Knappogue Castle is a well-known whiskey brand in Ireland, but I’ve never explored it really. I tasted a drop of the 14-year-old a few years ago when I first visited the Irish whiskey museum in Dublin, but that’s all. Then last year, one of the times Mr Irish drams went to Sweden for work, he came back with a little sample pack of these whiskeys, and it’s about time that I try them.
These whiskeys are named after the (not surprisingly) Knappogue Castle in County Clare. It was originally built in 1467, perhaps a tower house more than a castle, depending on how you choose to define a castle.
In 1966, the castle was purchased by Mark Edwin Andrews. It was then in ruins, and Andrews began restoring the building to its former glory, in collaboration with what is now called Shannon Heritage. Today, Knappogue Castle normally offers luxury accommodation and also hosts medieval and other events.
Other than restoring the castle, Mark Edwin Andrews also purchased casks of fine whiskey that he bottled under his own brand, named after the castle. The whiskey seems to have been mostly a private collection or given away as gifts. Most information talks about single malt whiskeys but it seems he also purchased what was then called pure pot still whiskey. One of the old bottlings is still out there – the Knappogue Castle 1951, distilled in 1951 at the old Tullamore distillery and aged for 36 years in a sherry cask. This whiskey is described as a single malt in some places online, but most commonly as a pure pot still, today called single pot still. I guess I could trust Celtic whiskey shop and Whisky Exchange with having the correct information about this.
The Knappogue Castle brand was made public by Mark Edwin Andrews’ son in the late ’90s but was later purchased by Castle Brands, that is now the owner of the brand.
The modern Knappogue Castle whiskeys are triple distilled single malts made at Bushmills distillery, released in different expressions and with artificial colouring added. Apart from these, there’s a very interesting cask finish series, that I may explore later on, with 12-year-old whiskeys finished in Barolo, Marsala, Burgundy casks and more. I hope to find bottles of these in certain pubs when they hopefully reopen later this year. In the meantime, I’ve opened my sample bottles of this trio.
Knappogue Castle 12-year-old single malt
This is a single malt matured in exclusively ex-bourbon barrels, and bottled at 40% ABV.
A mix of vanilla, white pepper, wood and light citrus.
Very light flavours. It’s soft and kind of creamy, there’s light citrus that reminds me of Swedish kids’ orange cordial. It has a slightly peppery finish, but generally, it’s too subtle in flavour for my taste and I miss something in this whiskey that I expect in bourbon cask matured whiskeys.
Knappogue Castle 14-year-old single malt
This one is a marriage between whiskeys matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, and bottled at 46%.
Nice fruit mix; pineapple, citrus peel and grapes, mixed with sawdust.
Rich flavours of apricot and different tropical-ish fruits, perhaps some apple. Nice spice and white wine with a long dry finish. Very tasty.
Knappogue Castle 16-year-old single malt
This whiskey is matured in bourbon casks and finished in sherry casks, then bottled at 40% ABV.
There’s a nice woody aroma with classic hints of sherry; raisins and other dried fruits, some raspberry jam there too.
Dry spices. Dried berries, figs and plums. It’s lighter on the palate than the 14-year-old but I like the darker fruit flavours and different spices.
The 14-year-old remains my favourite among these three, I really like the richness in flavour and the variety of fruit mixed with spice. The 16-year-old had a nice flavour profile but I think I’d prefer it bottled at 46%. However, this is a nice trio and I’m curious to taste other Knappogue Castle whiskeys whenever possible.
Have a good weekend everyone, enjoy a dram or two, and stay safe and healthy.