Whisky Advocate

Kilbeggan Distillery releases first whiskey in 53 years

June 18th, 2010

It’s great to see the whiskey industry growing worldwide–including Ireland! This press release just came in earlier today.

The World’s Oldest Distillery Launches a New Whiskey

Kilbeggan Distillery releases first new whiskey in over 53 Years

For over 200 years, the Kilbeggan Distillery produced some of the finest whiskey in the world.  In 1957 the stills ran dry but 50 years later Cooley Distillery, the multi-award winning independent whiskey distiller, breathed new life into the world’s oldest distillery and today, the first new whiskey to be distilled at Kilbeggan in over 53 years was officially unveiled at an intimate gathering at the Kilbeggan Distillery in Co. Westmeath.

The Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Malt, the latest addition to the Kilbeggan family of fine whiskeys, is produced from the oldest pot still in the world which dates back to 1830. The Kilbeggan Distillery itself was established in 1757 and is the oldest distillery in the world.

Fittingly the local heritage group was in attendance to witness the launch of the new whiskey as they played a key role in ensuring the survival of the distillery during the years it lay dormant.  Also in attendance were distillery employees, without whom the world’s oldest still could not have been brought back to life.  All gathered at this momentous event received a signed bottle of the first batch.

The whiskey world has waited in anticipation for half a century for the first new bottling from the historic Kilbeggan distillery.  Distilled from 100% malted barley, the Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve, due to the distinctive narrow necks of the ancient pot still design, is an exceptionally smooth and flavoursome Irish Malt whiskey of distinctive character.

John Teeling, Chairman of Cooley Distillery commented at the launch, “This is another significant landmark in the rejuvenation of the great Kilbeggan distilling tradition.  A huge amount of hard work by Cooley employees and the local heritage committee has gone into getting us to this day.  It is a labour of love to re-establish the Kilbeggan Distillery as a centre of distilling excellence.  Heritage and tradition are vital elements in whiskey.  Great whiskeys come from great distilleries.  Today’s whiskey, though young, has a distinct character both smooth and flavoursome; a character that will only improve with age.  And why wouldn’t it, being distilled by the world’s best distillers, in the oldest working pot still in the world and matured in 200 year old granite warehouses.

Today’s launch also marked the unveiling of the recently rebranded Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.  Currently sold in over 35 international markets, the Kilbeggan brand is Cooley Distillery’s flagship Blended whiskey.  The rebrand project involved creating an over-arching identity for the Kilbeggan Irish whiskey brand and the Kilbeggan Distillery.  This highlights both the unique provenance as the oldest distillery in the world and the high quality of the whiskey. The Kilbeggan 15 Year Old Irish whiskey was honoured recently as the Best Whiskey in the World at the 2009 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London.

Jack Teeling, Managing Director of Cooley Distillery said, “We are delighted to be able to accompany the release of the first new whiskey from the Kilbeggan Distillery with the unveiling of the rebranded Kilbeggan Irish whiskey range.  The new packaging pays homage to the rich heritage and quality of the Kilbeggan brand while also maintaining a contemporary look and feel.  We look forward to seeing the trade’s and consumer’s reaction to the new look Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.

The rebranded Kilbeggan is being rolled out in Germany and the US with all other markets following suit over the next few months.  This will be followed by the release of a range of brand extensions including a Super Premium Kilbeggan 18 Year Old.

No Responses to “Kilbeggan Distillery releases first whiskey in 53 years”

  1. JC Skinner says:

    Great news, and something we in the Irish Whiskey Society have been waiting for.
    Congratulations to Cooley and good luck to all at Kilbeggan.

  2. DavidG says:

    First off, this really is exciting news, and I look forward to trying it.
    Why is Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve not a single malt ?
    From the press release its clear that its not a blend, its from the Kilbeggan Distillery and its made from 100% malt barley. Yet nowhere in the post does it call itself a single malt (even look at the bottle). On both Cooley and Tyrconnell’s bottle they are described as single malts, so why is this one different.
    – Am I missing something or reading too much into what I am not seeing?

    • Steffen Bräuner says:

      Maybe the irish just have other ways of describing their whiskies than scots ?

      “The Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Malt”, indirectly says it’s a malt whisky from the named distillery.


    • JC Skinner says:

      It’s not a single malt because the initial distillation was conducted at Cooley’s operation in Louth. That makes it the product of two distilleries, and hence a pure malt rather than a single malt.

      • Steffen Bräuner says:

        How come they didnt distill it all at Kilbeggan ?

        • JC Skinner says:

          It was all distilled at Kilbeggan. But the primary distillation of the spirit was done at Cooley, then subsequent distillation at Kilbeggan.
          As for why they did that, only Cooley could tell you.

        • John Hansell says:

          Thanks JC. As always, the knowledgeable participants here (you, this time) answered the question for me.

          I was at Kilbeggan when they ran the distillate from Cooley through the small still at Kilbeggan several years ago. That trip was (sadly) the last time I saw Michael Jackson. 🙁

  3. Iorwerth says:

    Great to see an old Irish distillery back to life.

    @JC Skinner: reason for first distilation at Cooley is because of (i) tankering down a wash to Kilbeggan is much larger in volume than tankering low wines and (ii) wash goes off, low wines don’t (or at least take a much longer time to go off!) – the small still simply wouldn’t achieve the throughput needed to get through the wash.

    @John: I remember that time in Kilbeggan well, though, as you rightly say, rather sad in hindsight.

  4. JC Skinner says:

    Thanks for the full explanation, Iorwerth.
    There are other, bigger stills at Kilbeggan that still haven’t been put into use yet, though. It was certainly possible for them to make a single malt at Kilbeggan if they wished.
    I suspect financial considerations ruled that out, but I hope they will migrate to full distillation at Kilbeggan sooner rather than later.

  5. Dutch says:

    Will the Distillery Reserve Malt be available in the US, or will it be limited to sales at the distillery?

  6. JC Skinner says:

    Only a 1000 bottles, so it won’t stretch too far, Dutch. I understand there will be at least one retailer stocking it who takes online orders from US customers though. They won’t have it for a couple of weeks, so when they do I’ll come back with the details.
    Clue: Same place the underaged spirit was sold through.

  7. Dutch says:

    Thanks JC, not familiar with the retailer, but I’ll check. US sales and shipments can be “difficult” to say the least.

  8. Iorwerth says:

    @JCSkinner- yes, the cost of comissioning the old stills would be huge, and indeed putting a roof over them. Next plans down there are to try and get all the front end processes (mashing and fermentation) done there by renovating some of the old equipment – exciting times!

  9. johnm says:

    The Cooley Distillery isn’t at full capacity, so it’s unlikely in the near future they’ll be refurbishing the old Tullamore stills in Kilbeggan. It would be great if they did, though.

    The Celtic Whiskey Shop will be carrying the new Kilbeggan. I tasted a few of the single casks and thought they were really nice.


  10. Barry O'Rourke says:

    I would have been much more interested if they had produced a Pure Pot Still. The world is full of Single Malts. Every country seems to be making a rake of single malts these days. Yawn! Why bother with another. When will IDL bloody well bring back the Powers Pure Pot Still and the Jameson Pure Pot Still. That’s what Irish whiskey fans have been calling for for years – not yet another Single Malt.

  11. johnm says:

    They will be making a pure pot still there, Barry. They may have made some already…


  12. Hi Guys, just a few extra tit bits … I was down to the Distillery on Sunday to get a couple of bottles and was told that it is actually a run of 1700 bottles. I cracked one open that very night and found it very interesting and quite nice. Possibly a bit on the woody youthful side but it was not harsh at all. However those 3 years count for a bit more as the spirit was matured in quater casks of between 100-120 liters in capacity.

  13. Luke says:

    Just tasted the Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Malt yesterday; very mature, probably due to the use of quarter casks, and quite carmelised, particularly on the nose.

    Is short, very impressive but, as always, a 46% NCF bottling would have been nice…

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