Glendalough - Wild Botanical Gin
The story of Glendalough began a long time ago…
In the heart of the Irish countryside, amongst the awe-inspiring scenery, a man lived on the wild side. Glendalough was his home. The “valley of two lakes” was the perfect haven for a man wandering the wilderness, escaping the rituals of conventional life.
St Kevin was his name. Born in 498 and part of the royal family. Yet instead of succumbing to the luxuries and wealth that awaited him, Kevin ordained as a monk and began his own adventure. For seven years, Kevin meandered through unspoilt woodlands and meadows with Mother Nature as his guide. He stopped when he reached Glendalough.
With its breath-taking landscape, Glendalough was the natural choice. Peace and tranquility ran through the hills and afforded Kevin with serenity. Once, whilst Kevin was meditating, a blackbird laid three eggs in his open palm. He remained in this outstretched posture for 13 days until the eggs had safely hatched.
Although alone in his wilderness, news of Kevin’s great knowledge spread and he was joined by many wishing to become his pupil. As time passed, many monks would return to Glendalough to contemplate in its serenity. Seven churches were built in the valley, one of which bears the cross of St Kevin. The monks also established the first distilleries in the area.
14 centuries later, a group of friends are drawing on their landscape’s heart and history to create liquids which deserve being contemplated over.
Brian, Gary, Kevin, (not the same one) Barry and Donnell are Team Glendalough. With backgrounds in the drinks industry, they all knew that it was about time the Irish distilling scene experienced a renaissance. Inspired by St Kevin, they took a leap into the wilderness.
“The story of St Kevin and the blackbird is our touchstone if we’re trying to make a decision. We never just take the easy route.”
Glendalough gin was a happy accident. The team originally focused on producing whiskey and poitin, but then thought “what else could we make in this gorgeous Holstein still?”
The abundance of wild botanicals growing in the surrounding countryside made the style of gin an easy choice. The only tiny hindering point was that the guys are from Dublin and didn’t know which plant was which and if you could eat them, let alone distil them…welcome Geraldine Kavanagh.
Geraldine is a forager. Being County Wicklow born and bred, she knows every nook and cranny like the back of her hand. Geraldine established her own company, Wicklow Wild Foods, where she conducts guided foraging tours and serves up delicious meals from the discoveries. Passing on her knowledge of edible flora is Geraldine’s true passion. Her collaboration with the Glendalough team has afforded many exciting new botanical expressions.
Due to the inevitable fluctuations within nature, the locally-sourced botanicals were at first used to create seasonal gins. Geraldine works closely with Master Distiller, Rowdy Rooney, to capture the essence and expression of Glendalough’s changing calendar. These limited edition batches have been produced since the summer of 2014.
Whilst one of the beauties of a seasonal interpretation is its ability to encapsulate a precise moment in time, the variations between batches and having to wait a whole year for each particular one didn’t help so much on the bar scene. Step in the Wild Botanical Gin.
The gin featured in our Craft Gin Club boxes this month is Glendalough’s first “standard” expression. Drawing on elements from each of the seasons, Rowdy and Geraldine have perfected a liquid which is the equivalent of a year’s journey through the landscape.
The bottle is a beautiful addition to any gin shelf. Depicting St Kevin and his blackbird amongst the rolling hills and bountiful botanicals of Glendalough, the label gently blends history and appreciation of the landscape with a powerful sense of belonging. The word Glendalough is written in a modern sans serif font which brings the whole design to the current moment. As they say brilliantly themselves:
“It is a meeting point of old and new with a beautiful backdrop.”
It’s a busy few months when the botanicals are in full bloom. Geraldine sources each one fresh each day and takes them to Rowdy in the evening so they can infuse in the base spirit overnight. They both taste each batch to fine-tune it and it’s this symbiotic relationship which is evident in the final product. Rightly so, every bottle has two signatures on, one of the distiller and one of the forager.
Six botanicals make up the core of the whole Glendalough range: juniper, coriander, angelica root, orange peel, bitter almond and orris root.
Each seasonal edition then elaborates with its own botanical nuances. The Wild Botanical gin also includes: liquorice root, liquorice bark, fresh organic lemons, elderflower, red clover flower, yarrow, ox eye daisy, wild raspberry, blackberry leaves, wild rose, watermint, sweet woodruff, wild angelica, lemon balm, sweet cicely, lady’s bedstraw and bell heather.
Like Kevin did before them, Glendalough are definitely succeeding on their own terms.
Aromas: Bright rich earthy heather notes with an orange peel and juniper core. Gentle cloves, gorse flowers and a fresh minty character. A bracing mineral element is reminiscent of being outside – there’s no mistaking the “wild” botanical contribution. Soft, gently warming spice notes on the finish.
Palate: A round, velvety texture with gently warming peppery spice at the fore. Menthol underneath. A strong, yet elegant juniper presence with an underlying nutty character. Coriander and fresh mint with a long finish.
Garnish: I personally wouldn't garnish this gin as there are so many nuanced elements already at play.
I love everything about this gin.