It’s not often that I taste a whiskey and stop dead in my proverbial tracks, but the astounding Knappogue Castle Twin Wood Single Malt--distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2011--is easily one of the most remarkable Irish whiskeys I’ve ever had the good fortune of tasting.
It’s made in limited quantities--my sample is bottle number 1452 out of 4500 total--which makes sense, as it is a vintage-specific spirit that will not be able to be reproduced again in exactly the same fashion. After all, the 17 years it spent in wood (15 of them in Bourbon barrels, followed by a finishing 21 months in casks imbued with the nutty sweetness of Oloroso Sherry) have resulted in a thoroughly singular whiskey that would have tasted totally different had the amount of time in either type of wood been any shorter or longer.
This, then, is a wholly unique whiskey that, despite its majestic layering of flavor and aroma, is a joy to drink, as easy to love by the glassful as it is rewarding to sip slowly and contemplate. It’s the kind of bottle that, though I desperately want a glass every night (or, let’s be honest here: every morning), I’ll have to parse out carefully. Because something this special should be enjoyed slowly, and with all the reverence it deserves.
Knappogue Castle “Twin Wood” 17-Year-Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
(Distilled 1994, Bottled 2011)
What a remarkable nose, singing with dried and fresh apricot, sandalwood, cedar, spice, roasted honey, a touch of smoke, raisin - cinnamon toast, and vanilla and sultana pastry creme edged with praline and biscotti notes. On the palate, ambrosially smooth, sneakily sweet flavors of dried pineapple, fig and fig paste, spice cake, candied ginger, southeast Asian spice, and orange peel are layered, utterly beautifully, and linger for a seeming eternity on the finish, which sings with Sherry notes--remarkably reminiscent of a great Palo Cortado or Oloroso--as well as pecan pie, sweet fruit, and a touch of savoriness. Astounding.