Back in 2007 Kilbeggan released a 15 Year Old Finest Irish Whiskey complete with stylish bottle & packaging to commemorate 250 years of distilling history at the Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath.
It was very well received at the time & went on to win many awards.
Being a rather limited release it attracted a lot of buyers who stored it for intended resale, for a special occasion or just collecting.
Luckily I knew someone who’d actually opened it to enjoy the delights within.
Very generously – I managed a sample!
Now there are always dangers when storing whiskey – and this became evident on the nose with a slight fustiness going on among an otherwise attractive nuttiness.
The palate was soft, smooth & easy with a touch of woody spice going on in the rear.
A gorgeous juiciness finished up the proceedings.
A lovely little drop indeed – although that slight fusty note on the nose suggests it’s not ageing well.
If you enjoy your whiskey – perhaps drinking it soon after purchase is recommended.
You never know what you might find at Whiskey Live Dublin.
I had intended to try some Scotch – but an amadán had decided to vape in the toilets & set off the fire alarms.
No joy there.
I missed out on Japanese too
Beam Suntory’s Toki offering had vanished – but I did try their soon to be released Kilbeggan Single Pot Still with 3% oats in the mix. Creamy & spicy all at the same time. Although I did struggle to fully appreciate what the oats brought to the whiskey in such a brief encounter.
The parent company behind Belfast’s McConnell’s release had an interesting trio of American Whiskeys however. Attractively presented & branded as Clyde May’s the Alabama Style Whiskey caught my eye.
What is Alabama Style?
Turns out something to do with adding dried apples to the barrel. A look online provided a better insight here. I did get a fresh fruitiness on the nose.
Offered at 42.5% this was a decent full bodied whiskey I’d like to enjoy more off.
The Straight Rye also pleased me. A good balance of dry peppery spice with a wholesome body to boot.
Both are sourced from Kentucky – but brand owners Conecuh are building a distillery of their own in Alabama.
A visit to a whiskey distillery is always an exciting experience.
There is the history, the heritage, the gleaming copper pot stills, the subtle smells of malted barley along with gentle woody notes of maturing casks.
There are the characters that make the whiskey too – and all that before actually tasting the whiskey!
But there is also the unexpected.
Like Glastry Farm Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey infused ice cream!
I couldn’t resist.
Soft, creamy, indulgent, with a mention of malt in the background. This ice cream makes a gorgeous dessert on it’s own – let alone served with strawberries and a dash of Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye perhaps?
Little touches like this provide the icing on the cake.
There can be the bargain basement headline grabbing Glen Marnochs & Ben Brackens.
There can be the annually anticipated Lidl/Aldi Xmas Specials which can be of high age statement, low cost and surprisingly great quality to boot.
And then there is Marks & Spencer’s Single Malt.
M&S always go the extra mile.
To begin with they name the distillery that produced the malt – Cooley – even although it’s not a legal requirement. They also inform the discerning drinker caramel colouring is added – also not a legal requirement. And they package the liquid in a very attractive bottle providing a piece of prose about the rich folk lore contained within the local area the whiskey is from – as well as a clever back label that evokes the mountainous landscape of the region.
And what a stunning region it is too.
Slieve Foy Whiskey is named after the majestic mountain of the same name that dominates the landscape of the Carlingford Peninsular. Despite Cooley Distillery not having a visitors centre – that is the role of the pretty Kilbeggan Distillery of the Beam/Suntory group that owns both facilities – a trip to this fabulous part of the country is highly recommended.
A hearty arduous ascent of Slieve Foy itself is rewarded by jaw dropping views of the clear blue waters of Carlingford Lough below – as well as the rounded tops of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland in the distance.
You can replenish your energy afterwards by dining out in one of Carlingford towns many bars – not forgetting a drop of the hard stuff!
So what is the whiskey like?
Well – unlike the rugged countryside – Slieve Foy exhibits a soft, sweet malty nose.
A gentle introduction to a very easy approachable – slips down smoothly – bourbon cask matured single malt.
It’s well balanced – the added caramel doesn’t dominate like other offerings – and there are no rough edges to this very pleasant malt.
The whiskey leaves a warm glow at the end – along with a soft spice – much like the open fire in a suitable Carlingford town bar after a strenuous day on the hills.
Cooley built it’s reputation and business producing 3rd party bottlings. Slieve Foy 8 Year Old is a fine representation of that business.
I look forward to many more representations emanating from the Great Northern Distillery – the successor to Cooley after the sale to Beam – as well as West Cork Distillers – who are both in the business of supplying the supermarkets with malt for the masses.
This delightfully enjoyable blend almost passed me by.
Released under John Teeling’s tenure at Kilbeggan Distillery – it now seems to have slipped from the current line up of new owners Beam/Suntory.
For the greater part of it’s history the distillery at Kilbeggan went by various names. Originally called Brusna Distillery in 1757 – after the river the waterwheel still turns from to this day – then Locke’s Distillery – after the Locke family who effectively ran the operation from 1843 until closure in 1958.
The distillery licence never expired during the following years. In turn this was acquired by John Teeling’s Cooley Distillery which opened in 1987 and resurrected the Locke’s brand – along with a few others.
Locke’s Distillery only ever produced pot still whiskey – which is perhaps one of many reasons for it’s demise – so ironically this miniature is a blended whiskey – using both grain & malt whiskeys combined together.
The Irish Whiskey Industry were rather late in embracing blended whiskey – over 130 years later than their Scottish counterparts – which also partly explains it’s collapse by the 1960’s.
So in it’s own way – Locke’s Blended Irish Whiskey was part of the revival. I’m glad to have stumbled on this miniature at The Old Stand in Mullingar.
The colour is light straw – but added caramel cannot be ruled out for this entry level blend.
A lovely soft malt greeted me on nosing. Sweet with just a little hint of turf.
The palate was soft, sweet & very smooth. Eminently approachable. Yet there is a slight suggestion of peat at the end to give it a bit of bite & character.
A decent afterglow wrapped up this extremely enjoyable drinking experience.
Well worth getting hold of if you come across a bottle.
They have a range of miniature bottles labelled up in county colours covering the entire Island of Ireland.
Meanwhile, I happened to be in Mullingar recently & picked up their Westmeath Irish Whiskey in the surprisingly well stocked off-licence of The Old Stand on Dominick Street – just round the corner from the railway station.
Not being one to leave a bottle unopened – I poured a glass.
There is no indication as to the source of the whiskey. Kilbeggan Distillery does produce malt in the county of Westmeath – mainly for inclusion in blends – but it didn’t strike me as one of theirs -although this young lad is definitely from Mullingar.
The colour was reassuringly straw like – even if added caramel is predominant in entry level blends.
The nose was rather spirity at first – but calmed down on subsequent tastings to reveal some standard vanilla & caramel notes.
A mild tasting with subtle fruits & more of that bourbon cask influence made it’s presence felt after a rather alcohol forward mouthfeel.
There was a bit of a burn at the end – but nothing too unpleasant. Just a straight forward no-nonsense entry level whiskey.
More novelty than nuanced.
My thanks to TOMODERA for posting his thoughts on other county whiskeys here.
The Irish Whiskey industry is experiencing an unprecedented rise in sales.
Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits sector in the World – prompting a rush of new entrants, new distilleries, new players and above all else – new Irish Whiskey bottles & brands to sample.
Things have never been so good.
Yet reading an article entitled ‘The Trouble With Irish Whiskey’ here – it would seem the author is in a parallel universe.
Within the first few paragraphs he suggests Irish Whiskey adopt wholesale Scotch Whiskey Rules.
ARE YOU COMPLETELY BONKERS!!!!!!!!!!!
The whole point of Irish Whiskey is that it is NOT SCOTCH!
But no – this writer would throw away the rich creamy delights of single pot still Irish Whiskey with it’s delightful spicy notes as in the marvelous Dingle Single Pot Still.
Down the drain would go the earthy savouriness & rich history of poitins such as Galway’s Micil Poitin.
And the wonderful reintroduction of Irish Rye as experienced by lucky drinkers at the vibrant Whiskey Live Dublin who managed to sample the stunning single cask 6 year old rye pot still that Kilbeggan Distillery happened to have ‘under the counter’ would never see the light of day.
Because all these superb whiskeys are not allowed under Scotch rules!
The joy of whiskey – for me at least – is experiencing new tastes, new flavours and new styles. I’d also suggest a growing number of consumers deliberately seek out Irish Whiskey for that same reason – because it is NOT SCOTCH.
But the biggest clanger of the whole article is down to one statement.
‘accurately and clearly naming the distillery on bottles of Irish Single Malt Whiskey. Like they have to in Scotland.‘
Now for a piece that has headlines stating;
‘Creating an honest sector‘ and ‘Misinformation and inaccuracies‘
this is simply breath taking.
THERE IS NO SUCH RULE!!!!!!
Section 9 of the Scottish Whiskey Rules here deals with ‘Names of distilleries and distillers etc.’
I must have read it a dozen times looking for the ‘you must name the distillery’ rule – but to no avail.
I wrote to the Scottish Whiskey Association on the subject and got the following reply.
‘ Scotch Whisky Rules do not require the distillery name to be stated on labelling.’
Lecturing the Irish Whiskey industry on it’s misdemeanors based on a lie – or rather ‘Misinformation and inaccuracies‘ isn’t exactly a great start now is it?
There is an Irish word for such occasions which my father in law often used.
Look it up.
Because when you are experiencing the biggest boom Irish whiskey has witnessed for decades, creating an exhilarating buzz AND producing absolutely stunning new whiskey releases – the trouble with Irish Whiskey is letting such omadhauns have a platform in the first place.