Well, its March, and everybody’s favorite Irish holiday is right around the corner. In honor of good ol’ St. Patrick, I’ll be doing a bit with some Irish whiskey in the next two weeks. Today’s review is of Knappogue Castle 12 year-old single malt Irish whiskey; it is also a review with my good friend, William, from A Dram Good Time. Single malt Irish whiskeys are not as common as Irish blended whiskeys like Jameson, Kilbeggan, and Powers, but you can find them if you know where to look. Like single malt Scotches, single malt Irish whiskeys are distilled entirely from malted barley at one distillery and aged a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels. The biggest difference from Scotch is that single malt Irish whiskey (like all Irish whiskey) is triple distilled, whereas most Scotch whiskies are double distilled.
The Knappogue Castle brand name is currently owned by Castle Brands, Inc., but Knappogue Castle has had a complicated past. The actual whiskey in the bottles has been distilled at almost every distillery in Scotland, making it a hard whiskey to keep track of. To the best of my knowledge, the Knappogue Castle single malts are currently being distilled at Cooley Distillery on the East coast of Ireland. The 12 year-old is the standard expression in the Knappogue Castle lineup, but there are also some delicious older expressions of Knappogue available in the states. The 12 year-old is aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).
This whiskey looks beautiful in the glass, with its beautiful pale gold, white wine color (there is no caramel coloring added to Knappogue Castle). On the nose, it is light and sweet, with pears, lemons, daisies, lilacs, and some barley. The palate is medium-bodied and pleasant, with malted barley, pears, oak shavings, and fresh white grapes. The finish is medium in length with some dry oak, marshmallows, barley, floral notes, and citrus peels.
Overall, Knappogue Castle 12 year is an easy-drinking quality Irish single malt. It is crisp and clean all the way through, with flavors reminiscent of white wine, making it a great whisky for those looking to try an Irish whiskey beyond Jameson without going for too much complexity. My grade: B-. Price: $30-35/750ml.
Here are William’s tasting notes, but you can check out his full review over at A Dram Good Time:
Color: Light Gold / Straw – somewhat reminds me of peach white tea.
Nose: Light, pleasant and full of fresh fruits right out of the gate – apples, pear, pineapple – twigs, honey, touch of vanilla and wood spice, minerals, dry grass, and now more on red apple peels.
Palate: At 40 percent and triple distilled, this whiskey is pleasant and smooth from start to finish. Much like its aromas, the palate is also full of fresh fruits – again, apple and pear but also a little peach and hints of tangy citrus now – hay-like grassy notes, barley, honey, light oak and a touch of peppery spice.
Finish: Moderate in length with a bit of that peppery oak, honey and apple peel.
This is a very fresh, soft and creamy Irish single malt. It’s not all that deep and the sweet and gentle qualities definitely make it an entry-level whiskey, but it’s nicely balanced and one I’d gladly toast with this St. Paddy’s day.