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Glendalough Double Barrel and Single Cask Burgundy, Madeira, and Calvados XO Finishes

Glendalough and single grain whisk(e)y don’t see much coverage on Malt. Today, I hit two birds with one stone.

Glendalough is an Irish distillery whose name means “Valley of the Two Lakes.” It was founded in 2011. Currently, they make Poitin, gin, single malt, and grain whisky. Their single grain is said to be mostly corn with a bit of barley.

This is a brand I’ve known about for a few years but felt unsure about because no one talks about them. Luckily the brand just entered my home market, so the importing company hosted an online tasting with their brand ambassador, Derek King, as the guest speaker.

Like most online tastings, one has to buy a sample set to join. The expressions that were provided were their Double Barrel (refill ex-bourbon & ex-Oloroso sherry), Burgundy single cask finish (pinot noir), Madeira single cask finish (the cask came from a Cantero) and Calvados single cask finish. All of these are non-chill filtered. The colors, too, are consistent, which makes me think there’s added coloring.

Knowing very little about Glendalough, I expected the line-up to consist of single malts, but, I was surprised to learn that these are all single grain whisky. In my defense, the labels of the samples didn’t mention what type of whisky they were. Also, how often do you see single grain whisky as part of a brand’s core range, much less with a double maturation or finishing?

Regardless of the scores I’m going to give, I’ll go ahead and say that these really impressed me. They’re unlike other single grain whiskies I’ve tried due to their being more full bodied and oily. My attention was divided that evening, so I forgot to ask Derek about the more technical aspects of their production process. So, a few days after the tasting, I tried doing some research on the distillery. I ended up on Whisky.com, which showed images of their stills:

For context, these stills are often referred to as hybrid stills because it’s a mix of a pot and column. However, I’ve heard more distinguished industry people say it’s wrong to call them hybrid stills, since stills should only be classified as batch or continuous stills. From what I know, these stills can only do batch distillation.

I’m not sure which of these stills they use for the grain whisky distillation, but if I were to guess, it’s the one with multiple plates under the Glendalough logo. Their single grain whiskies are, I think, more full-bodied and oily due to the size of their stills. Most Scotch grain whisky come from giant multi column stills that generally produce light spirits. With the small size of these stills and with my guess that these only batch distill, it explains why the grain whisky retains more weight, which results in more full-bodiedness and oiliness. More plates and more columns in continuous distillation usually lead to lighter spirits; just think vodka or really light-bodied aged spirits such as Bacardi and Scotch grain whisky.

Glendalough Double Barrel – Review

42% ABV. £33.45  from The Whisky Exchange. USD $52 locally.

Color: Honey.

On the nose: There’s a persistent medium heat that goes away after a few minutes. Behind that are lots of medium fruit aromas. I get a creamy but short and messy mix of marzipan, honeydew melon, cantaloupes, cherries, honey, starfruit, butterscotch, and figs.

In the mouth: The creaminess is gone, but it’s fruitier than on the nose. There’s also a lot less ethanol heat but it nips you at the end. I get light and round tastes of honeydew melons, jammed cherries, vanilla, muscovado sugar, jammed berries, starfruit, star apples, butterscotch, nutmeg, cloves and honey.

Conclusions:

This is one of the better double-matured whiskeys I’ve had lately. Despite the ex-wine influence, I don’t get sulfur, which makes me think they treat their casks properly before putting whisky in them.

From what I sensed, there’s more sherry and distillery DNA influence on the nose. While there’s more balance between ex-bourbon and ex-sherry in the mouth.

I love the texture and flavors I get from this. This might be the oiliest single grain whisky I’ve had yet. The flavors in here make it pretty enjoyable and complex… I just wish they lasted longer, since each note only presented itself for as long as the blink of an eye.

Score: 7/10

Glendalough Single Cask Burgundy Finish – Review

42% ABV. USD $50 locally.

Color: Apple juice.

On the nose: Very grape-forward. It’s very tart and floral, which makes me think of grape-flavored jelly aces with a bit of Marc muskiness. A quick ethanol bite comes out after. Behind these are light aromas of elderflower, honeysuckle, chocolate-covered cranberries, prunes and peppers.

In the mouth: Very similar to the nose but not as intense. The grape-flavored jelly aces are still there. But the other other fruity notes are less noticeable. I get honey, chocolate, cranberries, raisins, honeysuckle, elderflower, Juicy Fruit bubble gum and grape skin.

Conclusions:

I find this to be one-dimensional. All I get is the cask influence, but that’s not surprising with this being a grain whisky, meaning the distillate is light and is more likely to be taken over by the cask.

I’m not sure what to call this. It can’t be called a sherry-bomb since Burgundy is not sherry. Perhaps this can be called a grape bomb? Regardless, I enjoyed tasting a different ex-wine cask influence from the usual Oloroso or PX sherry or Port. They may all be grape-based, but they give off different flavors.

Score: 6/10

Glendalough Single Cask Madeira Finish – Review

42% ABV. USD $50 locally.

Color: Amber.

On the nose: The heat here is similar to what I got from the Burgundy single cask. There’s a creaminess that comes with an assortment of dark fruits. I get light aromas of brandied cherries, dark cherries, pavlova cake, marzipan, plums, butterscotch, and oranges.

In the mouth: Almost the same as the on the nose, but the creaminess is at the middle and the end rather than at the front. I get light tastes of brandied cherries, plums, butterscotch, toffee, nuts, dark cherries, pavlova cake, blueberry syrup and orange peels.

Conclusions:

As much as I love spirits matured in ex-Madeira casks, this was a bit disappointing. It’s a pleasure to drink but it lacks coherence, character and depth. I wish the flavors were more expressive. They’re just too shy and clumped up. The Madeira flavors are also lacking.

Score: 5/10

Glendalough Single Cask Calvados XO Finish – Review

42% ABV. USD $50 locally.

Color: Honey.

On the nose: This is a fruit bomb. I get light to medium aromas of apples, pears, starfruit, honey, caramelized pineapples, toffee, butterscotch, cinnamon, blueberry syrup and cloves.

In the mouth: Also a fruit bomb. Like on the nose, I get light tastes of apples with skin, pears with skin, starfruit, honey, starapple, apple cider, soursop and pineapples.

Conclusions:

I like this a lot. It’s nice to see more brands use ex-Calvados casks for a secondary maturation. These bring different kinds of flavors, which can be a godsend for those who are sick of the industry’s monotonous tendency to flood the market with ex-sherry cask matured whisky.

The complexity in this is just right. To add to that, the flavors are refreshing and coherent. It’s easy to pick out what kind of fruits and confectionery notes you’re tasting. I find this easy to drink, yet also interesting despite the good price, NAS or not.

Score: 7/10

Image of Glendalough’s stills is courtesy of Whisky.com. Images of the bottles are courtesy of Manila Wine.

CategoriesIrish
  1. Whiskey Nut says:

    It’s always been my understanding that Glendalough source their whiskey from other Irish distilleries.
    They do mature, blend & bottle to their own specifications & guidance as do many others.
    None of this takes away from the flavour.
    They do make their own gin but to my knowledge never released any of their own distilled whiskey.

    1. John says:

      Hi!

      You’re right that they sourced whisky from other distilleries. But I think 10 or 11 years is enough time for them to have started distilling and aging their own whisky. The stills they have aren’t the conventional ones but I’ve seen some US distillers like St. George use similar hybrid stills.

      1. whiskey mystic says:

        10 or 11 years is more than enough time to release their own whiskey but unfortunately i dont think they ever did!! A good article worth ready is
        on the tripledistilled blog titled prologues-and-epilogues. Gives a good overview of the company.

  2. Paul Hercberg says:

    Sorry that this starts out so negatively, but…

    About two so years ago I bought a bottle of the Double Barrel from a MaxiMarkt.

    It was nearly undrinkable. Pleasant enough nose and then the palate started ok but immediately disappeared dragging all flavour with it. Absolutely no middle at all (something a recent bottle of Klonakilty also does). I had an evening with freinds comparing it to some truly ghastly Austrian and Swiss whisky and it struggled to come out on top.

    Awful to the point where if someone gave it a glowing review I immediately questioned the taste of that site/person.

    But I’ve been reading Malt Review long enough to trust you. Did I get a bad bottle? Have they changed the recipe? Something else, maybe? Does the same go for the Klonakilty? Perhaps I just have bad luck with Irish Whiskey (though a recent Redbreast 12 Cask Strength changed that).

    1. John says:

      Hi Paul,

      Sorry to hear about your bad experience a while back. You also don’t need to apologize for sharing it. I think it’s possible you had a bad batch. Distilleries often don’t get everything right after they start. Maybe what they bottled wasn’t up to par but they just had to make money.

      I haven’t had Klonakilty nor do I know anything about them so I can’t comment.

      1. Paul Hercberg says:

        I have seen that the restaurant in my office building has a bottle. I may have to try a dram when I am not driving and see if it was just a bad bottle that I had.

    2. Phil says:

      I also had a horrible experience with the Double Barrel. Based on that bottle, I have been very hesitant to try any of their other products. Very off putting aroma and taste.

  3. Joel says:

    Thanks for your reviews. Your experience with the Double Barrel is markedly different than mine. A good friend purchased a bottle last summer and I struggled to find any aromas or flavours other than ethanol, bitterness, and icing sugar. I suppose it could be batch variation or even that my nose and palate were “off” that day. Of course, our likes are all unique so maybe this one just doesn’t work for me. The cask finishes sound interesting, but I wouldn’t buy without trying first.

    1. John says:

      Hi Joel,

      With all the negative comment towards the Double Barrel, I’m starting to think Manila must have gotten lucky with the batch we got.

      Despite the scores and having tried the cask finishes, I wouldn’t buy full bottles too. Them being single casks sounds too risky.

  4. Surfs says:

    Hi John,
    I’ll add to the comments that, my bottle of Glendalough Double Barrel was perhaps the most boring whiskey I’ve ever had. I’m curious if something has changed. I had mine in 2018-ish.
    I used it up as quick as possible so as to move on to better bottles. Very one dimensional.

    1. John says:

      Hi Surfs,

      Perhaps they’re doing a better job at blending the Double Barrel now? It’s my 1st experience with this brand. Or maybe we just got lucky with the batch we got.

      1. Joel says:

        John,

        I think perhaps this highlights how variable and volatile whisk(e)y can be. Unless people are drinking from the same bottle at the same place and at the same time, direct comparisons are tricky. The Double Barrel isn’t too expensive where I live so I might be willing to split a bottle with some local friends to give it another go. Perhaps Glendalough has gotten better at blending, or maybe the batch I tried was sub par.

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