If you think Americans are overzealous about their craft beer, the Irish equivalent is whiskey distilleries, with its industry of factory tours and generations of connoisseurs.
Glendalough Distillery, which just released a new range of whiskeys, is a part of this tradition. In their years-long process, they use bourbon barrels to mature their liquid, then let it sit in a second cask made with specialize wood. They offer the only Irish whiskey that uses Japanese Mizunara oak in their 13-year-old single malt.
As the co-founder of Ireland’s first craft distillery and recent winner of the Whisky Magazine’s 2018 Icons of Whiskey Award, Donal O’ Gallachoir serves as a liaison between Boston and his home country, hosting tastings around the city and working with restaurants like Cambridge’s Alden and Harlow to create unique cocktails.
“[Whiskey] is a very alive thing,” O’Gallachoir says. “You really want to find it all out you want to learn about it, from the different flavors and the nose, to how it interacts with the palate and the weight of it that you’re left with. It’s a huge puzzle and there’s definitely a romantic notion around it.”
If it all sounds very poetic, it’s because whiskey done well always has a good folklore behind it. With a name derived from the Gaelic word for “water of life,” Irish whiskey is made with monastery-inspired ardor, drawing inspiration from traditional Irish figures who devoted themselves to faith and sainthood.
A perfect time to commemorate Irish culture and Irish drinking, O’Gallachoir calls St. Patrick’s Day weekend the “Super Bowl” of his whiskey business. However, in Ireland where he grew up, he says that St. Patrick’s Day is more like the U.S.’s Fourth of July, with a parade in the morning, music events in the afternoon and fireworks at night.
“Here, Americans have taken a sort of different approach. You have people who do like kegs and eggs and they’ll typically start very very early, so it’s sort of drinking before the parade,” O’Gallachoir explains. "Typically that doesn’t happen in Ireland.”
“They won't wear the green beads and the hats and the shamrocks and everything like that,” O’Gallachoir adds. “I think it’s been a tiny bit Americanized, but it’s great. We love it.”