BUILT BACK BETTER
We’re suckers for castles, we just are. I don’t know if it’s the Arthurian legends popularized in books and movies or the fact that castles give us a tangible glimpse into the past, one that we can actually see, feel, and even walk inside. What we easily forget is just how turbulent and violent each castle’s history is.
Kinnitty Castle, the namesake of this whiskey, is no exception. The original castle on this site was destroyed in 1209, and rebuilt by the Normans in 1213. The O’Carrolls, a powerful Gaelic clan from Ely, drove the Normans off the land in what I’m sure was no peaceful picnic. By 1630, William O’Carroll built a new castle on the estate but the English crown confiscated it 11 years later, then granted the property to Col. Thomas Winter in 1664 as a reward for his military service.
Colonel Winter’s descendants sold the estate in 1764 to Thomas Bernard, who promptly changed the name to Bernard Castle and left it to his son Thomas Jr. His wife, Lady Hutchinson, tastefully commissioned the expansion of the castle to what it looks like today. Sadly, Irish Republican Army forces set fire to the castle in 1922 during their violent campaigns referred to as the Irish revolutionary period (1919-1923).
The castle was eventually restored in 1928 by the Bernards thanks to a government grant and they lived there, hopefully peacefully, until 1946. The property changed hands several more times over the following years, even hosting a Forestry Training College at one point. It was purchased and developed into a 37-room luxury hotel in 1994 but was seized by KBC Bank in 2008. Strangely the bank continued to operate the hotel before selling the property to a group of Irish-American investors in 2015.
The ownership group includes Derek Warfield, one of the founding members of the famed Irish band The Wolfe Tones, as well as Colin Breen, proprietor of the Four Green Fields Pubs in Tampa, Fla. The property has undergone significant renovations since the purchase with more development on the way.
THE WHISKEY EXPERIENCE
Kinnitty Castle Spirits, whose owners partly overlap with those of the castle, is building out a whiskey experience on the grounds of the castle that will not only house a tourist center but also a functioning blending and aging facility for the whiskey. The castle is located within close geographic proximity to major Irish distillers like Tullamore D.E.W. and Kilbeggan. Sounds like a pretty solid guys trip to me, or lads trip if you’re Irish.
Delivers a rich, buttery sweet nose that makes you come back to it over and over again before taking the first sip. This blended, non chill-filtered whiskey is very reminiscent of aged bourbon or rum on the nose. The palate confirms the nose then layers in notes of cinnamon, roasted nuts, dried fruit, and butterscotch.
Cigar Pairing: Rocky Patel Disciple
The Rocky Patel Disciple opens with smooth pepper, earth, raisins, and oak accompanied by dark roast coffee and cocoa. On the surface you may think it would overpower the Kinnitty 10 but in fact they are quite complementary, it just depends on the order. Take a sip of the whiskey first and you’ll find the earth and pepper have been cancelled out of the cigar leaving a lovely mix of ripe fruit, cocoa, and coffee with additional notes of oak in the background. In reverse, the whiskey loses most of its butterscotch and vanilla and leaves the oloroso sherry’s dried fruit, walnut, and cinnamon in the forefront.