Tuesday 11 August 2009

Kellan Whiskey

A new Irish whiskey brand has appeared in the US. It was launched by Florida-based spirit importer, BerNiko, and is called Kellan (a Gaelic boy's name, apparently).

It's a Cooley blend, containing 22% unpeated malt whiskey which, like all Cooley malt, is double-distilled. The rest, of course, is Cooley's rather fine grain whiskey. The malt and grain components have been matured for at least four years in ex-bourbon barrels.

BerNiko very kindly sent me a bottle so I can report on the taste too. Now I'm not a big fan of Cooley blends, young or old, so I wasn't expecting too much here. I was very pleasantly surprised, however, by this beautifully balanced whiskey. I'm sure it works great with a mixer or in a cocktail but I'd happily drink it neat if I saw it in a bar. I promised to bring the bottle to a meeting of the Irish Whiskey Society but now I'm tempted to keep it for myself!

I hope this is just the first of a range of Kellan whiskeys. BerNiko tell me they are planning an aged blend (most likely 8yo) and they don't rule out a single malt or limited editions in the future.

For now Kellan is only available in the US, for between $22 and $25 (for 750ml).

Kellan has one other interesting selling point: it is certified kosher. There is a KLBD mark on the back label that indicates this. I'm no expert on Jewish dietary requirements but some quick reading on the topic leads me to believe that most of Cooley's output would be kosher anyway. Kellan just makes that official.

I'll mention one other thing that struck me immediately on seeing the bottle for the first time. A young whiskey matured in ex-bourbon barrels should be fairly light in colour. Kellan is a very deep amber. Clearly this is artificially achieved with a heavy dose of caramel colouring. It shouldn't affect the taste but in a decent whiskey like this why not let the appearance reflect the truth of its manufacture?