A Shot with a Beer Back: Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt & Ölvisholt Skjálfti

Each weekday this week, I’ll be posting a pair of mini-reviews covering selections from the latest additions to the LCBO’s Whisky Shop premium whisky program, and the products in the LCBO’s Spring 2011 Specialty Beer promotion. Today’s picks are a whiskey from Ireland (yeah, I’m doing the St. Paddy’s thing…) and a beer from Iceland.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt (LCBO 223776 – $48.60/750 mL)

While the Scottish single malt whiskies get most of the attention, there are quite a few Irish single malts out there as well. This one from Knappogue Castle is the first in their range to have an age designation – previous bottlings had been given vintage years, making it difficult to know exactly how long the liquid was inside the wood, which is something that most aficionados want to know. As is typical of many Irish whiskeys, it has a mellower character than a comparable Scotch might have, with an inviting aroma of biscuit and toasted grain, and smooth flavours of light golden sugar, vanilla and lychee. It finishes light as well, with a bit of orange zest and a suggestion of pepper. A nice session sipper.

Ölvisholt Skjálfti (LCBO 168393 – $3.90/500 mL bottle)

In addition to their similar names and fairly close geographic proximity, Ireland and Iceland have some strong historic connections, with Irish monks believed to be the first settlers there before the Norse showed up. So I guess it’s fitting that I feature this Icelandic beer alongside an Irish whiskey. As I noted when I reviewed it for Taste T.O. last summer, Skjálfti is unique not only because of where it comes from, but also due it being brewed using lager yeast, but fermented at a warmer temperature more typical of ales. That combined with the use of Cascade hops – a strain that contributes notes of bitter citrus that are more commonly found in American pale ales – makes Skjálfti a full-bodied, flavourful and well-bittered beer that even the most anti-lager ale-head would enjoy.

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