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Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey  78.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 17, 2013

The Kilbeggan Distillery is located beside the River Brosna in the town of Kilbeggan, which is in the Barony of Moycashel, part of the County WestmeathIreland. The distillery (formerly called the Brusna Distillery and then later the Locke Distillery) was founded in 1757 and after a few changes in ownership was closed in 1957. Although the distillery has a 200 year history of whiskey production the combined toll of Prohibition and the subsequent Global Depression led to a consolidation of the whisky industry in Ireland. The distillery was silent for 25 years. When it re-opened it was not as a working distillery but, rather was restored as a whiskey distillery museum by the community of Kilbeggan.

Sometime later the Cooley Distillery (owned by John Teeling) purchased the license to produce Kilbeggan Whiskey and began to construct a new distillery at Kilbeggan. (The Cooley Distillery has since been purchased by Beam Global who now own the new working distillery at Kibeggan.) At this time, the Kilbeggan Whiskey being produced is still distilled at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth; however, all of the Kilbeggan branded whisky is transferred to Kilbeggan to be aged in their ancient granite warehouse.

(Note: The new working distillery at Kilbeggan has already begun to produce new make spirit and fully aged whiskey from the new distillery will be available in 2014.)

The subject of this review, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, was distilled at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth, but aged at the Kilbeggan site. It is produced from a mixture of malted barley and grain which have been ground down to a rough flour known as grist. The whiskey is aged in used Bourbon barrels and aged for no less than 3 years plus a day, although the Kilbeggan website implies that some of the blend may be aged longer than this.

(Note: Sample for this review provided by the Alberta Beam Global team)

SAM_0654 KilbegganIn the Bottle 4/5

The Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey arrives in a tall bar room style bottle packaged in a handsome black sleeve. It is a rather nice presentation, but I do have some quibbles with what I see. My first quibble is with the metallic screw cap used for the closure. The cap is not as cheap flimsy as some I have seen, but I still feel the metallic cap cheapens the overall look. My other quibble is the lack of solid information about the whiskey on either the bottle or the plastic sleeve. The brand is associated with the original Kilbeggan Distillery which was founded in 1757; but in reality the whisky is distilled a the relatively new Cooley Distillery, not at the oldest distillery in Ireland as the bottle implies. I realize that this type of marketing double speak occurs all the time in the spirits world; but I would prefer more clarity.

In the Glass 8/10

The Kilbeggan is very pleasant in the glass with a nice warm mahogany colour and initial scents of vanilla, punky toffee, and light sandalwood. As I let the glass breathe, I notice some nice fruity notes (banana and orange peel in particular), a bit of pickle juice, some green grape, and a nice little dollop of almond. A bit of grainy spice reaches up as well, and perhaps just a touch of astringency implying to me that the average age of the blend is probably not much more than 3 to 5 years.

Despite the youthfulness implied, my first impression is that this is a nice example of a pleasant traditional Irish Whiskey.

In the Mouth 47/60

The first sip of whiskey reveals more spice (and astringency) than I was expecting. Flavours of vanilla, caramel, and dry fruit (raisins in particular) combine with peppery wood spices and orange peel in a spirit that is pleasant (although perhaps a little sweet). The texture is lightly creamy, and if I take my time I can discern those same light flavours of banana, pickle juice, and almond which I encountered in the breezes above the glass.

With ice, this is certainly quite drinkable; but I would prefer to mix. (This is hardly surprising given the youthfulness of the whisky; so please do not see this statement as a criticism, rather this is just the reality of a rather young blend.) When I mix the Kilbeggan with a little soda, the result is extremely pleasing. This is the style of whiskey which would easily find a place in my backyard on a nice Sunday afternoon while I do some grilling on the barbeque.

In the Throat 11.5/15

The Irish whisky is a little sharp in the finish and demonstrates more than just a little burn. The last impressions are of caramel and wood spice with a lingering heat (which I would prefer to be just a shade cooler).

The Afterburn 8/10

Not all whiskeys are designed to be sippers; in fact, most of them are produced for people who prefer to mix their whiskey with a little soda, or in cocktails. I am pretty sure the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey falls into this category. Making a whiskey for the masses is not a bad idea, especially when for the most part, I consider myself part of that circle. My plan is to publish this review on the morning of St. Pats. That afternoon will find me enjoying a nice tall Kilbeggan and Soda to celebrate the day.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

SAM_0666 Kilgeggan MojitoHere is a nice tall Irish Whisky Cocktail to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Mojito Swizzle

1 1/2 oz  Kilbeggan Irish Whisky
3 oz Soda (7 up or Ginger ale)
1 oz Lime juice
1/3 oz sugar syrup

Muddle a few chunks of Lime, the lime Juice and some mint leaves in the bottom mixing glass
Strain the mixture into a tall serving glass
Add lots of Ice
Pour the Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey over the ice
Complete with ginger-ale
Stir to frost the outside of the glass
Garnish with 1/4 lime and more mint

Please remember to enjoy responsibly as it is my aim to help you find and drink better whiskey, but not to encourage you to drink more whiskey!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


One Response to “Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey”

  1. rawkabillyrebel said

    I agree with Chip on this, nothing special about it. I tired it 2 years ago and was not blown away. For me, Writer’s Tears was a lot more flavorful and cost basically the same

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