My recent introduction to Irish whiskey began with a brand called Knappoogue Castle. The vintage in question was the 1995 edition, bottled at 40% abv. Before sharing my tasting notes of this single malt, I think it best to discuss some background to this label.
The owner of Knappogue castle began keeping casks of Tullamore in his personal reserve in 1951. He would bottle it over time and distribute to those he cherished most. The last of Tullamore casks were bottled in 1987. The tradition appeared to be over, until his son began bottling product from the Cooley distillery in the 1990s. More recent bottling a originate from the Bushmills distillery.
The colour of the whisky was a very clear yellow. The legs ran quickly and thin.
The nose exhibited the characteristics of pear and honey.
The palate was strong on pear, the spices giving it vibrancy and the citrus creating a juicy texture. Some citrus also appears in the mix. As the tasting continued, I was able to make out some serious roasted nuts.
The finish was very long, but still satisfying. Bitter cocoa is the best I can do to describe the final impression of this whiskey on the finish.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this whisky. It may not be at the same level as the Scottish malts of similar age, I was told this was a 12 year-old whiskey, but it is quite enjoyable as a daily after dinner dram. Worth a look if you’re in the market.
I recently participated in a tasting of Irish whisky in of all places San Antonio,Texas. This experience lead me to explore the long and tragic history of Irish whiskey making in the hopes of better understanding the product I tasted and plan future purchases.
Irish whiskey-making on a commercial level is thought to have originated in the early 1600s. However, the industry would not reach its peak until John Jameson started distilling large quantities of the stuff in the early to mid 1800s, producing high quality whiskey for mass consumption. Unfortunately, the industry peaked around the middle of the 1800s and never fully recovered due to a series of socio-economic factors that created conditions unsuitable for Irish producers. In the early 20th century, it was still the preferred whiskey in the Unites States until prohibition ended all Irish whiskey imports into the country.
Only in the 1980s did production start to recover and today a small number of distillers produces all of Ireland’s whiskey. There are nine distilleries in operation in Ireland. These include the well-known brands from Middleton (e.g. Jameson, Green Spot), Bushmills, and Cooley (e.g. Connermara, Locke’s). In addition to these older distilleries, there are a number in construction or who haven’t yet had time to age their product, such as Alltech and Dingle. These new players are hoping to benefit for the resurgence in interest in whiskey of all types.
Whiskey from Ireland comes in several forms. Grain whiskey is made from unmalted barley in a continuous still. This is usually mixed with malted barley to creat a blend. A blend is a mixture of grain and malt whiskies. For Irish whiskey, this means blending the grain product with a pot still product. A pot still product can be made by distilling malted barely in a single pot (single malt) or by using malted and unmalted barley in a single pot. The latter is also known as pure pot still whiskey. This style is unique to Ireland.
Having explored the background and types of Irish whiskey, I will dedicate some space in the near future to reviewing the whiskey I tasted during my time in San Antonio.