Whisky Advocate

Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey loses vintage, becomes a 12 year old

June 7th, 2010

You will most likely recognize Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey as a vintage, given there have been many releases over the past decade from various distillation years.

Well, it’s now going to be a 12 year old, without a vintage statement. I’ll be getting a review sample and full press release shorlty, but here’s an email I received from their importer, Castle Brands:

How quick is your mental math?  If someone was born in 1994, how old would they be today? Answer:  16 years old depending on the month they were born.  Knappogue Castle, the original vintage dated Irish Whiskey, feels that most consumers find it hard to calculate the age of the product by looking at the distillation date on the label.  Instead of chancing that consumers will miss important information about the age of the product, Knappogue Castle is moving to age designation and stating the product’s age boldly and proudly on the label thus eliminating the need for mental math.

Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish Whiskey will be a 12 year old product on a consistent basis going forward.  A new label design reflects this change and reinforces the product’s premium quality and elegant taste. 

It’s just the superior whiskey to savor at the end of a long day.  It has a bright, light, lemon-orange color (no caramel coloring added) and a mildly spicy, citrus taste. That elegant, fruity and spicy flavor makes it an excellent choice in mixed cocktails like the “Peach Smash” developed at Vintry’s or the “Castle to Castle” developed at Death & Co. in New York. 

I can think of many reasons for going to an age-statement whiskey rather than a vintage, which we can discuss. (There was actually was one age-stated release, a 15 year old, back at the end of 2008. )

And FYI: KC has been from both Cooley and Bushmills in the past, but the email didn’t suggest one or the other.

Stay tuned…

No Responses to “Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey loses vintage, becomes a 12 year old”

  1. Gal says:

    i have a faint memory of that single malt. but i dont recall liking it too much

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    Well, there has to be some reason besides just consumer confusion– It’s totally possible to do regular release whisky with vintage date and age statements (Macallan 18 for instance).

    I’ll bet marketing research suggested that Knappongue’s target audience doesn’t perceive enough value in vintages to pay the prices they want to charge. The authenticity of the vintage concept might not be felt. The variation between vintages could be perceived as a negative as much as it could a positive– Especially when this is being marketed as a relaxing, mid-pricepoint go-to whisky.

    Besides that, they must have found someong to produce whisky regularly for them. Maybe an offer had been under negotiation for some time. Maybe it just came up.

    Someone out there knows the facts, though– We’ll see how my guesses stack up.

    • sam k says:

      I think you’re probably pretty close to the truth there, Red. I do find it interesting that someone is actually interested in preserving an age statement rather than deleting it altogether, which seems to be more prevalent these days. Good for them.

  3. Quentin says:

    I will admit to having to stop and think about how old a vintage whisky is. I am not sure whether one or the other really has more prestige associated with it. In Ports, for instance, there are vintages and age statements, with the vintages generally indicating a superior year (though not always a better product). The problem with a vintage whisky is that they often don’t stick around long enough (due to limited supply) for people to learn how good it is and buy accordingly; one has to buy on spec, as it were. Age statements, on the other hand, imply a consistency across production runs, or at least lead to that expectation.

  4. Well this is a surprising turn of events as I thought the Vintage release was a unique and stand out point of KC in the Irish Single Malt Whiskey market. Also I thought the vintage statement gave it a slightly more high end feel rather than stuck in amongst all the other 12yo malts on the market. Red_Arremer’s suggestion of doing something similar to Macallan is probably the best of both worlds.

    The Knappogue Vintages from 1990-1993 were all around 7-8 years old. The 1994 was then released in a 10yo version and a second subsequent batch was a 12yo version. Similar with the 1995 which saw the first release as a 10yo but the second release (New Label) was a 13-14yo. I personally think the Vintage system is better and adds to the brand but I can see why there may be confusion as there was never any indication of age on the label. For me the whole age issue is a strange one though … and I would never buy a whiskey based on it’s age but rather on it’s own merits and taste. Which to me shows that the very people who are confused about the age of Knappogue castle don’t fully understand whiskey in the first place. But is that the real reason for the change, I some how doubt it. I can see the the issues in releasing a vintage every year and as KC is not a massive seller they may not be able to follow the Vintage route just out of simple economies of scale or their provider may not have enough stock to spare of a certain vintage going forward. Their next release would be the 1996 making it a 14yo which would obviously cost them more than a 12yo to do and if that vintage is a slow seller then the 1997 vintage could well stretch to a 15-16yo and again the whiskey is getting more expensive. Therefore a 12yo would be a much simpler solution which they can replenish at any time as time sees fit. Further the packaging will remain static therefore cutting costs too.

    There could be one flaw with this strategy though and it is soley down to the price point. I would not be familiar with the price of the 1995 in the states which is probably the KC’s main market. But how much do they charge for it and does the price correlate to a 12yo. Because once you see the age statement you have catagorised your product and if it makes your 12yo look expensive in comparison to others then you may hit a different problem especially in these economic times of woe. I’m sure one of you state side guys can answer that though. Also Quentin has made a good point on the availability of a Vintage (or lack of) and implied consistency of an age statement from a consumer point of view.

    KC 1990-1992 were from Cooley and from 1993 on was Bushmills.

    The Citrus description possibly hints towards Cooley but the Fruit and spice harks back to Bushmills. Further Bushmills have really cranked up production in the last few years and probably will have a steady stock going forward. All speculation but interesting and I’m sure we’ll find out who’s whiskey it is in time.

  5. johnm says:

    I heard that the new release will be around the same price as the KC 1995. I also heard there’ll be a 1998 vintage released too.

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