I’ll admit it – I picked up the Glendalough 7 Year Old because I saw the words “Irish” and “Single Malt” and was instantly intrigued. You don’t get many of those floating around, particularly in South Africa. A young distillery, a young whisky, and hipster to the core – let’s see if this (strangely expensive) bottle lives up to the “craft” marketing.
Golden syrup. Pepper. A very pleasant alcohol bite. Something spicy – cinnamon. Lemons, a little bit of liquorice and apples.
Okay wow, very sweet, and strangely sour. Despite containing nothing but malted barley the sweetness makes me think more “Bourbon” and less “Scotch” (or Irish for that matter). It’s dominated by that citrus. Woody and malty. And plenty of nature going on in there – grass, soil, flowers. Throughout it all is a distinct liquorice and sour twang.
Spicy and sour, eventually fading to bitter. Pleasantly long.
I was hesitant to water it down (46% generally being the sweet spot for me), but I’m glad I did – a few drops and the sweetness softens mercifully, allowing a great pile of oak and malt to rise to the surface. I sipped my last glass with some ice, and it finished like a charm. Given the sourness I have no doubt this could dominate with a mixer as well.
Glendalough 7 is oaky and malty, sweet and sour – which on paper sounds pretty great. The problem is it sits in this awkward in-between: not particularly complex, and yet certainly not an easy drink either. That sharp sour quality demands your attention with every sip, but there’s not much to unpack, which leaves me feeling distinctly unsatisfied.
As a result I find it difficult to think of a scenario where I’d be tempted to pick this up. There are cheaper options for an easy Irish glug (Jameson, Kilbeggan, Tullamore Dew) a complex, interesting malt (Highland Park, Glendronach), and a spicy all rounder (Johnnie Black, Chivas, Nikka). I love that they’ve bottled it with care – un-chillfiltered and at 46% – but I’m afraid I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a lot of stuff going on there that just doesn’t integrate very well.