It's easy to visit a store and nab the first, or cheapest, bottle of Irish whiskey on the shelf. However, perhaps it's time for a St. Patrick's Day upgrade. Below, a few of the best Irish whiskeys for today's celebration, with a focus on either new releases, alternative expressions from big brands, or lesser-known offerings.
7 Great Irish Whiskeys to try
1) Glendalough Double Barrel (42% ABV, $27.99)
While dozens of prominent Irish whiskey brands exist, until recently there had been only three major distilleries producing the stuff. Enter Glendalough, touted as Ireland's first craft distillery. The brand offers older whiskey expressions made from stock they purchased elsewhere, but the Double Barrel is produced by them at their own facility.
Double Barrel is column distilled and consists of a malted barley and corn mash bill. It's aged first for three and a half years in ex-bourbon barrels, before a final six months in ex-oloroso sherry casks. Hence the double barrel tag. Both barrels clearly influence the final product, offering notes ranging from toffee and brown sugar, to dried fruit, nuts, and honey.
2) Green Spot Single Pot Still (40% ABV, $59.99)
Distilled at the Midleton Distillery by Pernod Ricard's Irish Distillers exclusively for Mitchell & Son, Green Spot is a single pot still Irish whiskey which has been aged in a mix of ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry butts. It debuted in the U.S. in 2014 and has been a game changer for many in their view on Irish whiskey. Green Spot is a smooth, fruity dram, mixing in lighter spicy and oaky notes, and it's well regarded for a creamy, rich, and complex palate.
If you already know and love Green Spot and are willing to splurge a bit more, check out Green Spot Château Léoville Barton ($89.99). This expression is made by finishing the whiskey in ex-Bordeaux wine casks for 12 to 24 months.
3) Redbreast 12 Year (40% ABV, $59.99)
The Redbreast brand is also produced at the Midleton Distillery by Irish Distillers. While the age statement is 12, that actually serves as more of a minimum. According to the brand, the whiskey included is often several years older.
Redbreast is a single pot still Irish whiskey aged in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and ex-oloroso sherry casks, with more of a focus on the sherried whiskey than in other expressions. This helps to build a creamy, sweet, and complex palate.
The hefty sherry influence yields dark red fruits and honey, and is backed up with baking spices and oak. While Redbreast offers older whiskeys, many enthusiasts prefer the 12 Year.
4) Jameson Caskmates (40% ABV, $29.99)
When Jameson's master of whiskey science, Dave Quinn, grabbed a few drinks with buddy Shane Long, head brewer at Irish microbrewery Franciscan Well, the idea for a new collaboration was born—Franciscan Well took barrels from Jameson to age their Irish stout. Once emptied, those barrels were returned to Jameson, and refilled with Jameson Original, finishing the whiskey for an extra six months in those stout-seasoned barrels.
Find a range of darker, richer flavors and influences in this spirit as a result, such as dark chocolate, butterscotch, coffee, sweet beer malt, along with even a light touch of hops. Sip it neat, and better yet, pair it with your favorite stout.
5) Knappogue Castle 12 Year (40% ABV, $36.99)
Knappogue Castle offers single malt Irish whiskey named after, well, Knappogue Castle in County Clare, Ireland. After purchasing and beginning work to restore the castle in the mid 1960s, Mark Edwin Andrews II also had other plans—acquiring stocks of Irish whiskey. Andrews would go on to patiently age and bottle his wares.
Exceedingly rare Knappogue Castle 1951 bottles are the actual remnants of Andrews' original stash. A more accessible way to check out the brand, though, is with their youngest expression, Knappogue Castle 12 Year.
Aged in ex-bourbon barrels, Knappogue Castle 12 is a pot-distilled Irish malt whiskey. It offers a light and smooth sip, with an herbal and spicy side, plus a fuller, richer backbone of vanillin notes and fruits.
6) Teeling Small Batch (46% ABV, $34.99)
Another brand now touting an operational distillery is the Teeling Whiskey Company. Their Dublin facility is the first new distillery built in the city in over 125 years. Teeling sticks to a consistent 46 percent ABV (92 proof) for their releases, and also offers a Single Malt and Single Grain, which are equally worth exploring.
Teeling Small Batch is the brand's flagship though, and the whiskey is finished in ex-rum Flor de Caña casks. While the juice in the bottle now is still from Cooley, which had originally been opened by the Teeling family before they sold it to what's now Beam Suntory, in the coming years it will be phased out by whiskey made at Teeling's Dublin location. It's a spicy, drier dram, also with honey and a range of red fruits, making for a good balance of bold and smooth flavors.
7) Tullamore D.E.W. Trilogy (40% ABV, $89.99)
Tullamore D.E.W. released Trilogy at the start of 2016, and it's the oldest whiskey the brand has ever offered. The spirit is first aged in ex-bourbon barrels, before moving into ex-oloroso sherry barrels, and finally, ex-rum casks from Trinidad. And those rum barrels were the key to Trilogy's creation. The result is a unique twist for an Irish whiskey, with dark, rich sherry notes playing beside more traditional bourbon flavors, as well as the 15 years of cask time and the hard-earned wood influence that represents.
It's triple-distilled and consists of three types of whiskey, with pot still, malt and grain whiskeys all included, so Trilogy was the perfect moniker.
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