Aging malt whiskey in used bourbon barrels or sherry barrels is par for the course. Aging whiskey in Sauternes or brandy casks is a little harder to come by, but still fairly common. Aging in a strain of oak that doesn’t often leave the Japanese islands: well, now you’ve got my attention.
That’s what this new offering from the next-gen Irish distiller Glendalough is attempting. For this expression of their already quite-accomplished series of malts, they rest the spirit in bourbon barrels for 12 years before transferring it to new Mizunara oak for an additional year. If you aren’t familiar with this particular species (I wasn’t), it hails from Hokkaido, the chilly, rugged island at the northern end of the Japanese archipelago. They say it’s prized for its wide grain and potent levels of vanillins.
That Mizunara oak is remarkably pronounced on the nose, laying on top of the subtle malt notes. Take a sip, and you’ll get an immediate, almost rye-like hit of baking spices along with the expected butter and vanilla flavors. The finish goes on for a minute or longer, with some pleasant sea brine notes giving way to an outro of vanilla and coconut.
— 46% ABV