Review: Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Venerable Irish brand Kilbeggan (the oldest in Ireland) — see our coverage of its standard blend here — has largely been a single-product operation for most of its existence. Things are on the move here, though, as Kilbeggan has just launched a single grain whiskey to expand the portfolio.

What’s single grain? Kilbeggan reminds us:

Many think “single grain” describes whiskey made with just one grain; however, it actually refers to whiskey made in a single location using malted barley and at least one other grain. True to form, Kilbeggan Single Grain is made of 94% meticulously-sourced corn and 6% malted barley.

The whiskey is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and fortified wine (unspecified) barrels.

We gave it a sample. Here’s the gist.

As single grain whiskeys go, this is quite approachable and lively. The nose is very light, almost nonexistent, with a slight granary note that is smattered with touches of banana, cloves, and burnt sugar. The palate however is sweeter than the nose would lead you to believe, a bold butterscotch, caramel, and vanilla bomb that is unusual for single grains. There’s a weediness underpinning the sugar — a common theme in single grain — but it’s understated due to being subdued by an earthy gunpowder note and notes of dried, savory herbs. The finish is on the tough side, which is again a departure from the gossamer-light nose, but on the whole the whiskey is more than credible and worth sampling for a shot or two.

86 proof.

B+ / $30 / kilbegganwhiskey.com

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3 Responses

  1. neandrewthal November 26, 2017 / 3:56 pm

    Does a single grain really have to have barley by definition? I thought it meant any grain or mixture of grains that aren’t barley and from a single distillery. It make sense if they use a small percentage of barley but what if they use enzymes instead?

    Or do they never use enzymes? I know here i Canada we use them to make 100% rye whisky.

    • Christopher Null November 26, 2017 / 4:43 pm

      Officially in Ireland: “Grain Irish whiskey is made using no more than 30% malted barley in combination with other whole unmalted cereals—usually corn, wheat, or barley—and is distilled in column stills. Single grain whiskey comes from only one distillery.” So does it HAVE to have barley in it? I’m not entirely sure, but in practice there will probably be a small amount.

    • Christopher Null November 26, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      That said, all Irish whiskey must contain some amount of barley to be called Irish, so even a single grain would have to have some in it too.

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