Glendalough Mizunara Finish 13 Year Old
Do you remember those heady days when Japanese whisky used to be affordable? It really wasn't that long ago you know? A cursory glance at the time machine that is the internet lets us see that around 6 or 7 years ago Yamazaki 10 used to cost around £30 a bottle, back in 2013 you could pick up the 12 year old stable-mate for £45 and the 18 year old for £110. Try to find the 12 and 18 for anywhere near those prices now. The 12 year old may set you back upwards of £100 and the 18 year old has gone well past £300.
Of course to a certain extent we are to blame for the price rises. You see, we actually liked Japanese whisky and bought so much of it that Suntory and Nikka struggled to cope with demand, eventually phasing out many of the age statement bearing expressions and barely exporting any of their wares either. Then, of course, a certain Mr Murray named the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 his Whisky of the Year and the world went mad!
Thus even just having a touch of Japan about your whisky added considerable expense. We all probably remember when Bowmore released their Mizunara Cask Finish in 2015, a first for Scotch whisky. £750 for a NAS! Mental. True it contained spirit between 15 and 25 years old and was cask strength, but still....pricey for a NAS.
So why does Mizunara Oak add a premium? Well the trees don't grow straight, it has a high moisture content compared to American and European oak meaning it is more difficult to work with, it's very porous and so is prone to leaking and finally the trees need to be old, very old...around 200 years (compared to 75 for American/European) before being considered for barrel making. All these means a Mizunara cask can set you back around £3,500 to £4,000.
So quite an investment for Glendalough (pronounced Glen-da-loch) to stump up for their choice of finishing cask on their 13 year old single malt. Glendalough single malt is double distilled and at present is sourced from Cooley until their own whiskey matures. The 13 year old Mizunara has spent 13 years in 1st fill bourbon barrels before receiving a finish of up to a year in a Mizunara puncheon. The Mizunara barrels are sourced from the Ariake cooperage in the Miyazaki prefecture of Hokkaido Island. The whiskey is bottled at 46%, there is no mention of non-chill filtration anywhere on the bottle or if colouring has been added although I'd hazard a guess it isn't tainted by the dreaded caramel. This bottle cost me £65 from Fairleys Wines - quite reasonable compared to the Bowmore!
Glendalough Mizunara Finish 13 Year Old - Review
Colour: light amber
On the nose: I'm immediately hit by bounty bars – milk chocolate, fresh coconut, vanilla, freshly cut peaches and squeezed orange juice. Honey notes with praline and bubblegum plus a very light dusting of baking spice with pencil shavings, sandalwood and light incense. Water brings out more cereal notes from the malt. A cracking nose.
In the mouth: A medium mouthfeel, quite creamy. Vanilla infused buttercream, toffee and oak spice from the bourbon cask. Peach and nectarine with a touch of allspice layered with coconut shavings and almonds. The finish moves from coconut to chocolate to mocha, oak and light clove notes. Water intensifies the bourbon notes of honey, vanilla and spice and more chocolate.
I have tried the regular Glendalough 13 year old single malt that is fully bourbon cask matured a couple of times in the past and it just didn't blow me away. I always thought that the finish was slightly bitter and acrid and detracted from the experience. However, the Mizunara finish has definitely elevated the expression noticeably. Gone are the bitter notes instead replaced with a lovely layer of coconut, woody spice and chocolate but all the while the fruitiness of the malt still cuts through. A really enjoyable dram from the team at Glendalough and one I would happily purchase again.
An encouraging review, as this is the March release whisky for the whisky club I am in, in Australia. More so, as unlike you I did not find anything remotely acrid or bitter about the regular Glendalough 13 year old single malt when I first tasted it just over two years ago. In fact I was so delighted by it (generally preferring scotch whisky up to that point – despite being of 50/50 Irish and English heritage with not a skerrick of scots blood in me!) that I promptly bought a bottle.
I note that you say you tried the regular Glendalough 13 year old single malt several times with the same result, so I wonder if it is a batch issue? Anyway, I look forward to tasting the Mizunara version in the next few weeks.
Great site. Sláinte!
Christopher, I’m glad you enjoyed the regular 13 and perhaps it was a batch issue, I just felt that there was an element of tired or poor casks that showed through in the finish. However we all have individual palates which is why variety is a wonderful thing!
I’m sure you will really enjoy the Mizunara and feel free to post here with your thoughts!
Small correction: Miyazaki prefecture is in Kyushu, the southernmost main island of Japan; not Hokkaido, the northernmost one.
Good review Phil. I like it but it’s a bit too expensive for what it is. It’s crept up to £75 in May 2019. Yes Mizunara but we have no idea of the history of those casks although they can be detected. I’m not sure I would buy this again to be honest. It’s a good dram but I don’t think the Mizunara makes it great and, therefore, like many a tasty Irish, it’s an overpriced age statement. Cheers. WT