Sunday 10 April 2011

Kilbeggan 18 Year Old

Every year, Cooley is asked the same question: at what age do your maturing whiskeys peak? And each year, so far, the answer is "Not yet!". We've seen a 19-year old grain whiskey and an 18-year old malt whiskey so far, both single casks for speciality retailers.

I'm a huge fan of the aged malt, in particular, consistently rating it each year as my favourite whiskey. I like the grain too. Not as much, but it stands up on its own.

What I've found much harder to approach are the Cooley blends. I have just poured a basic Kilbeggan here and it hasn't quite lost the brashness of newly-distilled spirit. Even at 15 years old, I didn't take to it, finding a certain bitterness within that characterises Cooley blends for me.

That 15-year old, introduced in 2007, is no more, replaced by a new 18-year old, in the same "perfume bottle". Well, this new expression has turned me around completely. Suddenly it all makes sense. I can recognise the various hallmarks of a Cooley blend but they are now rich and rounded and perfectly integrated. There is a tangerine sharpness to the initial taste with just the right amount of oak chiming in on the finish. The combined effect is a lingering mouthful of rice pudding and strawberry jam.

I can't fault this whiskey. I didn't expect to like it, but I love it. There are 4,000 bottles in this batch but I hope Cooley can find a way to produce more when that runs out. 18 years old means this was distilled before 1993. From 1993 to 1995, there was a hiatus in production at Cooley due to a takeover attempt. Get it while you can, then!