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A limited edition of only 4,000 bottles, the 18 Year Old is the oldest Kilbeggan expression currently on the market (the 15 Year Old has been discontinued). Cooley Master Blender Noel Sweeney has used Madeira casks as well as ex-bourbon casks to craft this whiskey. Oh, and I had forgotten to mention in my last review: unlike most Irish whiskey, Kilbeggan is double, not triple, distilled - Cooley definitely thinks outside the restraining-Irish-whiskey box.
The colour is significantly darker than the standard Kilbeggan, with a slightly reddish quality (perhaps from the Madeira wood). On the nose, quite refined with darker fruits, papaya and berries. Some vanilla in the background, but with a malty core. Raw almonds. Milk chocolate. Very aromatic. This time, water does a nice job of bringing forward the malty cereal notes.
On the palate, silky and rich, with more fruits (this time in syrup), oak, ginger and honey. Creamy. Buttery. Quite delicious though again, a little on the sweet side for me (but not too much!) Water adds just a tiny bit more spice.
The lingering finish brings forward cinnamon, nutmeg and grains. This is an excellent blend, but very different from what you may have had from Jameson and Bushmills. Sweet, malty and quite complex. Quite a different beast from the standard Kilbeggan, though they both share a sweet-honey core. I can certainly see both of these whiskeys becoming quite addictive! This 18 Year Old won Best Irish Blend at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards, and I can see why. It doesn't quite reach the heights of the 2009 Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (my #1 Irish blend of all time) but regardless, this is top-notch. Worth buying - if you can find it.