Thursday 24 January 2013

Knappogue Castle 14-year old Twin Wood

Knappogue Castle has produced another in their series of "Twin Wood" single malt bottlings. This 14-year old (bottled in October 2012) is younger than the 16- and 17-year olds that preceded it but there are a few other important, less obvious differences.

The "Twin Wood" in the name refers to the maturation of the whiskey in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Although that's not unusual for Irish whiskey, it was a departure from the all-bourbon style Knappogue favoured until quite recently.

The first two Twin Woods were sherry finishes. In other words, the whiskey was matured in bourbon casks, then transferred to sherry casks for a period before bottling. This time, to quote the press release, the malt
spends a minimum of 14 years in bourbon barrels to give it the Knappogue Castle signature smooth taste; it’s then combined with more Irish single malt aged in casks specially infused for Knappogue Castle with Oloroso Sherry.
It seems, therefore, to be a vatting of bourbon-matured and sherry-aged malt. Though it doesn't say so in the press release, we can reasonably assume that this malt was distilled at Bushmills.

Another change is the bottling strength: 46% ABV (compared to 40% for the previous incarnations). This is the strength typically used to avoid having to chill-filter the whiskey. (Below this strength, the risk is that the whiskey will become cloudy at low temperatures unless it is filtered before bottling.) And, indeed, the label declares that the whiskey has not been chill-filtered. It's a good sign when the maker chooses flavour and mouthfeel over cosmetics.

Speaking of cosmetics, Knappogue Castle has traditionally eschewed caramel colouring and I'm assuming this whiskey is also undoctored in that regard. It shouldn't need a touch-up with the sherry contribution anyway.

I haven't had this whiskey in my glass yet, but the press release provides a brief tasting note:
The taste is rich and fruity with hints of green apple and grapefruit zest, enhanced with vanilla notes from the charred oak casks.
Knappogue Castle is a US-based brand so availability there is always good, especially in the North-East. I'm told it's already on sale in CA, CT, DC, IL, MD, MA, MN, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NYC and RI, with more states to come. It goes for a very accessible $60 or so (the last Twin Wood, the 17-year old, was $100). There are about 2,000 (unnumbered) bottles in this release.

Of course the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin has snagged a few bottles too. I see it there at €65.