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Monday, 11 April 2011

Beggan' For More

Looking through our posts these last few months and it appears that we've covered more Irish whiskies than any other style. There are 2 main factors to this:

Firstly, there seems to be an abundance of quality Irish whiskies out there, which we feel are helping revitalise the category. Statistically, Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing dark spirit in the world.

Secondly- we absolutely love it. Our recent outing from Dublin confirmed there are some real crackers out there, including the Connemara Single Cask bottlings and current Red Breast 15yo.

The sublime Kilbeggan 15yo.

Today we bring you news of a new addition to the Kilbeggan family. One of the very first whiskies to really blow our emerald socks off was the 15 year old, tried many moons ago, before the blog was barely a twinkle in our eyes. It's been a house staple for a while and when news broke last year that there was going to be an 18 year old- we were filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Will they phase out the superb 15yo in favour of the new older sibling, like Laphroaig did a couple of years back? More's the point, how has the blend developed, with whiskey aged for 3 extra years now available to master blender Noel Sweeney? We recently reviewed the Greenore 18yo single grain, which we presume is at the heart of this and it came off very favourably indeed, so our hope altimeter is set to 'extra high'.

The new release is at present a small batch release of 4,000 and, according to Cooley's press release 'destined to become a collector's item'. Hmmm. Nice idea, but for us, Irish whiskey above all others is for drinking rather than collecting! So without further ado, let's crack into the fabulously shaped square bottle and pour a large one.

Kilbeggan - 18yo Blended Irish Whiskey - 4000 bottles - 40%

Nose: How much bourbon vanilla is in here!! I swear, given a prevailing headwind, you'd easily mistake this for a small batch bottling of Kentucky's finest on the first nosing. Delving further in, some white pepper notes develop, followed by a hint of earthy, mossy leaves, some strawberries topped in sweet Carnation Milk and a very clean cereal note. So far, so good. It is different to the 15yo, in that some of the creamier notes have taken a back seat, but this all works very nicely indeed.

Palate: Rich, oily and thick on the mouthfeel, velvety soft in fact. The bourbon vanilla has now transferred itself to the palate and wave upon wave hits you, followed by the sweet creamy cereal and a touch of drying oak. The grain gives this a slightly spirity back palate, but it's a minor gripe really, as the initial mouthfeel is so pleasing.

Dolores, dressed as a furry Cranberry.

Finish: And, like The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan sang so poetically- 'did you have to let it linger?' Well... yes they did actually, for rather a long time, it seems. I suspect the grain balance here is considerably higher than the malt whiskies, as the finish is light and fruity- classic aged grain in fact, but very nice nonetheless...

Overall: A thoroughly enjoyable dram with a nose and initial mouthfeel, which are highly commendable. Would it take over from the 15yo in Caskstrength Towers? Probably not, but this takes Irish whiskey blending on a step further. Good work chaps.