Monday, March 7, 2011

Knappogue Castle Aged 12 Years Irish Whiskey

My favorite hard spirit, as of late, has been Knappogue Castle Whiskey, 1995 vintage. It is one of the smoothest single malt whiskeys I have ever drank and besides that it is Irish. I prefer the Irish much more than Scotch, what with the peat flavor Scotch often leaves in my mouth. Bad enough I get a mouthful of it each year out in the garden, I do not need the taste of it when I am drinking. Add to that the fact that Irish Whiskey is thrice distilled and it just comes out the winner with my taste buds. Of course, I knock back some good single malt and single barrel Scotch now and again, I just prefer the mellower taste of the Irish.

I went to the liquor store a couple of nights ago and grabbed a bottle, or should I call it 'the' bottle of Knappogue Irish Castle 1995 they had on the shelves. Sadly and surprisingly, it was the only one there and I had wanted to buy 2 because I had a bit of extra cash. Well, I guess the reason there was only a single bottle was because they had many bottles of newly labeled bottles saying ‘Aged 12 Years’ Knappogue Irish Whiskey. Seems the folks at the castle have decided to do away with the vintage year, for the most part except for special batches, and now put the age of the booze on the bottle. If they had to put the age on the bottle, I wish they would have also kept the year of production. I went ahead and bought one of each. I'll not open the 1995 bottle until a special occasion, maybe like being thirsty someday, and for now have only cracked the seal the one labeled ‘Aged 12 Years’.

Last night, I enjoyed a dollop or two of the 12 year old liquid refreshment. It isn't bad, in fact it was quite delicious, but I'll be damned if anyone thinks it tastes the same as the 1995 batch. It is harsher, more Scotch like. I imagine that the somewhat slightly darker color of the 12 year old over the 1995 pale golden nectar should have been a clue. It is not much different in color or in shade but there is a difference. Where the vintage marked potion was a pale golden yellow, the aged spirit has a slightly reddish tinge added in its look. You probably would not notice unless you held the two bottles side by side, but when I looked at the new one, I noticed it right away. Now don't get me wrong, it tastes good, looks good and is pleasant in the old sniffer.

Here is how they describe it at the Kanppogue Castle web site:

Color: Lovely pale straw/yellow color reminiscent of muscadet white wine; ideal purity.

Okay I could go with them on the color, but it definitely is a bit reddish compared to their 1995 dated whiskey.

Aroma: Opening inhalations encounter richly biscuity and malty/grainy/breakfast cereal aromas. Several minutes of air contact adds intriguing pepper/vegetal and spice notes.

I always find the descriptions of aromas and tastes rather comical to ludicrous when it comes to describing the tastes of what distillers want you to believe is a fine spirit -well maybe now I should say almost always. I think it smells like a mellow, clean tasting whiskey would smell, with a bit of the scent of the forest on a damp fall day added in. After a bit more sniffing though, I will admit, I began to enjoy the aroma of caramelized sugar atop a hot spiced bun.

Taste: Entry is balanced, focused, and integrated, slightly astringent and nicely fruity. Midpalate has delicate tastes of marshmallow, brown sugar, oaky vanilla, and marzipan.

Here is where I can start laughing, not a cynical mocking laugh but one of simple amusement because I usually find such descriptions absurd; yet, amazingly enough I can agree with them on some of what they claim. I don't know about marzipan or marshmallow but there certainly is the astringent value, or in other words a clean crisp whiskey flavor that first greets your taste buds. Then it does, if you swirl it round a bit then push it up against your palate with your tongue, change to a somewhat brown sugar or caramelized sugar flavor mixed with and earthy vanilla flavor. It is not so much oak like as it is fall forest like, but then again there are lots of oak leaves on the forest floor I'm thinking about. I have to say that for once I almost agree with the distillers claims as to aroma and taste; I find that amazing since I usually find such descriptions to be little more than the fruity opinions of fruitcakes.

Comment: A polished and mature Irish single malt whiskey selected and bottled at the ideal age. One of the best Knappogue Castle bottlings to date. Excellent Value.

As for their comment, let me add my own: It is a bit different from the 1995 but still is damned fine whiskey, worth the money, and well worth the effort to go out to find. It goes over the tongue easily and goes down just as easy, and when you wake up the next day - well it leaves me just as easy headed as did the 1995 Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey although I truly only drank a small dollop or two. Now, for all I know, the stuff marked as 'Aged 12 Years' could be the very same stuff as that labeled '1995' and any difference I am seeing, smelling and tasting could be due to the same whiskey from different barrels. Yet, I do see, scent and taste a difference.

I think the Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey Aged 12 Years is excellent. While I think this newer one may be almost the equal of their 1995, just having its own personality as any 12 year old is sure to have, I am fairly certain it will never replace the 1995 vintage Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey as my favorite Irish whiskey to date. I am pretty certain though that, the Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey, Aged 12 Years, comes as close to equaling or beating out the 1995 as is heavenly allowable.

All the best,
Glenn B