Cigar Aficionado

Knappogue Castle Unveils a New Vintage -- and a Rare Retrospective

As well as adding the latest expression of its vintage Irish single-malt whiskey series, Knappogue Castle has created a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to compare this year's release with its whiskies from the previous five years.

The 2007 release, Knappogue Castle 1995, which is labeled for the year it was distilled, will be available by itself (750 milliliters, $34) or as part of the Castle Collection, which also contains one bottle each of the 1990 through 1994 vintage whiskies. The six-bottle case will have a suggested retail price of $500. Roseann Sessa, vice president of marketing and public relations for Castle Brands, which markets Knappogue Castle, said that individual offerings of previous vintages have been sold out through 1994, but that the company reserved a few cases of each whiskey in the series for the Castle Collection.

Upon receiving the latest edition of the unpeated, uncolored, triple-pot-distilled whiskey as well as samples from the Castle Collection, we couldn't resist a taste test, placing the vintage bottlings side by side to highlight the subtle changes in flavor nuances from year to year.

We proceeded chronologically from oldest to youngest, starting with the 1990 and pairing the whiskies with a Padrón 1964 Anniversary Exclusivo cigar. The first whiskey had a big candy-apple nose and a back note of cheese. Floral notes were prevalent on the palate, along with light spice, pear and apricots. Lots of nuttiness came out with the cigar.

The aroma of the 1991 was much less fruity, but deeper and nuttier. The flavor was that of classic Irish whiskey, with lots of floral notes, some spice and perfume. It tasted more mature than the 1990 version and seemed more balanced. Compared with the 1990 and the 1991 vintages, the 1992 was a bit of a disappointment: not bad, just lighter, both in aroma and flavor.

Next came the 1993 and it was excellent -- the nose doughy and chewy, with slight hints of alcohols and fusel oil. It loaded the mouth with licorice and the Padrón turned spicier and chewier, with plenty of wood and nuts coming through. The 1994 picked up where the 1993 left off with a chewy, savory aroma that had hints of aromatic perfume and rum. On the palate, it had a spicy, licorice taste, with a sweet note and a shot of cheddar cheese on the finish.

Lastly, we poured the 1995 and it presented a little bit of everything. The nose was flowery and the taste very elegant. Wood from the Bourbon barrel was prominent, with notes of cheese and perfume. Nuts, vanilla, spice and hard candy could also be detected, especially when paired with the Padrón.

Each bottle in the Castle Collection is autographed by Mark Andrews, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Castle Brands Inc. Call Castle Brands at 800-882-8140 for availability.