Founded in 1757, Ireland’s Kilbeggan Distilling Company is the oldest licensed distillery of its kind in Ireland. (Kilbeggan is named for St Bécán, one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland who founded a monastery in the area in the 6th century.)
When Prohibition and wars ground its whiskey-making gears to a halt, the town of Kilbeggan joined together to save the whiskey—and the town. They bought the building and brought the distillery back to life. Sound like a movie? I think so, too–sort of like an Irish version of a whiskey Full Monty or Billy Elliot?
In July, the distillery released Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey. It’s distilled twice, instead of thrice (like many Irish whiskies). It is then aged in former bourbon casks for a minimum of four years. The term single grain here refers to whiskey made in a single location using malted barley and at least one other grain. 94 percent of the mash bill for Kilbeggan Single Grain is made of corn, and the other six percent is malted barley.
The original distillery’s pot still is more than 180 years old, but Kilbeggan Single Grain is made in a column still lined in copper. Because this still is too tall for the original 1757 distillery, it’s distilled at Kilbeggan’s sister distillery, Cooley Distillery, in County Louth, Ireland.
Tasting Notes: Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Vital stats: 94 percent corn, 6 percent malted barley; about $30; aged four years; 86 proof.
Color: White grape juice with a splash of water; fields of wheat in direct sunlight.
Nose: The nose here is very subtle: caramel, grassy, vanilla, new suede shoes.
Palate: Oh, that is nice! It is surprisingly complex, and I think that’s from the bourbon influence. The caramel from the nose carries through, and then it finishes with a little heat and currants. There’s an afterburn that I can’t quite ascertain—eucalyptus, maybe? The mouthfeel is a little thin, but not terrible or anything like that. A few drops of water didn’t change it much either way, so you might as well drink it neat.
This is not nearly as “bite-ey” as many other Irish whiskeys I’ve tried, and I appreciate that. It’s wonderfully smooth and just complex enough. This pleasantly shoved some of my preconceived notions about Irish whiskey aside. I’d definitely recommend it, if you can find it.
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