Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey Review

The whiskey world has similar categories. There are some whiskies that choose to reside in the training levels. There are others existing in more competitive realms. There are, of course, the elite few that sit atop the highest shelves of whiskey spectacle.

Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey Header

It was a whitewater fray of disposable rage played out among both young and old. Tears of victory and suffering streamed together among the portions of flesh floating in the swimming pool now stained red. Swim suits were tattered. Scarring imprints from a lightning-fast rubber ball adorned the faces and arms and backs of the contestants.

The Death Ball match had begun.

Perhaps you, the reader, do not know that Death Ball is an annual Thoma vacation-time contest into which only certain members from among the fittest in society may wade. (Click here to read more about Death Ball.) It is played in a swimming pool. And while it has very few rules, it requires great skill, monumental endurance, and the willingness to either receive death’s stroke or bring it down upon others in order to possess a rubber ball.

Traditionally, a regulation sized death ball is between 18 and 20 inches in circumference, weighs approximately 10 ounces, is painted with the likenesses of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf from the movie “Frozen,” and has a smooth texture for minimal gripping but maximum sting. A Death Ball match is comprised of two teams, each with three players of varying ages.

I’ve learned just this year that even as Death Ball was born a mangling competition set on full combat leading to death, variations of the game have come into existence designed to help others prepare for a day in the truest arena. For example, there is now a minor league that participates in a form of the game called Mildly Hazardous Ball that, while you might end up with a few broken bones, is relatively slight in comparison to the traditional game. There’s another of a bit fiercer nature named Permanently Maimed Ball. This league is much sturdier. Still, they do employ a rule that true Death Ball players consider cowardice called “kill begging” which gives any player who has been seriously mutilated the option to beg for and ultimately received a merciful death from an opposing player.

But this is unthinkable in Death Ball. Death Ball has no room for the weak, which means no room for mercy. When you step into the pool, you’re stepping into doom’s lair to test your strength against its embrace. You will survive or die. That’s it.

The whiskey world has similar categories. There are some whiskies that choose to reside in the training levels. There are others existing in more competitive realms. There are, of course, the elite few that sit atop the highest shelves of whiskey spectacle. I’m thinking that the folks behind the Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey are not only well familiar with Death Ball, but by their name they tip their hats to the “kill begging” rule of the second tier, and by this, place themselves no higher.

They do this honestly. This whiskey is good, but it’s not good enough for Death Ball.



NOSE: The nose of the Kilbeggan is piercingly light, which is to say that it throws its waftings of fruity vanillas and malt with a subtler and yet still more accurate skill than most. A first and second sniff will confirm that you’re not dealing with a rookie.

TASTE: It’s here that the Kilbeggan shows its need for improvement before being allowed to ascend to the more glorious arenas. Its first shot is that of citrus—a concoction of syrupy oranges and lemons. A second spike delivers a swirl of caramel. Nice? Perhaps. The problem is that these candied flavors felt artificially imposed. I sure hope that was not the case, because as it is with high-stakes Death Ball, so it is in the stadiums of whiskey. Doping will most certainly get you disqualified, bringing nothing less than the ultimate in shame.

FINISH: The finish reminds you why the whiskey is in the second tier and not the third. It shows skill with a well-balanced and medium finish of the malt and vanilla from the nosing.

SHARE WITH: I would imagine that many might consider this a whiskey only suitable for mixers. I’d suggest it as a more than toast-able post-match dram with any surviving teammates. “Aye, here’s to the fallen! May they sink to the pool’s bottom in dignified glory!” “Aye! To the bottom!”

WORTH THE PRICE: Let’s just say that at $30 a smack, it’s a far better buy than that budget team tattoo you got on your ankle after your first minor league match.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: For now, at least keep some in the medicine cabinet. When the editions get better, you’ll want to move it into your collection. My guess is that the Kilbeggan distillery has what it takes to eventually play in the highest league. I say this because it managed to fashion distilled spirits for two hundred years before closing for about half a century. It got back on its feet in 2010 and started putting out drams again in 2014. In that sense, its innermost fibers are those of youthful desire paired to a longstanding pedigree. But for now, tier two is its place. Still, I don’t think it will be long before we see its name measured by the same top-tier calibers of play only visited in the arenas of Death Ball.


The notion that “single grain” describes a whiskey made with just one grain is a common misperception. Rather, the term refers to whiskey made in a single location using malted barley and at least one other grain. 94% of the mash bill for Kilbeggan® Single Grain is made of meticulously-sourced corn, with the other 6% being malted barley.

Kilbeggan® Single Grain is a sweet spirit that absorbs the flavours of the casks it ages in. After aging in ex-bourbon barrels, it is finished in a marriage of ex-bourbon and different fortified wine barrels, giving it a smoothness that makes it ideal for cocktails, as well as a depth of flavour that allows it to be appreciated neat.

Kilbeggan® Single Grain carries on the spirit of innovation within the Kilbeggan Distilling Co. family, and serves as a tribute to the town of Kilbeggan.

Coconut cream, vanilla, jellied fruit and summer red berries

Wafer-like biscuit sweetness, hazelnut and light spice with nice oak tannins drying on the side of the mouth

Crisp and fruity, glazed cherries drying with a lingering spice