Ireland’s Kilbeggan Distillery has no shortage of history. Founded in 1757, it’s recognized as the Emerald Island’s oldest licensed distillery.
Its recent history, however, is filled with stops and starts. American prohibition and general economic depression led to its closure, and then, after a series of sales, the brand was snapped up by Cooley Distillery, best known for producing Tyrconnell. Today it exists under the Beam Suntory umbrella. Kilbeggan Single Grain, its most recent release, hit U.S. shores in July.
This is a single grain whiskey, which means that it has been made at a single location with malted barley and at least one other grain. In this case, the other grain is a heaping helping of corn: the mash bill stands at 6% malted barley and a whopping 94% corn.
Kilbeggan Single Grain is made in a copper-lined column still housed at the Cooley Distillery. It is aged in ex-bourbon barrels, and finished in a combination of ex-bourbon and fortified wine barrels.
The whiskey pours a faint gold in the glass, and has corn (no surprise), peaches, and cream on the nose. It starts cool on the palate, with immediate notes of sweet cream that coat the tongue and give it a silky, creme-like texture. It warms up at the center introducing a sweet note of peaches, followed by vanilla and a burst of oaky spice. It has a long, lingering finish that is both sweet and spiced, akin to what I imagine licking vanilla ice cream seasoned with black pepper might be like.
The amount of corn in the mash bill sets it apart from other Irish whiskeys, and primes it for bourbon lovers. But characterizing it as sweet misses the mark: its light body and long, spiced finish give it a rewarding complexity that will be appreciated even more after checking the very reasonable price tag.
CE Rating: ★★★