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Irish whiskey

Glendalough 7-year-old single malt, Mizunara virgin oak finish

Earlier this year, I had the privilege to attend the Zoom event for the release of the Glendalough new 7-year-old single malt, finished in Mizunara oak casks from Hokkaido, Japan.

It was a very pleasant evening, where tasters received a set of three samples; a 3-year-old single malt aged in bourbon casks, the same spirit after a total of 7 years in those casks, and then after it had spent 4 months in Mizunara virgin oak.

The use of this wood started during World War II, when Japan had no imports, whisky was a popular drink, and they needed wood to build casks. But it’s not the most straightforward way to make whisky casks. Mizunara oak grows slowly and crookedly, actually when I learned about it, it made me think of my favourite tree in Sweden, the twisted beech (look up Fagus Sylvatica Tortuosa) and when I look at the photo here it’s not unlike it – by the looks anyway.

Mizunara is also more porous than other oak types and retains more water than most other wood types used in whiskey making. So the actual construction is difficult, the wood drying time is long, and given the slow growth, there’s only limited access to these trees.

More detailed information about Mizunara oak used for whisk(e)y can be found here. Glendalough, according to the info I have, was the first Irish whiskey company to use Mizunara, and has used this wood for a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old single malt. I remember tasting the 13-year-old at O’Lochlainn’s whiskey bar in Ballyvaughan, and from what I remember, I really enjoyed it.

This 7-year-old whiskey, like previous releases by Glendalough, is sourced from another distillery, but cask management has been done by the people at Glendalough.

Nose

Pronounced, very aromatic. There’s aromas of floral scented soap, wood, roasted almonds, citrus peel and some tropical fruits. It makes me think of some citrus oil of sorts, although I’m not sure where I’d remember that scent from. I don’t know how an aroma gives an oily feel, but this whiskey has it. With a few drops of water the fruity notes come through stronger.

Palate

Pronounced. Rather dry mouthfeel. I get lots of nuts and almonds of different types, then there’s wood spice and bitter dark chocolate with some orange. The first moment the whiskey enters my mouth it gives a certain, pleasant oiliness but it quickly disappears and there’s a youthful, dry mouthfeel – it seems a bit younger than its 7 years to my palate. The finish is medium, with dry spice and, again, dark chocolate with orange. A few drops of water brings out more sweetness.

I really like the main flavour profile here – the nuttiness mixed with chocolate, wood and citrus is very appealing. It’s elegant, intriguing, and unusual. But I would have wanted more oiliness and more depth and sweetness from the bourbon cask, which would have complimented the Mizunara flavours very well.

Many thanks to Glendalough for inviting me to this event and for the generosity of sending me a bottle!

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