A PR firm representing Castle Brands, makers of Irish single malt whiskey reached out to us. They try to capitalize on the history of a real castle in Ireland which was owned by the father of the founder of the brand. The father started making and bottling whiskey, and his son turned it into the global brand we can enjoy today.
Before we get to the reviews I have a confession to make; I’m not overly experienced with whiskey. I’ve had many but am no huge enthusiast of it like I am with beer. I know neither the fine details nor the ins and outs of fine whiskeys. I just wanted to let you know where I’m coming from so you can see what you’re getting. You’re getting a review of whiskey from a beer drinker. Luckily for all of us, I know a very accomplished liquor enthusiast who occasionally writes for Queen City Drinks and does podcasts on The Charlie Tonic Hour. So Ginny Tonic will be reviewing these as well!
Here’s what Ginny had to say about her background with whiskey:
When it comes to whiskey I know my bourbon well, I am above average on other American whiskeys, and have a passing knowledge of scotch. But my experience with Irish whiskey almost entirely consists of shots of Jameson done at the bar so I was excited to get to sit down with these single malt samples from Knappogue Castle. My first impression upon looking at the samples in glass is how much lighter colored these whiskeys are compared to similarly aged American whiskey. The temperate climate of Ireland and the fact that they are, like scotch (I assume,) aged in used barrels rather than new means that they will age completely differently than bourbon and other American whiskey. Only the 16 year old has the deep hue that I usually associate with whiskey.
Knappogue Castle 12-year-old
Tom: Pale yellow straw color. Firm malt aroma that also shows off plenty of heat but isn’t burning or stinging at all like some whiskeys. Plenty of warm vanilla notes on the tongue and lips with a tingly burn most of the way down. The burn builds as you move to the end of the glass.
Ginny: The nose is heavy on the oak with hints of citrus and vanilla. Subtle and very akin to scotch. This is a very smooth drinking whiskey when it is on your tongue, but the finish will get you. On first sip it is smooth with flavors of green oak, vanilla, and geranium but once you swallow the finish comes up and erases all of that. The finish has a lot of peat, bitter orange and a dryness to the texture that is almost akin to a very dry red wine.
Knappogue Castle 14-year-old Twin Wood
To make Twin Wood they first aged this in bourbon barrels, like all whiskeys, and then it spent some time in sherry barrels hence the name Twin Wood.
Tom: Slightly deeper yellow color than the 12-year-old version. There is, to my surprise, some fruity apricot aromas with an underlying alcohol heat. Packs quite a burn on the tongue and all the way down. The taste has some clean malt flavors as well as a hint of that fruitiness from the aroma. Underneath that flavor is a very subtle touch of vanilla.
Ginny: You can tell that this is from the same family. The nose is very similar, with more sweetness in the smell, probably from the sherry finish on this one. Many of the same notes from the 12 years apply here as well. It is a bit sweeter, and you can get notes of the red fruit and plum in the sipping taste, but the finish now seems all the stronger in comparison. This one had a higher proof, 92 compared to 80 in the other two, and I thought the alcohol masked some of the subtle flavors.
Knappogue Castle16 Year Old Twin Wood
This version is essentially the same as the last except for having spent more time in the bourbon barrel before being racked over to the sherry bottle.
Tom: A still deeper yellow that is now bordering on golden brown. It smells and tastes less potent than the 14 years with a slight touch more sherry to it, but this is still clearly a whiskey. Vanilla is the most prominent flavor; I do get some cinnamon as well as a bit of fruitiness. The burn here really isn’t too bad and has a nice touch to it. This one is easily my favorite of the three samples sent.
Ginny: This one was my favorite out of the three. With these types of whiskey, the deeper aging allows a lot of the oak to come through, but it is much less sweet and caramelly than similarly aged bourbons. This is of course due in large part to the mash bills being entirely different, but I also think that a longer aging in a used barrel gives a more strongly oak flavor without passing on as much of the sugar. With the 16 years the balance between green oak and sweetness comes into focus and is much better complimented by the sherry finish. I also think the lower proof allowed more of these flavors to come forward. It may just be the buildup having tried all three in one sitting but the finish on this one seemed the strongest as well, which I did not like.
Tom: Knowing little about whiskey I have little to say here. I enjoyed sipping on these three drinks, 16 the most and 14 the least, but I’m not about to sell off my beer cellar to buy a $100 bottle of the stuff.
Ginny: Overall I liked these whiskeys. As a confirmed bourbon lover their flavor profiles do not suit my tastes but as a whiskey lover I can appreciate the complexity, and I do admire a whiskey that develops and changes in my mouth. My biggest criticism was that the finish was a bit too aggressive and took over too completely. If you are a scotch lover who is looking to get into Irish whiskey, these would be a good place to start.
You can head over to Bottoms Up with Ginny & Charlie to hear more from Ginny about these whiskeys.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This was sent to us for free. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending us products, giving us review samples impacts the review in only two ways. That way is that we WILL review the product, and we WILL write a blog post about it. Giving us free products does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to buy it.