Irish Whiskey Tasting: Clontarf and Knappogoue Castle

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Castle Brands is reinvigorating and reintroducing their line-up of Irish whiskeys. They were kind enough to share samples with me so I could put them through their paces. (For some past thoughts on Irish whiskeys, see our Irish Whiskey Taste Test.)

Castle owns two Irish whiskey brands: Clontarf and Knappogoue Castle. Clontarf is the entry-level blended whiskey, and Knappogoue Castle is their line of single malt whiskeys. None of the whiskeys are actually distilled by Castle, and their sources are unknown.

Knappogue Irish Whiskeys

Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey (not pictured)
40% abv. $20.
A very light blend, composed of 10% single malt and 90% grain whiskey. Aged for 4 years.

Smells: Like honey.
Tastes: Briny and a little bitter.
Thoughts: Reminds me of other blended Irish whiskeys, like Jameson and Bushmills.
Bottom Line: An acceptable Irish blend, drink it in coffee or highballs.

Knappogoue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% abv. $42.
Aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon casks. “Lightly” chill filtered.

Smells: Like toasted breakfast cereal.
Tastes: Like malt with a hint of coffee.
Thoughts: Easy to drink and tasty.
Bottom Line: A nice, straight-ahead single malt. If you’ve never tried Irish malts, this is an excellent place to start.

Knappogoue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey
46% abv. $60.
Aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Non-chill filtered.

Smells: Malty and fruity.
Tastes: Dry and oaky.
Thoughts: Too much wood, flavors out of balance.
Bottom Line: If you like your whiskeys on the oaky side, you might enjoy this better than I did. Not sure if the sherry aging did anything other than give it a little color.

Knappogoue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% abv. $100.
Aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon casks and 21 months in sherry casks. Lightly chill filtered.

Smells: Like sweet maple breakfast cereal.
Tastes: Like oak and cereal grain, with some fruit and spice (like pepper).
Thoughts: A rebound from the 14 Year Old. Definitely has more of the sherry influence.
Bottom Line:  More rounded and balanced than the 14 Year Old. Although expensive, this is a nice dram that would stand up well compared to other whiskeys. Not all the distilling expertise is in Scotland!