The Kilcar - Sliabh Liag Releases First Legally Distilled Whiskey in Donegal in Almost 200 Years!

Posted by Irish Whiskey USA on

A major milestone was achieved at the end of August with the release of The Kilcar, the first legal Irish Whiskey distilled in Co. Donegal in almost 200 years! Sliabh Liag Distillers from the Adara Distillery and Silkie range of sourced Irish Whiskeys have released their first distilled single malt. A lottery was made available to purchase one of the limited 100 bottles. (Sadly, I was not one of the lucky winners.)

Founder James Doherty is bringing the smoky whiskey style back to Donegal. I had the pleasure of meeting with James back in May during WhiskeyLive Dublin and sampling some of the Sliabh Liag whiskey yet to be released. James became Chair of the Irish Whiskey Association in December 2022 where he will be promoting, protecting, and representing Irish Whiskey in addition to his work managing Sliabh Liag.

The newest Kilcar expression was released in a beautiful decanter to commemorate the special occasion. You can read more in the press release below.

Sliabh Liag's Kilcar release is first legal Donegal distilled whiskey for 182 years

James and Moira Doherty, co-founders of Sliabh Liag distillers in Donegal

AFTER 182 years, the first legally distilled whiskey from Donegal will prove to be worth the wait – if you are lucky enough to get a taste of it, with only 100 bottles available to the public.

Sliabh Liag Distillers, based at the Ardara Distillery in the south-west of Donegal, have announced the Kilcar release, with the spirit used the first they have distilled themselves, laid down during the dark days of the Covid pandemic lockdowns.

Whisky heads will already know they’re in for a treat as Sliabh Liag Distillers, based at the Ardara Distillery in the south-west of Donegal, have already become renowned for their Silkie Irish Whiskey, Dark Silkie Irish Whiskey, Midnight Silkie, and An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin, all of which are available in more than 40 countries.

Three of the earliest bottles in this Kilcar release run have already been auctioned for charity with two going to support the people of Creeslough at the Dublin Donegal Business Association Person of the Year evening and one to the child loss charity Rosabel’s Rooms in Galway.

100 ballot winners will acquire a stunning decanter, Tuath glass, and 2ml sample of the Kilcar release


Founder James Doherty, a passionate advocate for reclaiming Donegal's distilling heritage, said: "Smoky Irish whiskey has a deep-rooted connection to Donegal and Sliabh Liag, our first single malt, is about reminding whiskey lovers – and the world – of that.

“The art of distillation, ageing, and blending has been refined over centuries, and the northwest region of Ireland has contributed its own distinct touch. With a fusion of history, craftsmanship, and community, we are not just distilling a spirit; we are distilling the essence of Sliabh Liag, Donegal – its rugged landscapes, its resilient people, and its untamed spirit."

Doherty added: “This moment is not only about the whiskey itself but about reclaiming our identity, our traditions, and our history.

“While Burt Distillery ceased production in 1841, we know illegal distilling continued during the intervening years, not least by my grandfather who was creating a smoky, double distilled spirit under the authorities’ radar on the hills ‘up the glen’ in Kilcar. It’s a special feeling to be releasing a spirit named in his honour; the first legal whiskey in Donegal for nearly 200 years, and a bridge between generations of Donegal distillers.”

If it tastes one per cent as good as its bottle looks then Sliabh Liag’s Kilcar release will still be something special.

One per cent is a telling phrase, because only one hundred bottles are available to the public, which will send demand for this historic whiskey through the roof faster than turf smoke rising to the sky.

A ballot will decide those fortunate owners - email by Saturday, August 26, to enter.

The price per bottle is €300, which partly reflects the limited nature of the release, but also the stunning design of each decanter, which also comes with a commemorative Tuath glass and a precious 2ml tasting sample.

Sliabh Liag (46% ABV) is a double-distilled smoky spirit made from Irish peated malt. The first cask was matured in a first-fill bourbon American white oak cask.  The tasting notes describe this smoky single malt Irish whiskey as “exceptionally soft, fresh, and citrusy with rich chocolate notes to complement the pronounced smoke.”

Made from Irish Craft Malts barley grown in Meath and malted over peat from Mín na bhFachraín, the spirit’s smoky profile is true to what was being distilled in Ulster 200 years ago, and like the county of Donegal itself, it is a contrast to the rest of Ireland in character.

Sliabh Liag Distillers co-founder Moira Doherty carefully fills one of the bottles for the extremely limited Kilcar release


Moira Doherty, co-founder of Sliabh Liag Distillers said: “Donegal's landscape imparts a character that is distinctively its own. The rugged mountains, wild heather, and briny sea air infuse Donegal whiskey with an unparalleled sense of place.

“We worked hard in lockdown to commission the distillery and be the first distillery in Donegal to be granted geographical indication (GI) status.  We even sent turf from our own bog for the malting process and I distilled this whiskey in a double distilled heavily smoky style.

“James’s mum and aunt made it clear that the distillery was in the parish of Kilcar and that influenced the naming too. This whiskey is a tribute to this beautiful place and its people down through the generations. For us, the smokiness is more than a flavour; each sip is a connection to the past, and a celebration of the enduring spirit of a resilient community.”

For more information on Sliabh Liag Distillers, visit:

This article originally appeared here.

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