Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Glendalough. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
I love that there are so many different steps in the process of making whiskey that can affect its flavor and quality. Which grains are used? What type of still? What barrels are it aged in? How long is it aged? Is it finished in another barrel? It’s chemistry and art with a centuries old legacy.
Glendalough’s 7 Year Single Malt Mizunara Cask leans into the impact the right barrel can have on a whiskey’s flavor. After a “relentless search for the most flavorful oak in the world” Glendalough traveled from Ireland to Hokkaido Japan to source the wood for their barrels for this release. They claim to be the first Irish distillery to use it.
Mizunara oak is highly sought after for whiskey barrels, but comes with a unique set of challenges that set it apart from other oaks. The wood is much more porous than other varieties. This quality is part of what makes mizunara desirable. The space in the wood leads to more interaction between the barrel and the whiskey, which leads to more of the wood’s flavor being imparted into the final product. However, this same quality also makes barrels from this wood prone to leaking. (Aptly named, mizunara literally means “water oak.”)
Other factors, such as trees needing to be 200 years old before being harvested, lack of access to forests, and high prices at public auctions make the wood difficult to obtain. Proponents of the wood laud its ability to confer flavor and the notes of sandalwood, incense, and coconut in addition to oaky vanilla it brings, despite its scarcity.
Glendalough’s 7 Year Single Malt Mizunara Cask was fascinating, complex, and very different from other Irish whiskeys I’ve tasted. I had never had a mizunara aged or finished whiskey before this one, so I do not have a reference for comparison, but I could smell and taste the intense vanilla and spice notes that most likely came from the wood. I was tasting more pepper and cinnamon than incense and coconut, though I could pick up hints of sandalwood at times.
It made me curious to compare against other whiskeys using the same wood, to tease out the influence from the mizunara versus the mash bill.
Tasting Notes: Glendalough 7 Year Single Malt Mizunara Cask
Vital Stats: 7 years old, 46% ABV, SRP: $99.99.
Appearance: The liquid is a clear, golden amber.
Nose: Notes of honey open up to sweet dates and raisins and followed by orange. Light spice and vanilla play throughout.
Palate: The sweetness of the raisins and orange from the nose continues to the palate, but is balanced by dark chocolate, cinnamon, and damp earth. The whiskey has a creamy, oily feel that coats the mouth. The spicy, lingering finish evokes black pepper and cinnamon.