Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit, Dear Reader! Being a displaced Irish-American, today is one of my very favorite days of the year—it’s Saint Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, we’re going to do something a little differently and post a whiskey review (an Irish whiskey, of course). To tie the review to the theme of the Table better, look for the great Irish coffee recipe at the end of the post.
The Glendalough Distillery was founded in 2011 by five friends from Wicklow and Dublin with a deep passion for reviving the heritage of craft distilling in Ireland—Donal O’Gallachoir, Brian Fagan, Barry Gallagher, Kevin Keenan, and Gary McLoughlin. It is named for the beautiful Glendalough Valley, which translates as “the glen of two lakes.” The labels feature St. Kevin of the 6th century, who lived in a cave in the valley. Legend has it that he was so still a blackbird nested in his hand.
In the 18th and 19th centuries there were over 200 licensed distilleries in Ireland and along with countless unlicensed ones produced diverse styles of poitín, whiskey, gin and even absinthe. Until recently that dropped to a small handful. Glendalough Distillery is now part of a revival of this heritage. The idea behind Glendalough Distillery is to make innovative spirits while staying true to the tradition and heritage of our ancestors. Initially we started with the first ever spirit, poitín and since then have moved to whiskey and most recently the release of our seasonal, wild botanical gins.
Ireland’s first craft distillery gives you a whole new style of Irish whiskey. Irish Whiskey is a very strictly regulated industry which has four mandatory standards: it must be distilled and aged in Ireland; it must be distilled yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains; it must be aged for at least three years in wooden barrels of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres; and if the whiskey is a blend of two or more such distillates, the product must be called a “blended” Irish whiskey
Glendalough Double Barrel is a single grain whiskey, aged first in American Bourbon barrels and finished in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. This single grain will blast the cobwebs off the Irish whiskey category. A new and unique style of light and floral whiskey distilled in a Coffey still (like whiskey, another great Irish invention!) from a mash bill of Irish malted barley and corn. It spends three and a half years in American oak first-fill Bourbon barrels before being finished for six months in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. Both barrels are porous too, allowing Ireland’s temperate, maritime air through to make its impression.*
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey, from Glendalough Distillery in Wicklow, Ireland. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Region: Wicklow, Ireland
Distiller: Glendalough Distillery
Mashbill: Irish malted barley, corn
Cask: ex-Bourbon, ex-Oloroso
Age: 4 years
ABV: 84 Proof
Upon pouring the whiskey into my glass, visually speaking, the Glendalough Double Barrel is a translucent, pale gold, and its nose is very elegant and pretty complex; scents of charred oak, vanilla, dark fruits (cherry, raisin, fig), blackberry, flowers, mint sprig, and lemongrass.
The taste is initially sweet, with the sherry and malts coming through first. It has a dry flavor profile; one that is highlighted by flavors of raisin, apple, pine needles, juniper, nutty tones, and butterscotch. And of course, with both barrels being made of oak, I’m getting those beautiful wood and vanilla threads you’d expect to run through an Irish whiskey. This sweetness quickly gives way to a sharp, clean finish that is spicy (peppercorn, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg) and gives off a lot of malty/grainy heat.
Light body; creamy mouthfeel; clean finish.
Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey is a nice little sipper. For such a young whiskey, it isn’t at all harsh or difficult to drink; it’s really rather pleasant. It’s light and smooth on the tongue in terms of mouthfeel, and subtle on the palate in terms of flavor.
And, as promised, here is my recipe for a dynamite Irish coffee:
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (with the Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey, I recommend using an Ecuador or Peru to enhance the whiskey’s floral and dried fruit flavors); 1 tbsp brown sugar; 3 tbsps Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey; heavy cream, slightly whipped. Pour the coffee into a warmed glass until it’s about ¾ full. Add the brown sugar and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Blend in the whiskey. Slowly and gently pour the cream over the back of a spoon held over the beverage. Garnish with three coffee beans.
For those of you who are more adventurous and want to get away from the all-too ubiquitous Irish coffee, might I suggest Sean Muldoon’s take on the Tipperary cocktail, the Dead Rabbit Tipperary.
*content provided by Glendalough Distillery
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.