The Kilbeggan Distillery has had a long, tumultuous history, but they keep barreling forward on their nearly decade-long comeback tour.
Kilbeggan, the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland, opened in 1757, but it’s taken some serious hits. After shuttering 200 years later, the townspeople rallied around the distillery, maintaining the license and creating a museum that restored most of the equipment. Eventually, with some help from the nearby Cooley Distillery, the space became functional again in the late aughts.
Now, for a limited time, Kilbeggan is releasing a small batch rye whiskey to, we can only assume, challenge American rye makers to a pistol duel. The Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye is the first whiskey completely made and matured at the restored distillery, and it’s not content with making history in just one way.
“Our team was inspired to create this remarkable whiskey rooted in Irish distilling heritage,” said John Cashman, brand ambassador of Irish Whiskey for parent company Beam Suntory. “It is a truly unique spirit, featuring a rare mash that has produced a flavor unlike anything available today.”
For those of you who don’t have your jaws on the floor about an Irish rye, here’s a handy explanation. Rye whiskey is considered a North American spirit, but it’s largely unique to the United States; the Canadian ryes are their own animals (blends, really). For an Irish distillery to throw its hat in the ring is an impressive feat alone — and possibly a call to arms.
Of course, American can’t let this stand, so it’s important to point out that rye mash needs at least 51 percent rye in the mix to be considered a rye whiskey in the U.S. The Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye only comes in at a respectable first effort of 30 percent, which is admittedly much more than other Irish distilleries.
Rye was originally used often in Irish whiskey distilleries, but it slowly fell out of favor, mostly due to temperance movements and wars. Yet it seems that rye, much like Kilbeggan, is rising like a spicy phoenix in Irish distilling.
The Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye hits some of the in-your-face notes of an American rye with a softer profile. Double distilled to 86 proof in the oldest working whiskey pot still (and some modern ones as well), this “rye” pulls no punches.
You can grab a bottle starting mid-November 2018 for $35 and drink a bit of history.