Kilbeggan distillery was founded by the McManus family in 1757 on the banks of the River Brosna in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, Ireland. Indeed, it was originally called the Brosna Distillery after its water source. John Locke bought the distillery in 1843 (resulting in another name change to Locke’s Distillery), however, the site was one of many that suffered at the hands of the worldwide economic depression between the two World Wars. It struggled on until 1954 when it ceased production and fell into disrepair.
In 1979 the Kilbeggan community restored the distillery and it reopened to the public as a whiskey museum. It operated as such until 1987 when the Irish Whiskey renaissance commenced with John Teeling founding Cooley distillery (the first new distillery in Ireland for over 100 years) and Kilbeggan was brought out of its mothballed state. The distillery celebrated its 200th Anniversary in 2007, which is when production started afresh at the site. It now produces several well-known brands: Kilbeggan, Connemara and The Tyrconnell – however, stocks of these whiskey’s are currently being built up, therefore most older bottlings of these brands were produced directly at Cooley Distillery in County Lough.
Kilbeggan 18 year old was a limited released of just 4,000 from 2011. The whiskey is packaged nicely in a solid box with inner wooden frame and magnetic sealing ‘door’. It’s well made, though makes me feel rather like a Lilliputian holding a huge bottle of Gulliver’s aftershave. It’s a blend of both grain and malt whiskey’s which is described as ‘easy going and approachable’. Again, its too old to have been produced at the ‘new’ Kilbeggan distillery, so it a product of Cooley’s.
Nose: Placid and restrained. Toasted nuts, cornflakes and yeasty bread alongside vanilla, light but undefined citrus, green apples and some herbal/floral character – menthol certainly. There’s a damp earthiness here, rather akin to wet cardboard.
Taste: Light, thin and rather lacking in character I’m afraid. Sweetness from light honey and toasted and roasted malts and grains. The earthiness is present again – part vegetal, mushroom maybe - part damp cardboard again.
Finish: Short, with the mildest malty hint
Alas, Kilbeggan 18 year old is a pretty hollow experience. Whilst it’s unlikely to offend anyone (it’s far too flavourless to do so), you’d simply never guess it was 18 years of age. Where’s the wood influence? I can only guess that this liquid was held in some fairly duff spent casks. The bottling is pretty much sold out, so you’re into the realm of paying through the nose or online auctions if you want to obtain a bottle of this. Or, you could just wait until new aged bottlings are available directly from Kilbeggan Distillery. That's probably a more sensible course of action.Score: 78/100