from distilleries and bottle that whiskey. We also have our own water supply which we use to supply the pub and surrounding buildings. I became involved in Dick Mack’s shortly after I left college in Cork when my father Ron asked me to help Oliver manage the bar. To say that my uncle is eccentric and a character would be a huge understatement and when I first started working there, I had to hit the ground running. At that time I wouldn’t have believed that I would still be here now but a number of things happened which changed my future thinking. The pub is located opposite the Catholic Church on Green Street in the heart of Dingle. Green St. joins Main St. to Strand St. and the marina/harbour. We have added a few bars over the years and a beer garden, but the original bar and the old family house which form the main business are still open to the public and remain unchanged and a listed building.    - "It all started with the movie Ryan's Daughter" -   PW: What type of clients do you cater for now and how has tourism impacted the bar and the town? How did Dick Mack’s evolve and become an award-winning whiskey bar? Finn: There is no ‘typical’ customer in Dick Mack’s. It has a strong local base and a massive tourist trade. Despite the fact that it is on the tourist map and the Ireland Whiskey Trail, it has retained all its old-world charm and is known for being a conversational pub where the walls could you tell a thousand tales. Since becoming Dingle’s  first whiskey bar, we now, of course, have several ‘whiskey’ visitors, curious to see just what all of the fuss is about. Tourism has had a massive impact on Dingle over the years. This started when the movie Ryan’s Daughter was shot here and since then the main visitors have been Irish, American, British and German. We would like to think that we would get a lot of Japanese tourists in the town once the new distillery is established and its excellent product is known worldwide. Of course, Fungi the dolphin arrived in the harbour in 1983 and has effectively carried the town of Dingle on his back since then. The main challenge faced by the bar itself has been the large increase in numbers and coping with that. The local bars were not built to handle such an increase in patrons and you have to adapt and add on facilities such as extra bars and facilities. We are constantly looking at ways to provide a more rounded experience for our customers and always have new ideas in the pipeline. There has been a huge increase in Americans visiting the bar for whiskey. We find they arrive early and will budget for three to four whiskeys often venturing high up the ladder. This type of visitor is new to Dick Mack’s and is a direct result of our whiskey venture. Germans are big whiskey drinkers but they find it expensive here in Ireland. Apart from those demographics, each and every day someone will wander in and sample a couple of whiskeys. We do of course fly the Irish flag here and that is what our patrons want. From a customer service point of view, we stress to all of our employees just how important it is to interact with each and every customer who visits, regardless of how busy we are. This staff and customer interaction is what sets us apart from other pubs. We have enthusiastic staff who enjoy their job and love to meet new people. There is a sense of pride here and we want everyone to enjoy their time at Dick Mack’s.    - "the importance of interacting" -   PW: What changes have you made here Finn? How has the whiskey bar and the range of whiskeys in stock evolved, with a highlight of any treasured possessions? How did the Irish Whiskey Society influence your thinking? Finn: Everyone before me has left their stamp on the pub in some shape or form and I suppose it’s only natural that I’d like to do the same. I’m still a young man but the biggest change that I’ve enacted in the pub to date is to cultivate the whiskey bar. To be honest, I knew very little about whiskey until you and I had a discussion about the subject and Irish whiskey in particular around November 2013. You were lamenting the fact that every bar in the town had a very limited offering where uisce beatha was concerned and we had just finished off a bottle of Lahroaig which a customer had left in the bar. I recall that you spent an entire Sunday afternoon convincing me of the merits of expanding our Irish whiskey collection and getting an Irish whiskey bar off the ground and although initially I just wanted to get you out of the bar, some of what you had said did resonate with me. If you recall, upon your next visit from Dublin, you brought with you a bottle each of Green Spot and a Limited Edition Irishman 12 which went down very well with the locals. At that point we had perhaps 12 whiskeys stocked in total. Dick Mack’s is now stocking over 200 different whiskeys. You then convinced me to host the first Irish Whiskey Society tasting outside of Dublin in the bar in April 2014 and this event really opened my eyes to the lure of uisce beatha. I can recall that we had advertised for 25 places, but we had nearly 40 in the room including several members who had travelled from Dublin for the event. The support shown by the society was tremendous, and I became a member myself at that point and started going to Dublin for their tastings. These tastings are very informative, relaxed and good fun. The main thing we have taken from it is that everyone in the society is more than willing to offer their opinion and help. I never felt afraid to ask a question in my quest to learn about whiskey and for this, I must thank each and every member. You suggested that we become a member of the Ireland Whiskey Trail which we did and this helped make public that we were intent on becoming a serious whiskey bar.   PW: One year later and I was representing the pub at the second Irish Whiskey Awards in Kilbeggan distillery. You were in the United States at the time and couldn’t believe it when I called to tell you that Dick Mack’s had won not only the Munster title but also the overall Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year for the first time. Finn: The awards mean so much to everyone in Dick Mack’s and the town itself. The awards have helped put Dingle on the map as a whiskey destination. So much hard work has gone into the whiskey side of things and everyone really has made an effort to learn more, spread the word and support it. The award just proved to us that hard work pays off and that our belief that this bar is a bar where everyone is welcome to come in and talk is true. That’s how it all started, everyone felt they could come in and open the subject of whiskey with us. We knew just as much or as little as them so it was a journey everyone could take together. We take great pride in listening as our locals at the bar give their informed recommendations to strangers when they enter the pub. The award greatly helped this and our locals proudly say ‘this is the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year’ to anyone who even glances at the bottles on the shelves. Being featured on the cover of ‘Whiskey Magazine’ last year was a proud moment also. It shows that we are on the right track with what we are doing and with the direction we are taking. Together with the new Dingle distillery, which started distilling its first new make spirit shortly after we took the decision to travel down the whiskey road, we are working very hard to make Dingle the whiskey capital of Ireland. You helped train the staff and held tastings and last year, a Dingle chapter of the society was begun in earnest. We had terrific help and support from the distilleries and their ambassadors and here in Dingle, we now have 6 to 8 decent whiskey bars all helping to promote Irish whiskey going forward. I often wonder what we conversed about prior to starting down the whiskey trail, it has grown that much now.    - "Nano brewery will supply Dick Mack’s with its own unique high quality beer." -   PW: What are the future plans? Is there Music? Hotel? Finn: For 2017 we have set up a permanent tasting room in Dick Mack’s which will hold weekly tastings. You, Derek O’Sullivan and I will be hosting these and our focus is to provide quality content for each tasting. We will pick a different topic each week from Pot Still whiskey to Japanese. We have to keep looking out and not inwards! We love having
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