Category Archives: Kilbeggan Distillery

Kilbeggan Distilling Co Miniature Irish Whiskey Collection

Miniature gift sets make ideal gifts – they also make for an enjoyable tasting session.

Back to back comparisons very soon show up the range & diversity of flavours, styles & tastes from any whiskey distillery’s output – and the drinker will very quickly discern the particular flavour profile suitable for their individual palate.

I recently picked up the revamped Kilbeggan Distilling Co Irish Whiskey Collection at my local Kilbeggan Distillery in Westmeath – flag bearer to the Beam/Suntory owned sister Cooley Distillery in Louth where the bulk of the whiskey is made.

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Cooley Distillery name plaque c/othewhiskeynut

I got things rolling with ‘The Complex One’ – the Kilbeggan Single Grain.

Showing its new livery – along with the other featured brands – and a boosted 43% ABV with additional maturation in sherry & wine casks – this softly sweet Single Grain displayed a pleasingly varied range of flavours, a little prickly spice & warming heat on the satisfyingly long finish.

A great introductory single grain whiskey.

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Which one would you choose? c/othewhiskeynut

The ‘Sweet One’ came next. Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey – or a blended whiskey to you and me.

Now I must admit to having a soft spot for this blend. On blind tastings it always comes out vying for top spot within the category.

Easy, approachable, but with enough maltiness & depth of flavour to keep it interesting – this is an entry level blend that never disappoints.

The ‘Fruity One’ came in at 100 to 1 – or at least the famous horse the Tyrconnell Single Malt is named after did.

This is the non aged statement (NAS) version of a brand that has many cask finished & age statemented brothers & sisters to explore.

Ex bourbon barrel maturation only allows a warm fruitiness to shine through with a crisper, cleaner taste experience for my palate at least. Very nice.

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Old & new labels c/othewhiskeynut

The final offering is ‘The Smoky One’ – the Connemara Single Malt.

The Connemara range is sadly reduced to just this NAS – and the 12 year old. Gone for the time being are the fabulous 22 year old and Turf Mór expressions. Which is a pity – as peated Irish whiskey is an underrepresented flavour profile within the market.

The smoke in this single malt is rather dry & ashy, complimented by some gentle sweetness. There isn’t much complexity, but its a style I love – and I go out of my way to seek its pleasures.

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I got my Turf Mór! c/othewhiskeynut

There isn’t a bad whiskey in this range.

Just 4 differing styles & types of Irish Whiskey.

You have the single grain, the single malt & the blend combining both – along with that rare commodity in Irish Whiskey – peat.

I’d have to give my top pick to the smoky Connemara – even if the Tyrconnell has more complexity within its softer & subtler flavours.

Choosing between the Kilbeggan Single Grain or Blend is also a tough call – but I’d plump for the Single Grain. Simply because the wonderful flavours within showcase what a wonderful whisky a decent single grain can be.

Which one would you pick?

Sláinte.

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Connemara Turf Mor, 46%

Peat.

Or if you’re in Ireland,

Turf.

Decomposed vegetable matter that can be used as a fuel source to dry the malted barley commonly used in whiskey production. This imparts a smoky flavour to the spirit which generates much devotion amongst ‘peatheads’ – who go to great lengths to satisfy their cravings.

Luckily for me – I simply cycled down to my local distillery – Kilbeggan – to indulge my passion for peat.

There has been a distillery at Kilbeggan since 1757. It claims to be the oldest working distillery in the world operating out of the same site with a continuous licence from it’s inception.

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Wall plaque in The Pantry c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills have  ‘alternative facts’ dating from 1608. The current distillery however wasn’t built until 1885 replacing an earlier one at a different site dating from 1784.

While it’s undoubtedly true Scotland is the biggest producing whisky nation in the world, they only gained that title in the early 1900’s. Before then Ireland was number 1. The earliest Scottish distillery still in production –  Glenturret – dates from 1775.

Kilbeggan – in advance of a new and welcome bill – also has a licence to allow the consumption & sale of alcohol on the premises. Cycling afforded me the luxury of being able to enjoy a few glasses. Allowing me to reacquaint myself with the Connemara 22 year old – as well as  trying out the recently re-released Turf Mor expression.

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Connemara 22yo & Turf Mor c/othewhiskeynut

Now none of the Connemara range are actually produced at Kilbeggan. Cooley Distillery in County Louth is where that all happens – but Kilbeggan is one of the maturation sites. It also has a small boutique distillery whose spirit usually finds it’s way into some of the blended releases. There are plans afoot however to allow visitors the unique experience of  bottling their own Kilbeggan produced whiskey with a valinch as part of the historical distillery tour. A welcome addition.

The 22 year old has a softly peated nose. As befits it’s age the taste is smooth & complex. The peat is well balanced by many rich notes from the long years maturing in oak barrels. A very fine & well cultured whiskey. Bottled at 46%  & non chill-filtered.

Turf Mor is the bigger, badder & bolder younger sibling!

Youthful, exuberant & punchy. This heavily peated single malt delivers a healthy kick to the palate tempered by a soft sweetness. Much more my style.

It’s not as bold & overwhelming as the previous 58.2% incarnation – but a very welcome return of a heavy hitting peat from Ireland at 46% – albeit as a limited Travel Retail release & of course – at the distillery.

A bottle was duly purchased. Well worth the 70km cycle!

The entire Connemara range of peated single malts make a fine display in their new bright livery. Oh! Did I say they are all Irish double distilled peated single malts?

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Current Connemara range c/othewhiskeynut

The 2 youthful non-aged statements (NAS) contain some welcome fire & bite in contrast to the rather well-mannered & refined 12 & 22 year old elders.

All are available at the Kilbeggan Distillery – along with the Tyrconnell, Kilbeggan & Locke’s range of whiskeys too.

Kilbeggan is currently owned by the Beam/Suntory group. Due to increased demand it’s advised to book in advance for the guided tours. You are welcome to drop into the very friendly Whiskey Bar anytime during opening hours.

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Oh show me the way to the next whiskey bar c/othewhiskeynut

Full of wonderfully rich history & culture, some fabulous whiskeys, a cafe and a bar – what are you waiting for?

Slainte.

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Kilbeggan / Cooley Distillery part 2

Prior to the Beam/Suntory takeover of the Kilbeggan/Cooley distillery, it was the only independently owned distillery in Ireland. (This situation has altered again due to the many new entrants into the market). A number of brand names were dropped from the portfolio during the changing process which has led to exciting developments in the Irish Whiskey industry.

Locke's Single Malt Crock c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Locke’s Single Malt Crock c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

The 1st notable omission from the current line-up is Locke’s Single Malt.This is a fine example of a smooth tasting pot still Irish whiskey. The fact that the Locke’s family ran the Kilbeggan distillery for over 100 years through the ups and downs of the whiskey trade and that there name was synonymous with a good dram – it seems a startling miss out. For further reading there is a very informative book – “Locke’s Distillery, A History.” by Andrew Bielenberg, produced for the 250th anniversary of the distillery. Well worth getting hold off. I got my copy at the Offaly Historical & Archaeological Society shop in Tullamore.

Locke's Distillery A History c/o Whiskey Nut
Locke’s Distillery A History c/o Whiskey Nut

The main beneficiaries of the sale to Beam were the Teeling family. Brothers Jack and Stephen wasted no time reinvesting their share in building the 1st new distillery to be opened in Dublin for 125 years. I’ve been lucky to have visited it already. It’s a grand building and will produce some very fine whiskeys indeed judging by the Teeling releases currently out there which are all presently spirit made at Kilbeggan/Cooley. There is a must see documentary called “The Whiskey Business” soon to be screened on Irish TV on June 5th which follows the boys making their dreams come true.

Teeling Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Teeling Single Malt c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Father John is also building a grain distillery at Dundalk – no doubt to supply his sons (and others) with one of the main ingredients for blended whiskey.

There are a number of other clients who previously sourced their spirit at Kilbeggan/Cooley who have gone on to develop their own distilleries.

Slane Castle Whiskey c/o independent.ie
Slane Castle Whiskey c/o independent.ie

Slane Castle Whiskey is in Co. Meath and is part of an estate famous for holding outdoor rock concerts. The Foo Fighters play this year – if you fancy that!

Peter Lavery c/o belfastmediagroup.com
Peter Lavery c/o belfastmediagroup.com

Lottery winner Peter Lavery previously released the Titanic and Danny Boy whiskey brands. He is now behind the release of McConnell’s Irish Whiskey prior to the development of Crumlin Gaol in Belfast as a whiskey distillery.

Michael Collins Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop
Michael Collins Whiskey c/o Celtic Whiskey Shop

Meanwhile – a whiskey I have tasted and enjoyed – Michael Collins – is taking a rather different approach. The Sidney Frank Importing Co is suing Beam for the cessation of it’s whiskey stocks!

There is also the rather unknown quantity of “own label” brands – supermarket chains for example -that would have got their spirit from Kilbeggan/Cooley. This is a major business – but often hard to get information on. The requirement is only to state which country produced the whiskey – not the distillery – but Kilbeggan/Cooley under Teeling supplied this lucrative market.

O'Reilly's Irish Whiskey c/o eluxo.pl
O’Reilly’s Irish Whiskey c/o eluxo.pl

One example is O’Reilly’s Irish Whiskey which is available in Tesco’s. It has the Cooley Business address on the back. It is still on the shelves at present so whether stocks have been secured post Beam – or pre Beam – I don’t know. I’ve aslo not tasted it. But it is an example of the many different labels a distilleries output can end up in!

The above are only a small sample of whiskeys manufactured at Kilbeggan/Cooley during the time John Teeling was at the helm – 1987 to 2012. Many are no more – but some may survive. I certainly enjoy hunting them down and experiencing the differing tastes and styles on display – marvelling that they were all produced at the same distillery!

Slainte

Whiskey Nut

Irish Distilleries Number 1 (and 2) part 1

Well, you have to start somewhere, so I’ll start with my nearest.

Kilbeggan Distillery c/o Whiskey Nut
Kilbeggan Distillery c/o Whiskey Nut

The Kilbeggan Distilling Company as it is currently known, is situated on the River Brosna in County Westmeath, Ireland. It has the distinction of being the oldest distillery in Ireland by having a continuous license to distill whiskey in the same building from 1757.

Bushmills Distillery c/o Discover Northern Irelad
Bushmills Distillery c/o Discover Northern Irelad

This is hotly contested by Bushmills who proclaim 1608 on their bottles. Alas that license does not pertain to the building that still produces spirit today so on a technicality, Kilbeggan wins!

Kilbeggan Distillery has a long history over it’s 250+ years and is presently owned by the Beam/Suntory Group. They currently concentrate on 3 to 4 core brands.

Kilbeggan Whiskey

Kilbeggan Whiskey
Kilbeggan Whiskey

The original Kilbeggan blend is a pleasant smooth tasting introduction to Irish Whiskey. I took a bottle to France with me as a present and all at an outside dinner rated it very highly.   B

Kilbeggan 21 year old
Kilbeggan 21 year old

There is a 21 year old blend available if you have the money. It’s a stunning drink. Smooth yet spicy with complex flavours.  A

Kilbeggan Single Grain
Kilbeggan Single Grain

What used to be called the Greenore range (which is more appropriate as that is the town closest to the distillery at Cooley which makes the bulk of the spirit for Kilbeggan. Beam/Suntory actually got 2 facilities) has now been relabeled as Kilbeggan. They are a range of single grain whiskeys with the 8 year old being the flag bearer.  B

Tyrconnel Single Malt
Tyrconnel Single Malt

Tyrconnel is a single malt offering. It too is lovely and smooth. It also comes in a range of finishes; Port, Sherry and Madeira which if done right add lovely flavours to the mix. I’ve yet to sample them so can only comment on the original single.  B

Connemara is an award winning peated single malt which comes in a variety of ages as well as peat content for those who like it. It’s not my thing so I’ve not rated it.

Connemara Peated Whiskey
Connemara Peated Whiskey

The final expression is only available in the US so if anyone is coming over I’d love to get a bottle!

2 Gingers
2 Gingers

2 Gingers is one that almost got away! Kieran Folliard arranged this blend with the distillery’s previous owners and it looked likely to be dropped (as others were) but his dynamic sales saved the day.

Kilbeggan Distillery is a wonderful place to visit with the museum showing original machinery from bygone days including a working water wheel and steam engine. There is also a well stocked shop , a boutique working distillery,  the all important tasting bar and a lovely restaurant. It’s the public face of Kilbeggan Whiskey as opposed to the manufacturing plant at Cooley.

Get yourselves down there if you haven’t been already!

Sláinte

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