Knappogue Castle 14 y/o: Twin Wood

Maker: Castle Brands, New York, New York, USA (Pernod-Ricard)

Distiller: Cooley, County Louth

Style: Triple distilled Irish single malt, aged in sherry and bourbon casks.

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 46%

Michigan State Minimum: $60

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Wood varnish, sawdust.

Palate: Full-bodied and mildly sweet, then big oak.

Finish: Apricot custard under a mountain of sawdust.

Parting words: I love Irish Whiskey and I especially love Knappogue Castle. I’ve gushed over their whiskeys before so when I saw this 14 y/o version on the shelf I was nearly giddy with excitement.

So imagine my surprise when I tasted my first sip of this sawdust bomb. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this disappointed in a whiskey, especially an Irish one. There’s a solid custard base here, but it’s nearly completely overwhelmed by the heavy-handed (to say the least) use of oak. It’s reminiscent of the sharp, shop class floor aromas in young micro-distilled bourbons that have been aged in small barrels as a shortcut. There’s no excuse for an Irish whiskey of this age to be this oaky, and there’s no excuse for it to be so poorly integrated either. I could continue to rant about this but in the spirit of mercy I will end my review here. Krappogue Castle 14 Twin Oak is not recommended.

Hell-Cat Maggie

Maker: World Spirits, Princeton, Minnesota, USA (Phillips)

wp-1584495384534.jpg

Distiller: Cooley, Louth, Leinster, Ireland (Beam Suntory)

Style: Blended Irish Whiskey

Age: NAS (at least three years old)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $22

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Sweet malt, a little sherry, leather, woodruff, anise.

Palate: Full bodied and soft. Caramel, butterscotch candy with a little bit on the back end.

Finish: Vanilla custard, white pepper, nutmeg, alcohol.

Parting words: Like 2 Gingers, this is another Irish whiskey from Minnesota (?!) but this one comes with a story about someone in a gang in New York or something. I don’t care about NDP marketing bullshit, so I’m not going to get into that.

I’m a big fan of the Cooley Distillery, and Hell-Cat Maggie is in the classic Cooley style, so it has that going for it. It’s not as elegant as Tyrconnell or Knappogue Castle but it’s a little more refined than 2 Gingers (which one would expect at $8 more). It mixes well too. My only criticism is that this Hell-Cat lacks claws and teeth. She would benefit from 2%- 6% higher ABV. Still, I like her. Hell-Cat Maggie is recommended.

The Quiet Man, 8 y/o

Maker: Niche Brands, Derry, Northern Ireland, UK (Luxco)20191101_223603.jpg

Distillery: Undisclosed.

Style: Single Malt Irish

Cooperage: First-fill bourbon cask finished

Age: 8 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $38

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Butterscotch, seaspray, apricot, leather, ginger.

Palate: Full-bodied. Toffee, Sauternes, oak, caramel, alcohol.

Finish: Apricots, burn.

Parting words: This is the older sibling of the NAS Quiet Man I reviewed back in January of 2019. I didn’t really care for it at first. I thought it was overoaked and hard to drink. It’s opened up a lot since then and gotten fruitier and more complex. I like it a lot now and $38 isn’t too bad for a good Irish malt these days. The Quiet Man, 8 y/o Single Malt is recommended.

 

 

Kirkland Irish Whiskey

Distiller: Not disclosed (likely Irish Distillers, Dublin, Ireland [Pernod-Ricard])20190313_214454.jpg

Style: Triple distilled Irish blend

Age: 4 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $40/1750 ml (comes out to about $17 for 750 ml)

Appearance: Dark straw.

Nose: Cream soda, dried flowers.

Palate: Mild, but pleasant. Lemon meringue pie, alcohol.

Finish: Vanilla, malt, toffee.

Mixed: I tried Kirkland Irish Whiskey with ginger ale, in a Blackthorn and a Paddy cocktail. I didn’t care much for the Blackthorn, but the other two were very good.

Parting words: Kirkland Irish Whiskey only comes around my local Costco in the month of March, but I wish it was available year round. It’s simple and relatively young, but still elegant. It tastes a little like Jameson, but the floral aromas are balanced with a sweet creaminess that is lacking in the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey. Not much else to say, but I’m enjoying Kirkland a lot more than the last Irish whiskey I bought, which was twice the age, incidentally. Kirkland Irish Whiskey is highly recommended.

 

The Quiet Man

Maker: Niche Brands, Derry, Northern Ireland, UK (Luxco)20181223_194138.jpg

Distillery: Undisclosed

Style: Blended Irish whiskey

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price: $30 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Bright gold.

Nose: Malt, bourbon barrel, Riesling.

Palate: More sweet malt, touch of oak, alcohol, apricot, vanilla custard.

Finish: More apricot, custard, burn.

Parting words: There are a lot of sourced, blended Irish whiskeys on the market right now, and like The Quiet Man, most of their producers are in the process of building a distillery. Whether these distilleries will ever be able to fully supply the brands they’re associated with is an open question (see also Lux Row).

As it stands, though, The Quiet Man is a good, entry-level/tumbler blend. The bourbon barrels used for finishing give it warm, dessert flavors and aromas which complement the fruity sweetness of the malt spirit. $30 is a solid price for this solid whiskey. The Quiet Man is recommended.

 

 

Red Bush

Maker: Old Bushmills Distillery, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK (Cuervo)20180308_162407.jpg

Age: NAS

Style: Bourbon barrel aged, triple distilled Irish blend.

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $25

Appearance: Medium-light copper.

Nose: Blackberry jam, grape juice, Cognac, bubble gum.

Palate: Full-bodied and mellow. Grape soda, oak, sweet bourbon.

Finish: Fruity and long with a little burn.

Mixed: Did well with coffee and with classic cocktails with sweet vermouth. Clashed with dry vermouth and similar mixers.

Parting words: Red Bush is intended to be a gateway Irish whiskey for bourbon drinkers. Unlike the standard “white bush” expression and the more expensive Black Bush that both use a mix of bourbon and sherry casks, Red Bush is made using first (re)fill bourbon barrels exclusively. That gives it a fruity sweetness that makes it an easy drinker and mixer for American palates that aren’t accoustomed to sherry flavors.

Along with stablemate Black Bush and Scotch blend Highland Queen, Red Bush’s name lends itself to cheap, vulgar puns. I’m not the sort of person to engage in such things, but I will say that Red Bush is a fun change of pace for St. Patrick’s day with a good mouthfeel and pleasant aroma. Red Bush is recommended.

Powers John’s Lane Release

Maker: Irish Distillers, Dublin, Ireland (Pernod Ricard)20170818_195107

Distillery: New Midleton, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland (Pernod Ricard)

Style: Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Cooperage: Bourbon with a little Oloroso sherry

Age: 12 y/o

ABV 46%

Michigan State Minimum: $70

Appearance: Burnt orange.

Nose: Oak, leather.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Toffee, overaged bourbon, maybe a tiny bit of plum.

Finish: New oak, burn.

Parting words: Powers John’s Lane release was created as a tribute to the old John’s Lane Distillery in Dublin where Powers was originally distilled. It has received many accolades over the years, including a whiskey of the year designation from pennenial internet punching bag Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

After writing up my notes, I consulted a couple other blogs (My Annoying Opinions and Diving for Pearls) to make sure I wasn’t completely off base. I wasn’t. I love Powers (though maybe not as much as Mr. Kravitz) but I don’t love this whiskey. It’s unbalanced with an overbearing raw oak note similar to the small barrel flavors in Tuthilltown’s dreck. Aside from a hit of toffee in the front of the palate that’s all I can really taste and it’s bad. I don’t know what the hell happened here but $70 is $65 too much. Powers John’s Lane is not reccomended.

 

 

 

Jameson Caskmates, Stout ed.

Maker: Irish Distillers, Midleton, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)20170317_163447.jpg

Style: Beer barrel finished blended Irish whiskey

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $33

Parting words: The concept behind this whiskey is identical to the New Holland Beer Barrel bourbon I reviewed here, back in 2013. The only difference is that the whiskey producer is issuing this rather than the brewer. The brewer in this case is Franciscan Well brewery in County Cork. The beer that formerly occupied the barrels was their Jameson Aged Stout.

This is a much more successful whiskey than Beer Barrel Bourbon was. Like BBB, contact with the beer barrel has brought out fruity aromas and flavors that aren’t present in the whiskey normally. That fruit complements the floral aromas in Jameson where it clashed with the caramel and spice of the MGP bourbon used in BBB.

I’m not a big fan of the standard Jameson, so I like the idea of using finishes to flesh out its normally thin profile. I hope more editions of Caskmates are planned for the future (and are at this reasonable price). Jameson Caskmates, Stout edition is recommended.

Knappogue Castle 12, A & L selection

Maker: Castle Brands, New York, New York, USA20170112_143446.jpg

Distiller: Unknown. Either Cooley or Bushmills.

Selected by A & L Wine Castle, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA (216 bottles)

Style: Triple Distilled Irish Single Malt

ABV: 46%

Purchased for $50

Appearance: Brassy orange.

Nose: Alcohol, oak, tarragon, vanilla scented candle, pineapple.

Palate: Medium bodied. Green apple on entry, buttercream, persimmon pudding.

Finish: Big and creamy. Oakm then pineapple upsidedown cake.

chanin_building_side_up
The Chanin Building, home to Castle Brands.

Parting words: Long time readers will remember that Knappogue Castle was one of the first Irish whiskeys I really fell in love with. The love affair continues with this beauty.

A & L did a great job selecting this barrel. It’s creamy, fruity and complex, with power rare for Irish Whiskeys. In 2013 I wrote the following about the standard Knappogue 12: “My only quibble is the low proof. I would love to be able to taste this at cask strength, or at least 46% ABV.” I’m glad they took my words to heart.

These Knappogue selections are rare, but if you find one, I highly recommend that you buy it!

 

 

 

Photographs

Bottle picture taken by me.

Chanin Building picture By Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA – ny_mayday02_09.JPG Uploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11332153

 

Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix

Maker: Tullamore, Tullamore, Offalay, Ireland (Wm Grant & Sons)2016-03-18-21.07.50.jpg.jpeg

Distiller: New Midleton, Midleton, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)

Style: Blended Irish whiskey

ABV: 55%

Michigan state minimum: $56

Appearance: Bright caramel with thin crooked legs.

Nose: Velvet, alcohol, oak, lavender, grape soda, serrano chiles. Water brings out a lot more oak.

Palate: Sweet and mild at first, then warms up. Alcohol, sherry, plum, golden raisins, oak. With water, shows butterscotch, mostly.

Finish: Alcohol, old sherry, almond paste. Not too different with water. Just milder.

Parting words: Phoenix is named in memory of what the label claims was the world’s first aerospace disaster in 1785. It seems like an odd thing to name a whiskey for, but I’m guessing that it’s also supposed to symbolize the brand’s rebirth with its purchase by Wm. Grant & Sons (owners of Grant’s blended Scotch, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Hendrick’s Gin among others) and the opening of a new distillery in the village of Tullamore. The original distillery there closed in 1954. The Phoenix itself appears on the crest for the village and symbolizes the rebuilding of the town after the tragedy.

Recently I’ve posted a couple twitter rants or snarky photos involving Tullamore Dew, err, D.E.W. I’ve done this in the past and the usual thrust of the rants is how boring Tullamore is. It’s probably the mildest major Irish brand on the market and that’s saying something. It makes Jameson taste like Four Roses Single Barrel. One of the reasons Tullamore is so dull is that all their expressions (except this) are bottled at 40%. When your product is already mild compared to its competitors, bottling it at the lowest ABV allowed by law doesn’t do it any favors.

Phoenix is bottled at a stout 55% and finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The old sherry comes through in a pleasant way, never getting rubbery as in some sherried Irish and Scotch whiskeys. Fruit, oak, spice, this whiskey has it all and is one of my top five Irish currently. The price is not bonkers either. This is how good Tullamore can be when Grant gives it some damn guts. Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix is highly recommended.