By Jake Emen
Knappogue Castle has two expressions in the Twin Wood line: a 14 year old and a 16 year old. Both are no-peat, triple distilled malt whiskeys in the Irish style, aged in both bourbon and sherry barrels, but there are some differences beyond the extra two years in the aging statement. The 14 Year Old is a marriage of bourbon-aged and sherry-aged whiskeys, each coming from 14-plus year old sources.
The 16 Year Old Knappogue, on the other hand, spent 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels before being transferred to ex-sherry casks for another couple of years of aging. In this respect, it’s technically more of a sherry finish (albeit a deep one) than a double wood. The whiskey was distilled back in November 1995, when the U.S. government closed in a budget showdown and Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and was bottled at 40% abv in December 2012 in a run of 4,500 bottles.
In the glass, the Knappogue Castle Twin Wood is a deep amber-gold with a touch of reddish-brown giving a dark depth to its appearance. Compared side by side, it’s markedly different from the pale yellow of the other whiskeys from Knappogue Castle thanks to its sherry stint.
On the nose, Knappogue Castle Twin Wood offers a complex set of aromas. There’s a deep chocolaty sweetness paired with a lighter fruity sweetness, a strong dose of grainy malt, and spice. Take a sip and notice a soft, velvety mouthfeel and a smooth, varied profile offering first sherry, spice and pepper, as well as wood, and a subtle fruit and nutty undertone.
The finish begins with a somewhat hot combination of pepper and wood which gives way to spice, malt and vanilla. The warmness stays with you long after your sip providing the ongoing satisfaction of a whiskey well-enjoyed, particularly sampled as it was in the midst of another round of Washington, D.C.’s, ongoing winter turmoil and record low temperatures.
On ice, more of the sweetness of Knappogue Castle Twin Wood comes out, with mellow tones of vanilla and fruit with a malty nuttiness in the background.
Knappogue Castle Twin Wood is very easygoing. It’s a well made Irish whiskey which shows its age in its depth and complexity of flavor as well as its smooth character. A well-honed historical harkening from Knappogue Castle.
Addendum by S.D. Peters
The 16-Year expression boasts a deep, oaken orange, and bears the woody pungency of its age very well. The wood swirls around the malt and grain, lingers at the edges of the melony citrus, and comes out ahead before ceding ground to a long, chocolaty finish.
Knappogue Castle Twin Wood has a suggested retail price of $100 per 750 ml bottle. I’ve seen it online in a range of prices though, from below $70 to more than $150. After being bottled in December 2010, only 1,900 individually-numbered bottles of the exclusive release were produced.