Founded in Ireland in 1757, the Kilbeggan distillery created one of the original Irish whiskies. The company claims to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world; however, there was a brief hiatus. Thanks to the Irish War of Independence and the devastating effects of U.S. Prohibition on the Irish whiskey industry (after Prohibition ended, Scotch whisky stole its place in the American drinking canon), the original distillery ceased production in 1953 and closed in 1957. It then reopened when it was purchased by in the 1980s by the newly created Cooley company.
Less well-known outside of Ireland than market-dominant brands Jameson and Bushmill’s, Kilbeggan is first double-distilled from malted barley at Cooley Distillery in a 3,000 liter copper pot still from the 1840s. The liquor is then brought to Kilbeggan in central Ireland where it’s aged in used bourbon barrels and housed in centuries-old storehouses. The result is the flagship blended 80-proof Irish whiskey, created to be an easy drinking, everyday spirit.
Kilbeggan has soft and buttery aromas leading to a citrusy, vanilla, and caramel flavor on the nose. This opens up to a warm, round mouthfeel on the palate, with peach and malt overtones. The finish is mostly smooth, though a little woody and astringent. Overall it’s softer and smoother than other Irish whiskies.
However, while mellow, it lacks a bit of character. This isn’t a complex whiskey, but would be a good choice for those who like bourbon or who are just starting to open up to whiskey. For the price, it’s a very smooth and versatile spirit, good for both sipping and mixing.
As we head into late fall, Kilbeggan would make a great addition to an Irish coffee.
4 ounces freshly brewed coffee
1½ ounces Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Heaping spoonful whipped cream
Nutmeg and chocolate for garnish
In a heated glass, pour in whiskey and mix in coffee and brown sugar until dissolved.Top with whipped cream and top with grated nutmeg and chocolate.
— Jen Kilius, The Drink Nation
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Kilbeggan Distillery (formerly Brusna Distillery and Locke's Distillery) is an Irish whiskey distillery situated on the River Brosna in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, Ireland. It is owned by Beam Suntory. A small pot still distillery, the licence to distil dates to 1757, a copy of which can be seen in the distillery.
|No. of stills||2 pot stills (wash still: 3,000 L, spirit still: 1,800 L) |
|Mothballed||1957, reopened 2007|
|Website||www .kilbegganwhiskey .com|
|Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Single Malt|
|Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye|
Similar to many Irish distilleries, Kilbeggan endured financial difficulties during the early 20th century, and ceased operations in 1957. However, the licence was maintained and the distillery was later refurbished, with distilling recommencing on-site in 2007.
Noted devotees of the distillery's whiskeys include British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, and Myles na gCopaleen, the Irish playwright. 
The 8 Irish Whiskies To Help You Get Into The Spirit, Literally
A couple (innocuous) stereotypes distort our collective sense of Irish whiskey: that it’s always triple-distilled (not true), that therefore it’s generally “lighter” and “smoother” than Scotch (also not true). The basics of Irish whiskey are actually pretty simple: it has to be made in Ireland, distilled to less than 94.8% ABV, and aged for at least three years in wooden casks. Beyond that, it’s the distiller’s whim. Irish whiskey can be made with pot-distilled malted and unmalted barley, or blended with column-distilled grain whiskey. And, like Scotch, it can be aged in a variety of post-use spirit/liquor casks, imparting more flavor over time. (Unlike Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey can be made with the addition enzymes, but that’s another story. Also, there’s that “e” in the name. Simple enough.)
In fact it’s a shame the foray into Irish whiskey tends to stop at first-rung Jameson for so many of us. Fact is, even though Ireland technically only has three major distilleries, it churns out bottles of incredible, befuddling complexity—worth digging into if you’re a fan of whiskey and want to take the full tour.
You’ll find classically “Irish” flavors here, lighter, heathery, grassier than some Scotches, but you’ll find equally rough-hewn, broad-shouldered whiskies, with biscuity richness, caramel, spice, smoke, more than a match for their Scottish cousins. Forget reading, though. We figure the best way to understand the spirit is as nature, and a bunch of Irish distillers, intended: one bottle at a time.
Jameson Blended Whiskey
There’s no way to avoid it—Jameson’s a classic, and rightfully so (though if you really get into Irish whiskey, you’ll wanna start stepping up the Jameson ladder). But this one deserves mention because it’s a straight-up Irish blended whiskey, light and drinkable with characteristic notes of florals, grass, and fruit, a touch of honey and vanilla to smooth things out. (No need to shoot this one, PS.)
Bushmill’s Black Bush
Bushmill’s also has a classic, triple-distilled blended Irish whiskey that’s a few bucks cheaper. But if you can afford it, go Black Bush. A blended whiskey, meaning it’s a mixture of lighter column still and richer pot still whiskies. Aged for 11 years in sherry casks, you’ll get some good fruit (grape, citrus) coupled with biscuity notes from the barley. Easy on the palate. And wallet. (Bushmill’s also does a 10-Year Single Malt for about $55.)
Kilbeggan 8 Year-Old Single Grain
Single grains aren’t something you’ll see everywhere, so they’re worth a try. Kilbeggan’s 8 Year is Ireland’s “only aged Single Grain Irish whiskey,” made primarily with corn instead of barley and matured in bourbon casks. Look for tropical fruit, nuts, honey, vanilla, hints of spice from the oak.
Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey
Another single grain, i.e. the product of one distillery, made with malted barley and corn, that spends three and a half years in American oak first-fill Bourbon barrels and six more months in Oloroso sherry casks. Expect a play of caramel depth and nut-edged fruit from the Sherry cask, laced through with subtle vanilla.
Tyreconnel Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Single malt, like single grain, is the product of one distillery, except this is made from malted barley distilled in a pot still (no grain whiskey). For just 35 bucks, or thereabouts, you get a rarer form of Irish whiskey with fruit, spice, barley sweetness, and some dry grass at the finish. Smooth on the palate.
Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey
If you’re looking to splurge on a single grain Irish whiskey, Teeling might be the way to go. Finishing the whiskey in Cabernet Sauvignon casks draws out a little more fruit—red grapes, cranberry—with subtle spice on the nose and a balanced sweetness.
Connemara Peated Single Malt
Here’s an Irish single malt whiskey that’s actually peated—meaning the malted barley is dried over a peat fire. That smokiness laces its way into the palate, twisting around notes of florals, barley, and rich honey. If you like peated Scotch—something a bit subtler and less saline than Ardbeg or Laphroaig—a good Irish whiskey to start with. Also the only peated Single Malt on the market.
Redbreast 12 Year-Old Single Pot BEST SPLURGE
“Overall Whiskey of the Year” at the 2013 Irish whiskey awards, a “pure pot still” whiskey—a classic Irish style, made from malted and unmalted barley in a pot still—you’ll get great complexity from the nose, nutty, citrusy, spicy, which continue onto the palate, a bit richer, almost creamy. Spice dries out the long finish.
Review: Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye Irish Whiskey
Ireland’s “oldest continually licensed distillery,” Kilbeggan, has rolled out a new whiskey that “pays tribute to the golden age of Irish whiskey.” Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye is a limited edition release that includes 30 percent rye in the mash (the rest is barley), a callback to the late 1800s, when high-rye mashbills were common in the country. (Rye is virtually unused in Irish whiskey today.) The double-pot-distilled spirit is also the first whiskey to be released from the company that is 100% distilled and matured at the Kilbeggan Distillery since its restoration was completed in 2010.
To call this a unique Irish whiskey is certainly an understatement. It’s not remotely similar to classic Irish styles — be they single pot still or otherwise — so fans of the genre may want to tread lightly.
On the nose, the whiskey is immediately ruddy and a bit dank, with notes of sandalwood and musk giving it an air of men’s cologne. Notes of camphor emerge over time. The palate is more engaging, malty and slightly woody, with touches of chocolate. The expected spice of rye, however, never fully materializes. While some darker baking spice notes pop at first, ultimately what’s left on the tongue is more akin to graphite than anything in the spice cabinet. The finish is quite drying — austere, green, and bitter at times, leaving one with an overall effect that is quite woodsy and a bit rustic.
It’s a curious experiment, to be sure, and one that’s worth trying at least once, but it’s ultimately a departure from the Irish style that simply feels like a step back.
The Best Irish Whiskey
Redbreast 21 Year
Our pick for the best Irish whiskey is Redbreast 21 Year.
Originating from County Cork Ireland, at 46% ABV, Redbreast 21 Year is a rich and spicy single pot still Irish whiskey that’s been matured exclusively in first-fill sherry and bourbon casks.
On the nose, Redbreast 21 Year is nuanced and energetic, with an amazing aroma of fresh tropical fruit, nuttiness, and dried fruit.
Taste this non-chill filtered Irish whiskey, and you’ll enjoy the flavor or vanilla, oak, sherry, nuts, and pot still spice.
Overall, Redbreast is rich and very deep on the palate, with notes of fruit, menthol, spiciness, and leather with a creamy mouthfeel. Additionally, some reviewers report ripe mango, brioche, and toffee on the palate.
On the long, textured, and smoky finish, Redbreast 21 presents oak, even more pot still spices, and barley.
We recommend enjoying Redbreast 21 Year neat or on the rocks. But if mixed drinks are your thing, Redbreast works well in classic Irish cocktails such as the Priest’s Tipple, Red Hush, and Robin Song.
No matter how you drink it, simply try this award-winning Irish whiskey and you’ll agree that without a doubt, Redbreast 21 Year belongs at the top of any best of Irish whiskey ranking.
Knappogue Castle 16 Year Single Malt
$5 Off Next Purchase, Use Code: DRIZLYDEAL
Bottled at 40% ABV, the easy going Knappogue Castle 16 Year Single Malt is an exceptional Irish whiskey. It’s triple distilled and aged to perfection in both bourbon and sherry barrels.
The brand is named for historic Knappogue Castle in County Clare, originally built in 1467. Knappogue is also one of the last independently bottled Irish whiskeys available.
This 16 year aging process adds complex notes of nut and sherry. Deep amber gold in color, there’s also chocolate sweetness on the nose, with grainy malt and spice.
Sip this single malt, and you’ll notice a soft mouthfeel with a smooth, varied profile that presents sherry, spice, and pepper off the top, but soon develops into wood, with subtle undertones of fruit and nut.
At the finish, expect more pepper and wood, giving way to spiciness, but also malt and vanilla. The warmth of this whiskey stays with you long after your last sip.
Those familiar with Knappogue 16 Year suggest pairing it with a chocolate dessert. But however you enjoy it, Knappogue is definitely one of the best Irish whiskeys on the market.
Green Spot Irish Whiskey
We think that any Irish whiskey that counts Mick Jagger and Daniel Day Lewis as fans is worth trying, and both legends are known to be partial to a drop of Green Spot Irish Whiskey.
Amber in color with no age statement, Green Spot Irish Whiskey is a single pot still Irish whiskey aged up to a decade in new bourbon, refill bourbon, and sherry casks.
Made in Cork, Ireland, Green Spot is 80 proof, and one of the few remaining bonded Irish whiskeys.
Green Spot is fresh and aromatic on the nose, with the scent of fruit orchards, barley, and toasted wood. You’ll also notice a bit of peppermint, malt, sweet barley, sugary porridge, creamy vanilla, papaya, and citrus.
Taste this full-bodied whiskey and discover a hint of cloves and sweet green apples. Toasted oak rounds it all off with the lingering flavors of spice and barley.
There’s also gentle bourbon oak, green woods, menthol, and potpourri, leading to a long, smooth finish punctuated with creamy vanilla.
Sip it neat, on the rocks, or mix it into your next cocktail. No matter what you choose, Green Spot is without a doubt one of the best Irish whiskeys around.
Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Year
$5 Off Next Purchase, Use Code: DRIZLYDEAL
Tyrconnell is a historic Irish whiskey brand, recently revived by Cooley Distillery in County Louth.
Using Irish spring water, Tyrconnell double distills their Single Malt Irish Whiskey in traditional copper pot still, strictly using barley from the Emerald Isle.
Bright gold in color, this spirit is then aged 16 years in ex-American oak bourbon barrels and proofed at 46% ABV.
Tyrconnell’s nose evokes fruit with underlying notes of oak. There’s also apple, peach, and orange zest, as well as vanilla and coconut on the tail end.
The fruitiness continues on the palate with melon, green fruit, candied pear, vanilla custard, and coconut making an appearance.
Overall, the palate is light and approachable with an oily and viscous mouthfeel, building to a fruit climax, before winding back down to a dry almond flavor.
Tryconnell’s long finish is subtle and sweet, with oakiness and plenty of spice.
Best served straight, or with just a little bit of water, Tyrconnell is a full-bodied, rich, and fruity single malt that earns its spot on any list of the best Irish whiskeys.
Clontarf 1014 Classic Blend Irish Whiskey
Clontarf 1014 Classic Irish Whiskey hails from County Cork. It is triple distilled in bourbon barrels with only the best Irish ingredients, and then blended to perfection and mellowed in Atlantic Irish oak charcoal.
The result is medium gold, smooth, full-flavored, and perfectly balanced, with a rich, welcoming aroma. At only 40% ABV, Clontarf is relatively low proof. But on the nose, the classic blend is honeyed, with toasted oak, vanilla, and just the right amount of malt.
On the palate, Clontarf 1014 is delicate, complex, and smooth, with flavors of vanilla, malt, and toffee. There’s also citrus, ripe fruit, and white pepper, as well as spice, oakiness, and just a touch of cut grass.
Clontarf’s finish is short, continuing the subtle oak flavors, alongside a slight sweetness and pleasing amount of bitterness.
Mild, refreshing, and versatile, Clontarf 1014 is best enjoyed on the rocks, poured over ice in a tall glass. Or, add a dash of water or your favorite mixer.
Writer’s Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey
$5 Off Next Purchase, Use Code: DRIZLYDEAL
Is there a better name for an Irish whiskey than Writer’s Tears? We don’t think so.
Triple distilled without grain and 40% ABV, Writer’s Tears is a unique single pot still with single malt whiskey. It is golden colored, non-peated, matured, and aged in American oak bourbon casks.
Over the distinctive pot still base, there’s apple, with hints of vanilla and honey on the nose alongside dark honey and candied lemon zest.
On the soft palate, Writer’s Tears is gently spiced, with bursts of ginger and butterscotch, with notes of toasted oak in the background.
There’s also a flavor that’s something like Cookie Crisp Cereal, along with small amounts of vanilla and baking spices. With Writer’s Tears long, elegant finish, you’ll enjoy subtle milk chocolate and almonds.
Writer’s Tears is best enjoyed on its own or with just a little bit of water. No question, it’s one of the best Irish whiskeys available.
Tyrconnell Sherry Cask Single Malt
After spending a decade in bourbon barrels, Tyrconnell’s Sherry Cask Single Malt Whiskey spends up to an additional eight months in Oloroso sherry casks from Spain, and bottled at 92 proof.
You’ll notice the influence of the casks on this whiskey. Dessert-like with a dark finish, this single malt retains notes of sherry up against hints of tarte Tatin and custard.
Pale golden bronze in color, Tyrconnell’s Sherry Cask Single Malt is smooth in texture, with flavors of caramel toffee, dried fruits, and citrus peel.
The aroma is spicy and leathery, with chocolate, crѐme caramel, dried fruits, and exotic spices, as well as toasty oak. There is also peach, raspberries, and nuts on the nose.
You may even notice dates, walnuts, and raisins.
Despite the warm and earthy flavors of the spirit, this single malt remains fresh and fruity. On the palate, it’s dry and tangy and the finish settles nicely into the flavor of cherry cola.
Definitely the best Irish whiskey for those with a sweet tooth, Tyrconnell’s Sherry Cask Single Malt is best enjoyed neat — it’s like a cocktail all on its own!
The Irishman 12 Year Single Malt
The Irishman 12 Year Single Malt is matured in first fill, hand-selected, and flame-charred bourbon barrels.
Only about 6,000 bottles are produced annually, and each non-chill filtered bottle is numbered by batch and quality marked.
Amber in color and 43% ABV, the influence of the ex-bourbon casks becomes immediately apparent on the nose, with light, sweet, and spicy notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and just a little bit of clove.
On the nose, there’s also peach, marzipan, honey, bubblegum, and grain. It’s all balanced well with apples and pears, charred wood, and freshly cut hay.
Sip this whiskey and it bursts with flavors like vanilla, black peppercorn, and grassy cereal. There are also the flavors of barley and oak before it all concludes with creamy dairy fudge and a dark chocolate finish.
You may also notice raw honey, tropical fruits, barrel tannin, and charcoal, fading to a dry and herbal woodiness.
Add a little water to this 12 year to heighten its flavors. No matter how you enjoy it, there’s no question The Irishman 12 Year Single Malt is one of the best Irish whiskeys available.
Connemara Peated Single Malt 12 Year
$5 Off Next Purchase, Use Code: DRIZLYDEAL
With a smoky flavor from peat, Connemara Peated Single Malt 12 Year appeals to fans of Scotch, and it’s the only peated Irish whiskey on the market today.
At 40% ABV, this whiskey is very pale in color with no caramel coloring. On the nose, Connemara 12 Year is fresh and lively, with zesty orange, lemon, and a touch of creamy vanilla. There are also fruit and honey aromas.
The peat smoke is a constant throughout the experience, but it remains well-balanced in the mix, from first inhale to the finish.
When you taste this whiskey, it is initially sweet and fruity, with the flavor of pears, apples, vanilla cream, ginger, and spicy oak. You may also experience honey and vanilla, as well as cinnamon, dried apples, and a light woodiness.
Overall, Connemara 12 Year is light in body, with some typical Bourbon cask character. The long finish includes notes of dried fruit, pine, sugary sweetness, char, and old wood.
Try it and you’ll agree, this rare peaty Irish whiskey belongs on any list of the best Irish whiskeys.
Powers Gold Label
Powers Gold Label is said to be “cut from the heart of the distillate,” meaning only the good stuff gets in the mix.
It’s a blended Irish whiskey made of triple distilled pot still and grain whiskey produced at Midleton Distillery in County Cork. There is no age statement.
Powers matures their Gold Label for up to six years in American oak casks before bottling it at 43.2% ABV, or 86.4 proof. This aging process is responsible for the spirit’s spice and bold character.
Overall, Powers Gold Label has a complex and honeyed taste, with cinnamon, clove oil, and white pepper, balanced out with apple, pear, and a charred oak background.
The oils and spices of long pot still fade nicely into barley, toasted wood, and the complex flavor of honey.
On the nose, there’s oats, honey, Frosted Flakes, and even honeysuckle. The palate is creamy with a malt flavor alongside buttery toast.
A little bit of spice comes through from beginning to end, and spiced honey lingers throughout the long, easy drinking finish.
Have you picked out your Irish whiskey yet? Get on it! We’ll wait.
While you’re still deciding, let’s answer some commonly asked questions about Irish whiskey and how to best enjoy it.
What is the best mixer for Irish whiskey?
There’s a common misconception that Irish whiskey is best enjoyed straight or on the rocks. We at RAVE say forget that noise. Here are some great Irish whiskey cocktails:
- 1 ½ oz Irish whiskey
- 2 tsp brown sugar syrup
- Hot brewed coffee
- Garnish with whipped cream
Irish Jack Rose
- 1 oz Irish whiskey
- ½ oz Calvados
- ½ oz fresh lime juice
- ½ oz Grenadine
- Garnish with lime wedge
The Kilbeggan Secret Sour
- 1 ½ oz Kilbeggan Irish whiskey
- ¾ oz dry Vermouth
- ½ oz fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz grapefruit juice
- ¾ oz simple syrup
- 1 ½ oz club soda
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Garnish with a lemon twist
- 2 oz Irish whiskey
- 2 oz ginger ale
- ½ oz peach schnapps
- 1 splash orange juice
- Garnish with lime wheel
The Massey Cocktail
- 1 oz Irish whiskey
- 1 oz gin
- ¾ oz sweet vermouth
- ¼ oz Green Chartreuse
- ⅛ oz Campari
- Garnish with orange twist
- ¾ oz Drambuie
- 1 oz Irish whiskey
- ¼ oz triple sec
- Juice from ½ a lemon
- 1 splash ginger ale
- Garnish with a lemon twist
Is Irish whiskey smoother than Scotch?
It is a misconception that all Irish whiskey is smoother than Scotch, since all Irish whiskey is triple distilled.
The fact of the matter is many Irish whiskeys are triple distilled, and some Irish whiskeys are smoother with more mellow flavors than Scotch.
But not all Irish whiskey is triple distilled, and not all Scotch is double distilled.
Another misconception about Irish whiskey is that it’s smoother than Scotch because it’s made without peat. This is sometimes true, but is now a hard and fast rule about Irish whiskey vs. Scotch.
Peat is what gives whiskey its strong and smoky flavor. Many Scotch whiskeys are made with peat, and most Irish whiskeys are made without peat, but not all of them.
The last misconception about Scotch and Irish whiskey is that the Irish invented whiskey and the Scottish just stole the idea. The Irish have been making whiskey for centuries, and were once the powerhouse in the industry.
That dominance eventually fell off to Scotch and bourbon, however. Lately, Irish whiskey has rebounded somewhat. But there’s absolutely no evidence of who invented whiskey first, the Irish or the Scottish.
That’s a secret that’s pretty much lost to history.
How is Irish whiskey different from Scotch?
Scotland and Ireland — two countries with long and proud histories, exemplified in many ways by Scotch and Irish whiskeys. But which one is better? How are they different, and how are they similar? We found out.
Irish whiskey must be made in Ireland, and Scotch whiskey must be made in Scotland. So there’s one similarity between the two whiskeys.
Both Irish whiskey and Scotch are made with water and barley. With Scotch, the barley is allowed to sprout before it is dried with peat moss smoke, giving the spirit a stronger aroma and taste. Irish whiskey is more neutral in flavor and aroma.
Irish whiskey contains alcohol continually distilled from barley and other grains. Many Irish whiskeys are distilled three times (but not all), while Scotch is distilled only twice (but again, not all). Some say this process contributes to the stronger flavor and aroma of Scotch.
Irish whiskey must age for at least three years, while Scotch is aged for two. Both typically use a wooden cask for aging.
What is the best Irish whiskey?
There are a lot of variables to consider when you are picking out the best Irish whiskey. Do you like mixed drinks, or do you drink your whiskey straight? Do you like your whiskey sweet or strong and aromatic?
After ranking the best Irish whiskeys, however, we at RAVE feel we can confidently answer which Irish whiskeys are the best, broken down into three categories: best top-shelf whiskey, best mid-shelf whiskey, and best cheap whiskey.
If you love whiskey with a strong aroma, creamy texture, and fruity flavors, you’ll love our pick for the best top-shelf Irish whiskey, Redbreast 21 Year. If you also require an oaky finish, plenty of pot still spice, and barley, Redbreast 21 Year is definitely for you.
Proving that peat isn’t just for Scotch, our pick for the best mid-shelf Irish whiskey is Connemara Peated Single Malt 12 Year. With the earthiness of peat, as well as sweet, smooth, and malt flavors, Connemara goes to show the best Irish whiskey can come at a mid-range price.
And speaking of price, if you think being on a budget means you can’t enjoy the best Irish whiskey, think again. The insanely affordable Clontarf 1014 is triple distilled, aged in bourbon barrels, and blended to perfection.
In the town of Kilbeggan, Ireland sits one of the World’s oldest distillery. It dates back to 1757. After siting idle for over 50 years, Cooley Distillery (now Beam owned), began making whiskey in Kilbeggan once again. One of the 2 copper pot still used to make Kilbeggan is a 180 year old beauty from the Tullamore Dew Distillery.
They started distilling in Kilbeggan in 2010, so the whiskey we are drinking was made at the Cooley distillery. Can’t wait for the Kilbeggan bottling.
We recently attended a dinner in San Francisco featuring Kilbeggan as the featured ingredient. This whiskey makes a very fine sauce for lamb chops and an even better addition to a caramel (which was served over a Guinness Chocolate Cake!) pictures below…
Kilbeggan won a Gold Medal in 2012 at the San Francisco Spirits Competition and a silver in 2008. It took Silver at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in 2011, 2010, 2008 and a bronze in 2009.
Appearance: Clear medium plus Amber with viscus legs
Nose: Clean with medium matured notes of Kernel, Oak, Hay, Coffee, Milk chocolate and toffee and maybe some cloves.
Palate: Dry, balanced alcohol, medium body and flavor intensity with same notes on the nose. Medium length with a balanced finish of oak notes.
Good simple entry level Irish Whiskey, but lacks the sweet and soft quality that is typical of Irish Whiskey. Lover of bourbon will appreciate its fiery bite.
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Review
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is named for the famed Kilbeggan Distillery, which dates back to 1757 and was revived by John Teeling and the Cooley Distillery in 2007. The distillery is so venerable that some point to it, and not Bushmills, as the oldest standing distillery in Ireland. Some observers rest their case for that on the point that Bushmills is in Northern Ireland and not the Republic of Ireland, and if you go to the distillery itself you might hear some quibbles over Bushmills’s license and documentation. Certainly the facility houses the oldest working still in the country, since one of the copper pots is old Tullamore Dew kit that is almost two centuries old.
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, however, is a creature of a different lineage. As stated before, it is named for the distillery rather than actually made there. The brand predates the reactivation of the distillery, and as a blended Irish whiskey, much of the content comes from whiskey types that cannot even be made at Kilbeggan. According to some early reports, pot still whiskey made at the distillery was not even supposed to become available until 2014.
One of the things that sets Kilbeggan apart from most of the other whiskeys in Ireland is that it is double distilled, in much the same way as things are done in Scotland and the United States. Defenders of double vs. triple distillation say not going around a third time leaves more of the natural flavors in the whiskey, something the triple distillers would dispute, but those differences are part of what makes Irish whiskey so interesting.
Whether it be grain or malt, all the whiskey in Kilbeggan is aged in ex-bourbon barrels for at least three years. Kilbeggan is bottled at 40% abv. The Kilbeggan under review here is the mass market version, and should not be confused with the Distillery Reserve Malt or the 18 Year Old, which it sometimes is due to the evolution of the brand’s labeling.
In the glass, the whiskey has a solid yellow-gold coloring, richer than one usually expects from a mass market Irish whiskey. The nose is a smooth one, the scent being predominately of grainy, cereal sweetness and toffee, with notes of vanilla and nuttiness.
The flavor brings a honeyed, malty aspect out in the sweetness, and adds a peppery, woody note that is just a tad astringent. The finish is a light, short one, and continues on that dry, woody note.
The usual pricing for Kilbeggan seems to run ” across the board, whether it be in pounds, euros or dollars. You may come across it priced lower or higher, but 20 seems to be the median.
That&rsquos the spirit: boomtime for Irish whiskey
The steadily expanding shelf-space given over to Irish whiskey in our off-licences, supermarkets and airport retail says it all: Irish whiskey is enjoying an extended boom. Exports are growing across the globe, frequently in double-digits every year, including the important premium and super premium categories. Consumption in Ireland is increasing, but at a more modest rate – by about 5 per cent last year.
Apparently, there are now 20 distilleries operating across the country, with two dozen more currently in planning or under construction. Sixteen of these have plans to include visitor centres.
Every year, most distilleries release one or two special whiskeys to capture a slice of the valuable Christmas market. Last month, Conor McGregor got in on the act with his own brand of whiskey made by Bushmills. Here is a look at some further planned releases doubtless more will follow.
A distillery must wait three years before it can call its spirit whiskey, and much longer to produce really good quality whiskey. In the meantime, it can buy in mature stocks from elsewhere, and finish them in a variety of casks to create its own unique brand. Some are very good indeed, others less so. However, distilleries such as Dingle, Pearse Lyons, Kilbeggan and Teeling now have their own mature stocks to draw from.
Waterford Distillery is half-way through a series of fascinating experiments, making micro-distillations of barley grown in various sites around the country. Using a combination of location, sensory analysis and science, it hopes to start mapping out the different terroirs of Irish barley. The first whiskey won’t be released until spring 2020.
Meanwhile lips are sealed at Shortcross Distillery as to when it will release its first whiskey, now mature and lying in cask in Crossgar, Co Down. Possibly before Christmas?
Irish Times Food&Drink Club
Powerscourt Distillery in Co Wicklow will unveil its first whiskeys later this month. There are three, all under the brand name Fercullen: a 14-year-old single malt whiskey (€90), a 10-year-old single grain whiskey (€55) and a premium-blend Irish whiskey for €42. The visitor centre, beside Powerscourt Garden Centre, will open next February.
Another first release will be Athrú, the brand name for Lough Gill Distillery in Sligo. It intends releasing three whiskeys every year in 2018, 2019 and 2020 under the guidance of renowned distiller Billy Walker. This month, Athrú Annacoona, Athrú Keshcorran and Athrú Knocknarea will be launched at Whiskey Live (see below) and make an appearance in specialist retailers. All three are 14-year-old single malts, matured in Sligo for the last four years. They are finished in PX, Oloroso and Tokaji casks. The Lough Gill Distillery forms part of the Hazelwood Estate, home to the Wynn family since 1722.
In September this year, Dublin distillery Teeling achieved a world record price of £10,000 ( about €11,370) for its Celebratory Single Pot Still, bottle #1, in an online auction. The remaining 100 bottles sold for an average of £600 a bottle. Later this month, it releases the first limited bottling of its Single Pot Still Whiskey, the first Dublin distilled whiskey in more than 40 years and the first whiskey to be distilled at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Newmarket. It will sell for €55.
At a more elevated level, Teeling will also release 500 bottles of a 30-year-old VRC Single Malt Whiskey, retailing at €1,500 a bottle.
In the coming weeks, Kilbeggan releases the first whiskey to be distilled and matured in its distillery since it recommenced distilling in 2007. The Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye (€55) used a mashbill that included 30 per cent rye, apparently once common with Irish distillers, but rare nowadays. Some 2,000 bottles have been earmarked for the Irish market.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Jameson released Jameson Cold Brew, its take on the classic combination of Irish whiskey and coffee. It is made from a blend of Jameson whiskey and cold-brewed coffee extract from Fairtrade Arabica coffee from Brazil and Columbia. You can drink it solo, but this is mainly aimed at the cocktail market.
April saw the release of Jameson Cask Strength Bow St. 18-Year-Old Irish Whiskey (€240), distilled and aged in Midleton, before being finished in the historic Bow Street Distillery in Dublin.
Not all whiskeys are designed to be sippers in fact, most of them are produced for people who prefer to mix their whiskey with a little soda, or in cocktails. I am pretty sure the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey falls into this category. Making a whiskey for the masses is not a bad idea, especially when for the most part, I consider myself part of that circle. My plan is to publish this review on the morning of St. Pats. That afternoon will find me enjoying a nice tall Kilbeggan and Soda to celebrate the day.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Kilbeggan Has A New Single Pot Still, Out For St. Paddy’s
Kilbeggan Distilling Company continues to revive Irish whiskey history and tradition with the release of Kilbeggan Single Pot Still, a (peculiarly for an Irish) whiskey featuring oats, which were used at Kilbeggan Distillery in the 19th century. Pot Still whiskey is significant, as it is the traditional and distinctive style of Irish whiskey. The limited edition Kilbeggan Single Pot Still Irish whiskey will be available in the United States starting February 2020 with a suggested retail price of $44.99 (750ml).
“This remarkable whiskey is a glorious tribute to the traditional Irish pot still style and the community that kept Ireland’s oldest continually licensed distillery alive over centuries of trial and triumph,” said Michael Egan, U.S. Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador for Kilbeggan Distilling Company. “It is a truly unique spirit, with a rare mash that has produced a flavor unlike anything available today.”
Featuring a unique mash of malted barley, raw barley and just 2.5 percent oats, the whiskey was inspired by recipes used at Kilbeggan Distillery through the late 1800s. In those times, oats were grown across the Midlands Region of Ireland and were commonly used by distillers like the Locke family at Kilbeggan for filtration purposes. The grain also imparts a unique flavor and creamy texture not typically found in Irish whiskey.
Double distilled in Kilbeggan’s old copper pot stills – one of which is the world’s oldest working whiskey pot still kits today – the new spirit is the second limited release to be 100 percent distilled and matured at Kilbeggan Distillery since its restoration in 2010. Other Kilbeggan releases are either in part or wholly drawn from stock made at the Cooley Distillery. Kilbeggan Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks due to its soft and round character. It follows the release of Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye, another groundbreaking release and the first modern Irish whiskey of record to feature such a high quantity of rye within its mash.
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OLD FORESTER RYE SAZERAC
“Old Forester Rye makes a perfect base for the classic Sazerac due to its high proof and distinctive tasting notes. The proprietary mashbill, with its generous portion of malted barley (20%), establishes elements of magnolia, anise, and lemon—making for a cohesive landscape to build this classic cocktail upon.” —Jackie Zykan, master taster at Old Forester
6 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Method: Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice, and set it aside. Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside. Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Add the lemon peel for garnish.
KILBEGGAN SMALL BATCH RYE OLD FASHIONED
“Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye is made up of malted and unmalted barley as well as thirty percent rye. So its rye content is smaller in comparison to U.S rye whiskeys—and because if this, it allows for the green apple, ginger, and clove notes from the barley to stand up in an Old Fashioned. The soft rye spice is discoverable in every sip and a simple sprig of rosemary makes for the perfect garnish.” —Michael Egan, U.S. Brand Ambassador at Kilbeggan Distilling Co.
2 parts Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye Irish Whiskey
2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 bar spoon of simple syrup or cinnamon syrup
Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir briefly. Serve over a large ice cube and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
“The Flip Flop is a whole egg cocktail. And it’s always a great cold-weather drink. The egg delivers great texture and depth and gives the bartender the ability to add more decadent ingredients.” —Brendan Bartley, head bartender and beverage director at Bathtub Gin
Method: Crack egg into shaker. Add all other ingredients to shaker. Shake all ingredients vigorously. Add ice and repeat shake. Double strain ingredients into a chilled stemmed glass. Grate cinnamon on top.
YE OLDE MANHATTAN
“Our Ye Olde Manhattan is a riff on the world’s most famous whiskey cocktail. We drive a number of classic cocktails, so we wanted to create something similar but unique to us. It is very soft, elegant: a light style of Manhattan. We add our own small embellishments such as Otto’s vermouth, Madeira wine, Frangelico, and a few dashes of sandalwood bitters. It still shows all of the hallmarks of a classic Manhattan, but it is very unique to the townhouse. Madeira is an interesting addition because it has such a long history in the United States, hence the name ‘Ye Olde.’ It was particularly popular in South Carolina as it was one of the first fortified wines to come into the country. I thought it would be nice to pay homage to that because it is an ingredient you don’t see very often in cocktails. It adds an oxidized nuttiness to the finished drink. And Madeira can be found in most high-end wine shops.” —Naren Young, bar director at The Fat Radish Popup at The Orchard Townhouse
3 dashes sandalwood bitters
Method: Stir and strain into a rocks glass and garnish with 3 skewered cherries.
APPLE PIE SPRITZ
“The Apple Pie Spritz is a great cocktail. The spicy notes from the Redemption rye mixed with the fresh apple cider create the ultimate mix of flavors topped off with some Josh Cellars prosecco for a little added fizz.” —Matt Klette, brand ambassador at Redemption Rye
Josh Cellars Prosecco, to top
Method: Add ingredients other than prosecco to flute and lightly stir to mix ingredients. Top with prosecco and garnish with expressed lemon peel.
“We are deep into sweater weather, where all I want to do is cuddle with a boozy contemplative cocktail. This riff on an Old Fashioned is just that: a perfect nightcap to curl up and think over.” —Ivy Mix, author of Spirits of Latin America and cofounder at Leyenda, New York City
1.5 parts El Tesoro añejo tequila
1 tsp. macadamia nut orgeat
Maldon smoked sea salt, for garnish
Melted Jacques Torres Midnight Chocolate, for garnish
Method: Stir, pour into a rocks glass that has been painted with Jacques Torres Midnight chocolate with a half rim of maldon smoked sea salt—over a large clear cube.
“This is our take on a Manhattan, featuring a bit of Cynar instead of straight sweet vermouth. For me, the Cynar gives it a depth of flavor that is otherwise missing in a Manhattan. It’s got a bit more spice, a bit more bitterness to balance the sweetness from the vermouth, and the cocktail cherries are a delicious treat after you finish the drink!” —Gavin Humes, food and beverage director at Scratch Restaurants
0.5 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Method: Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe. Finish with cocktail cherries.
BULLEIT PROOF OLD FASHIONED
“A drink that is as bold as its name would suggest, the Bulleit Proof Old Fashioned bases itself on the Bulleit Rye Whiskey—a spicy rye whiskey. Building upon it are easily available ingredients that serve to enhance the drink and turn it into something incredible. An apple-infused syrup grants some sweetness and freshness a (muddled) sliced orange adds a citrus flavor and black walnut bitters grant the drink a more grounded, nutty profile—to stabilize everything into a masterpiece that is smooth and bears a notable smokiness at the end.” —Donny Largotta, beverage director at The Chester at The Gansevoort Hotel (Meatpacking)
2 dashes black walnut bitters
Rosemary sprig, for garnish
Maraschino cherries, for garnish
Method: Stirred and strain over 1 large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnished with a skewer of maraschino cherries, apple slice, and rosemary sprigs.
BOOTLEGGER’S WARD 8
“This recipe was born out of the Prohibition and the original recipe calls for Grenadine. (But to give it our own twist, we use pomegranate molasses.) Then, add the fresh orange juice, simple syrup, and some fresh lime juice. As a base ingredient, we use the Templeton Rye 4 Year, which was charred in American oak barrels and gives it a good flavor. Shake it up and serve!” —Goran Remes, former bartender at Rye House, New York City
Bar spoon Pomegranate Molasses
Method: Shake and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a brandy cherry.
EIGHT O’CLOCK HOWELL
“Last April, every night at 8:00 p.m, the howling would begin. It was a way for Denver residents to honor our healthcare workers during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 8:00-hour was the scheduled shift change at most Denver-area hospitals and this was Denver’s way to recognize and thank them. So, we made the Eight O’Clock Howell simple to make for all the new home bartenders that were creating cocktails during lockdown. Just four easy-to-find ingredients and standard cocktail-making equipment. The howling in Denver stopped a while ago, but we’re still drinking this. Turns out, this cocktail works great this season too! The grain-forward flavors of our San Luis Valley Rye shine in this simple but bold cocktail.” —Steve Kurowski, marketing director at Laws Whiskey House
0.25 oz. Dolin sweet vermouth
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Method: Mix all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.
“I love to add Mr. Black to classic cocktails because it provides depth and delivers a great coffee twist to your cocktail creation. One of my favorite examples is the Cold Fashioned: Instead of the regular recipe where you use sugar, try using Mr. Black with your favorite rye whiskey—and you have an old fashioned with a kick, the perfect drink for the season.” —Martin Hudak, global coffee ambassador at Mr Black
1 oz. Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
Method: Stir and serve on the rocks. Garnish with orange slice or peel.
MANHATTAN IN FALL
“The Manhattan In Fall is a bit less whiskey forward compared to the original Manhattan recipe. Amaro brings a very herbal and earthy tone to the cocktail—and its dark color gives the cocktail a unique hue.” —Juan Fernandez, beverage director at The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte, NC
1 drop Crude Sycophant orange and fig bitters
Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir, strain into martini or coupe glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
SHADOW & LIGHT
“It is a wonderful time for warm spices, orchard fruit, and smooth whiskey. As a pioneer in the early days of film, the director Dorothy Arzner knew all about the inseparable connection between light and darkness, as well as the emotional impact it had on the audience. Her namesake rye, from Francis Ford Coppola’s line of ‘Great Women Spirits,’ forms the foundation of this nuanced cocktail, which cools the body with apple cider and lemon, while it warms the soul with amaro and chai tea syrup.” —Mark Tubridy, bartender at The 21 Club and cocktail consultant/educator
*Chai Tea Syrup: Bring 1 cup of water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, add 4 Chai tea bags (or loose-leaf Chai), and steep for 5 minutes. Remove the bags (or strain out the leaves) and pour tea into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves completely and then remove syrup from heat and let cool before bottling and refrigerating. (Yields 1.5 cups.)
Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin add ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a highball glass over fresh ice. Garnish with star anise and three fanned apple slices.