Hey whisk(e)y lovers guess what? Ireland is back and better than ever. Once the world’s most accomplished producer of premium whiskey, Ireland met a stark decline throughout the course of the 19th century. From the ashes of the Irish single pot still emerged a new beacon of hope, single malt Scotch whisky. For years Scotland has held the crown as the king of the premium whisky industry. Today, however, we are witnessing a total emergence of “new” single malts from Japan to Taiwan to India. . /react-text
react-text: 71 But what about Ireland? Fortunately for the OG of fine whisk(e)y, a new generation of artisans are determined to revive the heritage of traditional Irish craft distilling. Leading the charge is a new distillery from the small town of Wicklow known as “Glendalough” (Glenda-LOCK).
The Glendalough distillery was established by 5 friends on a mission to return Irish whiskey to its roots. They began by distilling poitin, an ancient, visceral spirit claimed to be the world’s first distillled drink. With mild success under their belt, Glendalough quickly moved on to distilling, aging, and bottling whiskey. Today, their lineup includes two single grain whiskeys, a 7 year old single malt, a 13 year old single malt, three poitins, and a wild botanical gin.
The 13 year old single malt (pictured above) is undoubtedly the flagship of the Glendalough brand. It won the award for Best Irish Whiskey at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (the big one) and it happens to be my personal favorite expression in their lineup. It is made from 100% malted barley, distilled in traditional Irish copper pot stills and matured for a full 13 years in American oak ex-Bourbon casks. It is naturally colored, unchillfiltered and bottled at a respectable 46% ABV. On paper it sounds good but how good is it really? Let’s get to it…
On the nose, ok wow very decadent. A light, subtly complex aroma of thick vanilla, bright oak and a hint overly ripe banana. There is a strong hint of spiced ginger bread, some honey and a touch of burnt orange peel. A beautiful note of carmelized sugar and a full batch of freshly baked goods. Very assertive, relatively straightforward but intriguingly seductive in its unveiling of one aroma after the next.
On the palate, it starts off very smooth with a delicate delivery of warm oak, some toasted caramel and a mild cinnamon spice. The natural oils of the American oak casks coat the mouth with a lush, creamy texture delivering layers upon layers of rich bourbon flavors. Beautiful really. Just when the flavor starts fading away, BAM! A punchy resurgence of cracked pepper, clove and fresh pine needles. For those of you who like whiskey, I mean REALLY like whiskey, you know that texture is an important factor in the tasting experience. The viscosity here is perfect for what it is. It’s rich and oily without being overly meaty. The finish is quite long but for a whiskey as good as this, any ending is a sad one.
So in conclusion, this is one of the good ones. Perfect for the upcoming fall season. At $90 USD it’s not cheap but I think most would agree that the price is fair for what you get. The Glendalough 7 year old, in my opinion, has more of a “true Irish” character. A bit more brash around the edges while still maintaining an excellent balance. Come to think of it, this 13 year old is somewhat reminiscent of a Highland single malt Scotch whisky. So I would say this, if you like Irish whiskey, you’ll like this one. If you want to try Irish whiskey, this is arguably as approachable as it gets. If you “only drink single malt Scotch”, here is your gateway to a broader world. As they say in Ireland, sláinte!