This is a bit of a weird one, and it was a rather expensive one. A few years ago Stefan van der Boog, known from Passie voor Whisky bought a bottle of very old Knappogue Castle from a collection. Based on comparisons with other labels (there wasn’t much information on it) it was dated as being distileld in the early fifties and bottled after a couple of decades. The label closest to this one was a 1951 vintage, bottled in 1987.
So, expectations were high, especially with Irish whiskey gaining massive popularity right around that time (when this share was done, that is). I paid a couple of tenners for a sample of this and never really got around to properly tasting it. I did have a sip of it, but wasn’t overjoyed back then. The typical ‘old Irish winegums wrapper’ scent was rather prevalent.
Last week, I did sit down for a proper tasting of this rather obscure whiskey, and it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
Very old fashioned, but very typicslly Irish. A sweetness than smells a bit artificial, with lots of sugar. Barley sugar, a gentle oakiness, with some green malt.
Dry with lots of barley. A bit of a winegum sweetness, with hints of the plastic bag they come from. The old-fashioned-ness comes in later. A certain woody texture of spices and sawdust.
The chemical sweetness is getting a bit too much here. It’s sweet, plastic like and there are only hints of oak and spices. Quite alot of barley still.
So, yes, the winegums sweetness and the cloying scent if you smell the bag winegums come from is here. It’s not as pronounced on the nose and palate as it sometimes is, but on the finish it rears its ugly head. A shame, because that puts the rating down a couple of notches.
Also, after having tasted this, and some 1930s and 1940s Jameson as well as some other random older Irish stuff, I can say that it’s not entirely my cup of tea.
That weird sweetness I think comes from the use of unmalted barley, since that’s the biggest (if not only) difference between Irish pot still whiskey and Scottish single malt.
I just happen to not like it very much.
Still, there are quite some flavors to like, albeit not enough to give this a huge score, and not enough to warrant the price tag belonging to this sample.
Knappogue Castle NAS, Early fifties, 92 proof