Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Kilbeggan. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Small Batch Rye is making a name for itself as Ireland’s first rye whiskey expression in recent history. This may not be rye as we think of it in the United States or Canada, though. In the States, a rye must contain 51% rye in the mash bill by law to be labeled as such, while there is just 30% rye in Kilbeggan’s release. The 30/70 split (the remaining being malted and unmalted barley) is apparently how the Irish made rye whiskey in the 1800s. This release also marks the first release from Kilbeggan that is 100% produced on-site.
Kilbeggan Distillery began producing whiskey in 1757, and they still use one of the original copper stills to produce whiskey today. The distillery changed hands many times from 1757 until 1954, before ultimately closing their doors for nearly a quarter of a century.
In 2007, they became operational once more, the same year the distillery turned 250 years old. The distillery is now fully finished, complete with an accompanying restaurant and history museum, which includes a functioning water wheel and steam engine that can be used to power the buildings. Kilbeggan Distillery is owned by Beam Suntory, the world’s third largest distiller. Their rye has won several silver medals at whiskey competitions around the world.
Tasting Notes: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Small Batch Rye
Vital Stats: Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye is 43% abv, 86 proof, and costs between $30-$35 per bottle. The mash bill is 30% rye, and the rest is malted and unmalted barley distilled in the world’s oldest working copper still.
Appearance: It’s a light yellow-gold color. The liquid is a little thin and glassy, not at all sticky or saccharine. It looks really mellow and approachable.
Nose: It took a few seconds for the whiskey to open up and release notes of sweet bread, apple peels, freshly cut grass. In the background, there are hints of caramelized sugar, ginger, warm allspice, Asian pear, pixie sticks.
Palate: I like that this rye expression doesn’t smack me in the face, and the spice and heat are sort of hidden in the finish. Mellow tones of vanilla and allspice slowly build into the tingly rye spice that we’ve come to expect from rye whiskies. The spiciness of this expression isn’t as in your face as some high-rye mash whiskies, but the rye and sweetness of Irish whiskies compliment each other well, in a unique way. I added a splash of water and it opened up pleasantly fruity apple and pear notes. The slight fruitiness is unexpected and fills out the typical vanilla sweetness. The finish is quick and oaky.
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Small Batch Rye was a surprising expression and a unique take on rye whiskey. I liked the balance brought on by the sweetness from the malted barley and subtle rye spice. This is a solid release that is tasty neat, on the rocks or in your favorite whiskey cocktail – I’d go with a Manhattan.