Apparently, big things are happening at the Kilbeggan Distillery. Owned today by the proudly independent Irish distiller Cooley, Kilbeggan claims to be the oldest distillery in the world, being founded and officially recognized back in 1757. It functioned through a few ownership changes until failing sales forced its closure in 1957. Cooley resurrected the Kilbeggan name in the late 1980’s and has created this and the 15 year old at its distillery ever since. In 2007, the original Kilbeggan plant was re-opened and has just this month released its first whiskey in many, many years, the Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Malt. Along with this new whiskey, Cooley has re-branded and re-packaged the standard Kilbeggan and plans to release an 18 year old later this year. So, in honor of the great things Cooley’s been doing for Irish whiskey..I’d thought I’d taste some of their great Irish whiskey.
The Nose: Hmmm…a bit restrained. It’s pretty malty, with some nice honeyed, nougat-y grain. There are a few soft, sweet notes as well, orange and lemon curd with faint hints of flowers and dark chocolate.
The Palate: Slightly thinnish entry and mouthfeel, but there’s hardly any time to think about that when you find yourself pelted with coffee beans and chocolate…or maybe chocolate covered coffee beans. Seriously, the early, sweet, almost wine-y grain tone gives way to an unexpected but very welcome burst of unsweetened chocolate and coffee. Towards the finish, a lot more grain comes out with a little burnt sugar bitterness.
The Finish: Nice roasted grain and slightly burned toffee. Just a bit young tasting towards the end.
Thoughts: Very nice. This one took me completely by surprise. The nose was pleasant enough if not lacking a bit in character, but those great, unexpected coffee and chocolate notes on the palate really won me over. Kilbeggan is fairly easy to find for under $20, making it a worthy and interesting alternative to the more common Jameson or Bushmills.