It is no secret that I have started to delve into the world of whisky – or whiskey when talking the Irish stuff – more recently. Nevertheless, truth be told, I am still a novice when it comes to whisk(e)y tasting.
The exciting part this is, I still have lots to discover ahead of me.
With my knowledge limited so far to few Scotch Single Malts and German whiskies, International Irish Whiskey Day celebrated on 3rd March of course looked like the perfect reason to get started on Irish whiskey.
In normal times, I would have started this most likely with a distillery visit. Especially since Ireland, one of the major historic whiskey producing nations, has been on my bucket list for quite a while. Thus, it’s safe to say when traveling will be possible again, a distillery tour through Ireland along with exploring some of the islands most exciting places is definitely on the cards.
In the meantime, I had to be content ordering a bottle of Irish whiskey and experimenting with a couple of whiskey cocktails.
I have also played around with the idea to get creative in the kitchen and create some dishes with whisky / whiskey lately, but still need to figure out the best combinations. Thus, I have saved this for later this month, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up in less than two weeks’ time. Stay tuned for some ideas coming up here shortly.
Where to get started on Irish Whiskey
Thankfully, there is now a great choice when it comes to Irish Whiskey. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, Irish whiskey is currently the fastest growing spirit in the world (or at least, it was in 2019).
In any case, the number of Irish whiskey distilleries has gone up to more than 25 at the time of writing this. If that sounds low for one of the early hotspots of whiskey production, you are certainly right. But the number is actually up from just two that were still operating by the late 1970s, after the downturn of Irish whiskey distilling. Albeit it’s still a far cry from over 200 licenced distilleries in the 18th and 19th centuries (and not counting those not licensed back than).
If you follow my blog, you will know I am always keen to seek out smaller producers and thus going for one of the more recently founded craft distilleries was an easy decision.
That said, the two most historic Irish distillers, Old Bushmills Distillery and Midleton Distillery (where Jamerson is made) still produce some of the best Irish whiskies.
Nevertheless, my pick for the day was a bottle from Glendalough Distillery, said to be oldest craft distillery in Ireland.
Background: Glendalough Distillery
Founded by a group of five friends who gave up their day jobs to move into the Irish countryside to make whiskey (and other spirits) in 2011, Glendalough has quickly become one of Irelands leading spirits brands.
The name, which is pronounced glen-de-lock is Gaelic and means the glen of two lakes alluring to the place where it is located.
Glendalough distillery is located about an hour south of Dublin, nestled in a glacial valley in the Wicklow Mountains. The area is also known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’ and is one of the most visited scenic attractions on the island.
Another local attraction, the 6th century monastic settlement of St Kevin who was an Irish royal but at one point vanished into the mountains to live in the wild for seven years.
He later founded a monastery at the lower lake in Glendalough, just around the corner from Glendalough Distillery. And since monasteries are considered the birthplace of distilled drinks and the five founders were particularly impressed by St Kevin’s story, they decided to decorate their bottles with an image of St Kevin.
The distillery today produces a pot still, a double barrel, triple barrel and a couple of aged whiskies along with a range of gins and a poitín (a spirit first made by Irish monks in the 6th century and said to be the predecessor of whiskey.
Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey – Tasting notes
TheGlendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey is a single grain whiskey based on a mash bill of locally grown organic corn and malted barley. It is initially matured in American bourbon barrels before enjoying a finishing period of six months in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks.
In the glass, Glendalough Double Barrel displays a rich, dark amber colour.
On the nose, initially there is a characteristic sweetness of corn mash coupled with notes of vanilla and butterscotch and cooked fruit notes of Christmas cake. They are followed by citrus and floral notes along with a slight nutty aroma which comes from the finishing in the sherry cask.
On the palate, smooth and creamy. A slight sweetness with a characteristic butterscotch flavour complemented by vanilla flavour. Pronounced fruit notes are followed by a spicy flavour in the background. Long and sweet finish with notes of dried fruit and black pepper.
Mixing with Irish Whiskey – Classic cocktails given an Irish twist
Any good Irish Whiskey will obviously stand its own weight, accompanied possibly by a drop of water or over ice.
However, why not take it a step further and mixing up a couple of classic cocktails using Irish whiskey.
Thinking of whiskey cocktails, the Whiskey Sour is undoubtedly the most classic of all. There are a couple of variations, but I particularly like the below which incorporates pineapple juice, giving it a refreshing twist.
60 ml Irish whiskey
30 ml pineapple juice
30 ml orange juice
20 ml lemon juice
15 ml almond sirup
Fill a mixing glass with ice and add all ingredients. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds, then strain into a lowball glass.
Garnish with a lemon or orange slice.
Possibly derived from the French Kiss, a cocktail that is based either on vodka or brandy. In any case, if you like it slightly spicy, this one is for you.
30 ml Irish whiskey
15 ml peach liqueur
120 ml ginger beer
60 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
Fill a glass with ice. Add all ingredients and lightly stir.
Garnish with a lime wheel.
This variation on the famous Moscow mule, which uses vodka, lime and ginger beer apparently is one of the most popular Irish whiskey cocktails.
60 ml Irish whiskey
30 ml freshly squeezed lime juice
90 ml ginger beer
Fill a lowball glass with crushed ice. Add all ingredients and stir lightly.
Garnish with some lime wheels and a mint spring.
Lately it seems, there are new tweeks of the classic Mimosa cocktail popping up left and right. Well, everything that combines champagne is certainly worth a try and I found this variation using Irish Whiskey a really unique one.
30 ml Irish whiskey
30 ml orange juice
30 ml pink grapefruit juice
60 ml Brut champagne (or a good quality sparkling wine)
In a champagne glass, add whiskey, orange and grapefruit juice then top up with champagne.
Garnish with an orange slice.