Knappogue Castle 12 Year Single Malt Review

Knappogue Castle 12 Review

This is an interesting and fun whiskey with much to offer, but that fun comes at a cost and that cost is paid in fruit. It’s flavorful and easy to drink, but sooner than you would think the fruit goes from soft and simple to completely overwhelming the palate. By the second glass it’s a bit difficult to taste anything other than the peach and banana notes. Which is a shame because it starts out so nice and crisp.

I rarely give advice on how to drink a whiskey, because how someone decides to down a dram is their own damn business, but unless you want a banana peach explosion in your mouth I’d highly recommend just keeping this one neat. Water just seems to make the banana and peach even more explosive.

One interesting thing about this whiskey is that it’s most likely been distilled by Bushmills. Traditionally the Knappogue Castle is distilled by either Cooley or Bushmills and this one happens to have been triple distilled. Traditionally Bushmills distills three times where as Cooley typically only distills twice. It’s entirely possible, but not very likely, that Cooley triple distilled this one, but if we’re playing the detective game it’s far more likely that it was created by Bushmills. Which technically makes this the sweetest Bushmills I’ve ever had.

UPDATE: I spoke with Castle Brands on Twitter and they confirmed that it Knappogue (and Clontarf) are all made at Cooley.

CastleBrands Cooley

Enough semantics and on to the whiskey. If you’ve had this interesting whiskey leave your own tasting notes in the comments below.

Knappogue Castle 12 Review

ABV: 40%
Price: $42
Distiller: Cooley

Golden Honey

Right off the bat are some green apples, honeysuckle, and a touch of lemon rind. The malt and spice are definitely in there, and as you might expect, some hints of vanilla and caramel. Though something you might not expect is how strong the scent of peaches and banana cream pie come though. To be honest it’s a bit overwhelming.

This is one of the fruitiest whiskeys I’ve had in a long time. The same green apple from the nose comes through in full force right away and is followed by some red berries, grapes and tropical fruit. There are also some really surprising notes of salt water taffy, mint, caramel, vanilla, and bourbon spice and if that’s where it stopped that would have been fantastic, however there are a some peach and banana gremlins in this glass. The sweet peach and banana notes border on overwhelming and like mogwais from hell they become even more bold and gnarly when water is added. Particularly the banana.

Big peach and banana that hang around for a really long time, but as they fade the malt and just a hint of bourbon spice shows up before it fades completely.

The heavy peach and banana throw it a bit off balance for me. Though a nice medium body and an Incredibly smooth and satiny texture at least make for a nice drinking experience.

I like it but don’t love it. It’s neither good nor bad and is just kind of there. It’s a decent enough single malt , but lacks some of the complexity of it’s Scottish counterparts that hover around the same price range. It also suffers a bit from a balance issue with the orchard, peach and banana notes weighing so heavy on the nose palate and finish. Not bad, just not really something I want in my glass on a regular basis.

SCORE: 84/100


Knappogue Castle 12yr Irish Single Malt: Last Glass Update (11-02-14)


Progressing through this bottle was a very interesting experience. About 1/2 way down it started to remind me a bit of Glenmorangie 10 with the fruity notes coming on just a tad stronger, but not by much mind you. Closing in on the last 1/4 of the bottle the bit of mint that was initially in the bottle had almost completely faded away, but is still there to a small degree.

The cool malty flavor and soft round fruit notes have become a little more enjoyable as the bottle slowly shrank towards empty, but I can’t give it any more points than it already has. That’s because the banana and peach are still a little too strong and distracting making it feel a bit off balance to me.

I don’t know if I would buy this particular Knappogue Castle ever again, but I did like it enough that I want to start exploring the rest of the Knappogue Castle range. I’m particularly interested in tracking down and trying the 16 Twin Wood, but let’s be honest… I’d like to try them all.

FINAL VERDICT: All in all an ok whiskey and I’m glad I bought it, but not one I’ll be revisiting anytime soon and if you’re curious about this one I’d recommend trying it at the bar before hanging over the cash for a full bottle.

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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7 Responses to Knappogue Castle 12 Year Single Malt Review

  1. It’s only $24.99 at my local store and at that price it’s a bargain. It is a bit fruity but I enjoy it as a nice change from some stouter whiskeys.

    • Wow that’s a steal. If I could get it for $25 I would definitely keep it in the house more often because, to your point, it is indeed a nice change of pace. Thanks.

  2. It’s around $30 by me (sometimes in the 20s) and one of the best values going at that price. Dry, clean, fresh, and light—a perfect counterpoint to the heavy hitters. And no fake tan!

  3. I find this to be a wonderful tipple. actually one of my favorites. A light crisp drink in front of a roaring fireplace, can’t beat it.

  4. I definitely get the green apple (which is all i can taste in typical Cooley juice like Egan’s;seriously, I can’t stand more than a sip or two of that), but, to me, the banana wasn’t nearly as forward, and the apple actually faded (very much NOT typical Cooley’s;)
    This was the first single malt Irish that actually made sense. As a result I’ve picked up a higher proof (92), single barrel from Titanic Whiskey’Seller, which was “woodier”, but had a great better (longer) finish.
    The 14, otoh, is outrageous. Tasting it blind I certainly saw similarities, but i wouldn’t have guessed the only differences were two years, some grape juice (iirc it was aged in bourbon and sherry), and 6% of ethanol. Seriously, this is way too easy to drink.

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