18 May 2011

Kilbeggan 18 "A Beautiful Bourbon-esque Blend"

One of the many highlights from the whisky festival scene over the last couple of years, have been the occasions when I’ve bumped into Michael Morris the Commercial Director at the Cooley Distillery.

Each and every time our paths cross he seems to have yet another fine example of the dramming fruits from this progressively contemporary yet still very traditional Irish distillery.

From Greenore, Connemara and Tyrconnell, Cooley have somewhat shaken up and some may say woken up the Irish whiskey industry, which largely thanks to them is now going through somewhat of a revolution.

Kilbeggan is yet another great name from the Cooley stable, and although the new 18 year old wasn’t even bottled at the time I last spoke to Michael at Whisky Live London earlier this year, he very kindly made sure I had a bottle ahead of its release. Not only is it a great testament to that all is great about Irish whiskey at the moment, it’s also a fine example of precision balanced blending.

Right throughout the nosing and tasting of this dram, it has to be said that you’re treated to a multitude of bold brash yet balanced elements that are normally associated with a great small batch bourbon. Infact I can guarantee that anyone trying this will have to double take at least three times to see whether this actually is a drop of Irelands finest and not a cheeky drop of the aforementioned ‘liquid americana’.

The nose kicks off with full on vibrant and vivacious whiffs of vanilla, followed by the aromas of a warm cherry heavy fruitcake and a slice of traditional homemade bakewell tart, not the mass produced variety with the white icing and the glace cherry in the middle which claim to be exceedingly good.

A toasted infusion of cinnamon, rich oak and a hint of cloves make for the next set of sensations, along with a wave of peach liqueur and a subtle zest-ette from a blood orange and a limetta lime.

All the nutty and dried fruit aromas from a health food store then briefly have their moment in the nasal spotlight, before being upstaged by thick glug-ettes of honey and burnt caramel.

The palate isn’t so quick to get off the mark but after a few minutes it revs up like an out of control chainsaw and chops through and delivers a whole wealth of sweet and spiced woody wonders.

Ripe sweet peaches and wave after wave of velvety vanilla wonderfulness make for the next set of palatable delights, along with a bag of soft centred caramels, a small pipettes worth of clove oil and a bowl of honey coated walnuts.

An infusion of orange sherbet ice cream, cherry cough syrup and a pinch of black pepper then lead the charge to the finish, and what a fine one it is. Infact if anything after a few minutes the latter elements intensify helping to deliver one heck of a long lingering finish of a dramming crescendo.