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Glendalough Pot Still

Single pot still whiskey, made from a mash bill containing both malted and unmalted barley, is perhaps Ireland’s most iconic style of whiskey (think Redbreast, or the famous – variously coloured – Spot whiskeys).

Notably missing from the name of this particular whiskey from Glendalough, however, is the word “single.” This is because Glendalough’s Pot Still whiskey is not a single pot still whiskey. The spirit was actually distilled especially for Glendalough at an undisclosed distillery, and in accordance with Glendalough’s specifications (in this case, two parts unmalted barley to one part malted barley). The spirit was then handed over to Glendalough to mature and bottle. Given that more than one distillery was involved in the making of this whiskey, it cannot be called a single pot still whiskey.

This is the first pot still whiskey that Glendalough has released, and apparently it is also the first Irish whiskey to be matured (at least in part) in Irish oak casks… at least in the last 100 years. They have opted to mature the whiskey for the majority of the time in ex-bourbon, American oak casks, and to finish the whiskey in virgin Irish oak casks. The use of Irish oak is something Glendalough regards as integral to making the most iconic of Irish whiskeys (a pot still whiskey) even more Irish.

The Irish oak they use is sourced from the mountainous areas that surround the distillery. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the fact that their felling of Irish oaks is a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice: for every single oak they fell they plant seven replacement saplings.

This intriguing whiskey is made even more interesting by the information-packed label on the bottle, which includes a tree number, cask number, batch number and bottle number. So, the label on your particular bottle of Glendalough Pot Still will tell you which particular Irish oak they felled went on to form which particular cask your whisky was aged in; in my case, this was Tree No. 1, and Cask No. 1.

I had been told that if you visit the distillery’s website, they even had short video clips of each one of the oak trees being felled and converted into casks, but this is no longer the case. In fact, you won’t find any information about their Pot Still whiskey on their Global website anymore, although, (curiously) you can still find a little information about it on their US website. It still seems to be fairly widely available (according to the distillery, to date they have released well over 300 casks to markets worldwide), but it does not appear to form part of their core range. There has been some talk about Glendalough opting to produce very own single pot still whiskey in the future, with this particular whiskey being something of a trial run.

The fact that this bottle of whiskey will tell one the number of the individual cask it has been aged in might mislead one into thinking that it’s a single cask whiskey, but this whiskey was only finished in the individually numbered Irish oak cask (and it’s not clearly stated how much time it spent in these individual casks before being bottled. Presumably not very long, as this is a non-age-statement whiskey.

Yet, given the details provided on each bottle of Glendalough’s Pot Still whiskey, there does seem to exist the potential for some variation in taste from bottle to bottle (namely that the whiskey from Batch No. 3 and aged Cask No. 1 and the whiskey from Batch No. 4 and aged in Cask No. 2 could taste a little different from one another, or perhaps even the whiskey aged in a cask made from Tree No. 1 could taste a little different to the whiskey aged in a cask made from Tree No. 5, etc.). Variation in flavour from batch to batch would likely be more obvious than any variation in flavour from cask to cask or tree to tree. However subtle the latter, it is not necessarily impossible that one would be able to detect a difference.

After all, no two casks of whiskey ever taste exactly the same. The intricate interplay of seemingly minor variables such as subtle differences in wood grain, or slight variations in temperature and humidity within the layout of the warehouse can contribute to imparting a distinct flavour profile to a whiskey. Conducting an experiment in which one compared two different bottles of Glendalough’s Pot Still whiskey side by side could therefore be an interesting experience. However, at $48 (roughly the same price as Aberlour 12), it’s an experiment I have found myself a little unwilling to try.

Glendalough Pot Still – Review

Colour: Warm gold.

On the nose: Some toffee. Freshly baked bread gives way to a sweet fruitiness that reminds me of pineapple. There is a distinctly savoury note lurking in the background that makes me think of a spice sometimes used in the curing of biltong: ground coriander seeds. There’s a little sharpness on the nose, like the spicy prickle of white pepper.

In the mouth: Marzipan. A simple sugar sweetness makes an appearance, but it’s hard to call this a sweet whiskey. Quite spicy, with a distinctive woody note. The texture is quite light and dry, and the finish is a little bitter, redolent of dark unsweetened cocoa.

The remaining residue on the glass smells much richer and more like oak and milk chocolate than anything previously detected.

Conclusions:

This is a non-age statement release, so it’s likely fairly young. This could well be the reason for some of the more astringent notes detected. I’m convinced that this whisky is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; that distinctive savoury/cheesy aroma strikes me as a divisive flavour note (in a similar way that the medicinal note in Laphroaig has become something of a love or hate affair for many people). For all that, this has the potential to be an interesting whisky to try. I would not exactly describe this whisky as delicious, but I did find myself intrigued by some of the unusual aromas and flavours I detected. If you’re looking for something a little different to try, this could be a bottle worth exploring.

Score: 4/10

CategoriesIrish
Genevieve

Genevieve is a whisky enthusiast from South Africa with a PhD in Philosophy, so she enjoys drinking and thinking about whisky. She loves tasting new whiskies whenever she gets the chance - so much so that a few years ago she set up a small whisky tasting business, "Kenton on Whisky", in the tiny coastal town where she lives (an excellent excuse to grow her selection of whiskies beyond reasonable limits).

  1. Surfs says:

    Nice review! I am not surprised with the score, I haven’t loved various Glendalough whiskeys that I have tried.
    It is worth noting that Midleton has been producing through their Dair Ghaelach series for a while, Irish whiskey (and single pot still at that) that has been finished in Irish oak. So the part about this being the first Irish whiskey to be in Irish oak barrels is not true. https://www.midletonveryrare.com/en/our-whiskey/dair-ghaelach I have a bottle of the Bluebell Forest edition and it is simply wonderful.

    1. Genevieve says:

      Ah, thank you for the correction!
      And I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest edition – the whole range sound really interesting! – although I imagine it’ll be near impossible to find in my neck of the woods.

  2. Whiskey Mystic says:

    Technically, this actually is a single pot still, it was entirely distilled in West Cork distillers, the reason the single part was left off the label, was because the intention was for Glendalough to blend in their own pot still whiskey when that came of age. However, the distillery has never actually produced any whiskey in its history, and apparently has no plans to either(thats why theres nothing on their website). They only make gin and third party source all their whiskey.
    I had this when it first came out and was without question the worst whiskey i have ever tasted! It just tasted like sulfur, burnt rubber and melted plastic. I suspect thats the cheesy aroma you got aswell.

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