Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Note: Due to some recent comments, I’m going to have to start leading off every “low end” whiskey review with this note. I understand that this is a blend and that it is intended for mixing, not analyzing in comparison to fine single-malts and other high-end whiskies. However, as I do not mix cocktails, and I do enjoy some inexpensive whiskies straight, I am going to proceed with this review as if I’m contemplating its merit as a low-end sipper.

Kilbeggan is one of those ubiquitous bottles that you see on market shelves in the Irish Whiskey section, but always pass by in favor of the well-known options (like Jameson), or the lesser-known “insider” whiskies, like Redbreast or a single malt from Cooley’s. There actually is a Kilbeggan distillery, which was mothballed in 1957, and much later re-opened as a whiskey museum. Irish whiskey company Cooley bought the rights to the brand name and began producing Kilbeggan at its own facility, which means the bottles on the shelves are blended Cooley Irish whiskey. However, in 2007 the company also refurbished the old distillery and in 2010 began producing whiskey at the old site again. This product will be available starting in 2014. I intend to review it again at that time.

The current Kilbeggan is a blend of Cooley grain whiskey and malt whiskey. This differentiates it from other Irish blends like Jameson and Powers, which contain Irish single pot-still whiskey instead of just malt. Kilbeggan is aged for at least 3 years (or “sometimes longer”) in ex-bourbon barrels at the warehouse at the old Kilbeggan site.

Nose: Clean scent. Very grain-y, with the usual lineup of cereals, powdered sugar, and freshly-baked bread. While not particularly hot at the baseline 40% ABV, there is a pronounced nose tickle. Some high notes appear: raspberry? green apple? But they are transient.

Palate: Thin body, with only a hint of pot-still bulk. Tongue burn is minimal, although it lasts for awhile. Not much in the way of flavor is revealed: a repeat of the cereal notes and that slightly unpleasant “wide-cut” effect: vaguely reminiscent of the scent of turpentine.

Finish: Medium-length. Green apple again, and a slight woody nuttiness. Not unpleasant for an inexpensive whiskey, but there are no stand-out flavors.

With Water: A generous splash of water reveals a nice banana taffy tang on the nose, with heightened vanilla notes. The body is unaffected, and is considerably smoother (no surprise there, it’s diluted), but is somehow also more soft and no longer has that vodka/turpentine quality. The banana taffy is repeated on the finish. I heartily recommend dosing this with a little water.

Overall: This, like Jameson, is an eminently drinkable Irish whiskey. I feel that Jameson has a little more to offer in the way of fruit notes and character. For my money (and especially if I’m drinking it straight), I’ll stick to Jameson. I am, however, excited to try the whiskey now being produced at the rejuvenated original distillery. The “Not Recommended” rating is due to the minimal flavor, and the fact that Jameson is probably a better buy.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $22 - $25
Acquired: 50ml miniature glass sample bottle
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , ,
8 Comments

8 Responses to Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

  1. Jason says:

    I picked up a bottle of this recently to mix w/ Coca-Cola. In my area it had a **$10** rebate per bottle , which brought it down to about $10 net for me. I’d say it’s worth $10, maybe $15.

    For mixing it’s okay. For drinking neat, it’s…not. Much prefer Jameson’s for both.

    • Boozehound says:

      For mixing with Coca-Cola, isn’t just about anything acceptable? I mean, you’re drinking a spiked soda for Pete’s sake: buy the cheapest thing with the least objectionable flavor.

  2. wjparkerqc says:

    Here in Canada the men are heartier and less fussy. I was given a bottle by a very close friend, whose name I must hold back, for his fame in whiskey circles is legend. He loves the Cooley made Kilbeggan and asked me for an opinion. As a devotee of Irish whiskey I entered the challenge with gusto. The second bottle was better than the first and the third still lurking about the tonsils charmingly. As for the price, always a factor, my experience came gratis, always a pleasure. I’ll be pleased to buy it in 2014.

  3. Eric says:

    If you’re Irish Distillers, and you’re going to open up a new distillery for just one of your brands, why this one? If you’re going to go to the trouble of opening a new distillery for a brand, this seems like such a random choice.

  4. ano69 says:

    I bought it today at the other side of the Europe. It was selling for around 14 EUR, down to 11 with some rebate at the store. Compare that with the 10 EUR I spent buyng a Black Tullamore Dew which is much better deal.

    Anyway, I’m not impressed by this one (Kilbeggan). Nothing special. Wouldn’t buy another from this batch. It’s price range should be in 5 to 8 EUR to be worth looking at (and I don’t look the whiskies in that range).

    My two cents: It’s worth only in cocktails and for cooking. The bundled branded glass is the only thing which saves this brand from rating it as Junk.

  5. Jack says:

    This stuff rocks. I had a blind whiskey tasting with some sophisto palates (one guy owns a good Oregon winery) and this beat all but Redbreast. Beats Jameson like a red headed stepchild! I think it’s a crazy bargain.

  6. Pingback: My 1st Irish whiskey – Kilbeggan | Ireland Golf Tour 2015

  7. Patrick says:

    I bought a bottle because it was cheap. I figured if it was not too tasty: Irish coffee. I sampled a straight shot. This is good booze. I ended up drinking half the bottle in one evening and was horrified I had just overdone things with cheap booze. I awoke the next morning with no hangover and no ill effects at all. Good booze at a low price with no hangover in the bottle.

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