Tue. Oct 27th, 2020

The Best Irish Whiskeys—and Other Irish Spirits—You Have to Try

The Best Irish Whiskeys—and Other Irish Spirits—You Have to Try


It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, so of course it’s the perfect time to be thinking about Irish whiskey. And not just as the go-to shot to chase down with a can of cheap beer. There’s good reason to be excited about the Irish stuff: Every year the category continues to grow, with new distilleries opening around Ireland and established brands releasing new expressions that experiment with barrel finishes and different mash bills. But it’s not all about the whiskey, because believe it or not, Ireland produces other spirits as well. Gin, vodka, brandy, and even rum are all distilled on the Emerald Isle, some by whiskey distilleries venturing out into other categories, and others by small craft operations that don’t even bother with whiskey. So here are some of the best Irish whiskeys and other Irish spirits to enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day—and all year round.


Teeling 29 Year Old Vintage Reserve Single Malt

Ultra-aged Irish single malts don’t come around nearly as often their Scottish counterparts, but Teeling Whiskey has released several of them over the past few years. The latest is this 29-year-old expression, distilled at Cooley in 1989 and aged for 27 years in ex-rum casks before being finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry butts for another two years. The single malt is rich and oaky but not overly tannic, full of spice and tropical fruit notes. Only 98 bottles are available in the U.S., so consider yourself lucky if you manage to get your hands on one. ($2,500 list price)


Bushmills 10 Year Old

$50, reservebar.com

Most people are familiar with Bushmills, an affordable blended whiskey from Northern Ireland that sits side-by-side with Jameson behind most bars. But the distillery also has some great single malts in its repertoire, including this 10-year-old expression. Like classic Bushmills, this whiskey is matured in bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, but for about twice as long at a minimum of ten years, and it’s 100-percent malted barley instead of a blend of malt and grain. The 16- and 21-year-old expressions are delicious as well, but the 10 provides a very good bang for your buck. ($45 list price)


Dingle Single Malt Triple-Distilled Whiskey Batch No. 3

$85, thewhiskeyexchange.com

Like Teeling, Dingle is a newer Irish distillery. It opened in County Kerry on the west coast of Ireland in 2012, and released its first batch of whiskey nearly three years ago in 2016. Batch number three of Dingle’s single malt is triple-distilled (as is often the case with Irish whiskey) in copper pot stills made by Forsythes in Scotland. The whiskey bears no age statement, but is matured in bourbon and port casks in warehouses near the coast. This is a limited release of 13,000 bottles, with 500 bottled at cask strength. ($100 list price)


Ballyhoo Irish Whiskey

$30, reservebar.com

Ballyhoo is a four-year-old Irish grain whiskey (93 percent corn, 7 percent malted barley) that the Connacht Whiskey Company first released a few years ago. Now there’s a new twist on the liquid; it’s finished for three to six months in first-fill port barrels before being bottled. This makes it an inexpensive and interesting alternative to similarly priced blended whiskeys, and it plays well in a cocktail or sips nicely on its own. ($30 list price)


Red Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

$130, celticwhiskeyshop.com

The newest whiskey from the Pernod Ricard family of Irish whiskeys (Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, etc.) is Red Spot, which joins the esteemed duo of Green Spot and Yellow Spot. The wine merchant family Mitchell & Son originally created these whiskeys in the early 1900s by refilling wine casks with Irish whiskey. Red Spot continues that tradition. It is distilled at the Midleton Distillery just outside of Cork and matured for at least 15 years in ex-bourbon, sherry, and Marsala wine casks. Red Spot will hit shelves in America in March. ($130 list price)


Knappogue Castle Château Pichon Baron

This past fall, Knappogue Castle released its newest whiskey, a 12-year-old single malt that was finished in French oak barrels from Château Pichon Baron in Bordeaux, France. This imparted the already fruity whiskey, which the brand sources from an unnamed distillery, with berry and red fruit notes on top of the vanilla and oak that it picked up from over a decade in bourbon barrels. Look for other wine-finished whiskeys later this year from Knappogue, including Barolo and Marsala. ($80 list price)


Glendalough 13-Year-Old Mizunara Finish Single Malt

$90, thewhiskyexchange.com

Japanese whisky is all the rage at the moment, and several distilleries in other countries have been paying tribute by finishing their whiskey in mizunara, a coveted type of Japanese oak. Glendalough’s 13-year-old single malt spends some time after maturation in virgin mizunara barrels that are coopered in Japan before being shipped to Ireland, smoothing out the flavor with a touch more vanilla, a burst of floral notes, and a pleasing balsa wood scent. Look for a virgin Irish oak barrel-aged release in the next few years from Glendalough as well. ($100 list price)


Powers Three Swallow

$52, reservebar.com

Powers has long been a popular whiskey in Ireland, distilled at the Midleton distillery outside of Cork as part of Pernod Ricard’s Irish whiskey operation. And three Swallow is better than your average Powers—it’s a triple-distilled single pot still whiskey, aged in second- and third-fill bourbon barrels before being finished in sherry casks, and made from a mash bill of malted and unmalted barley. ($48 list price)


Egan’s Fortitude

$48, whiskyshopusa.com

Egan’s Irish Whiskey released two new expressions this past fall. The first is an expensive limited release called Legacy Reserve, which is a 15-year-old whiskey aged in bourbon casks ($200). The other more readily available release is called Fortitude, which was made as a tribute to founder Henry J. Egan. This sourced single malt is matured exclusively in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, not touching the usual bourbon barrels that Irish whiskey calls home for the majority of its aging process. Look for notes of raisin and marzipan on the palate here. ($50 list price)


Proper No. Twelve

$32, thewhiskyexchange.com

MMA fighter Conor McGregor released his own Irish whiskey this past fall, and people went bananas for it. In ten days, it sold out product allocated for the next six months, blew up on Instagram, and subsequently went out of stock (as of December, it’s widely available again). In other words, this whiskey hit the jackpot for McGregor and his team. The reality is that it’s an average sourced Irish blend that has polarized the masses—critics don’t seem to care much for it, but the people keep on buying and drinking it. It’s cheap, so you might as well give it a try for yourself. ($30 list price)


Glendalough Mountain Strength Poitín

$35, thewhiskyexchange.com

Poitín is basically Irish moonshine, an unaged clear spirit that is usually bottled at a higher proof than whiskey. Glendalough Poitín is pot-distilled from 100-percent malted barley. It packs a bit of a punch at 110 proof, but is tempered by the inherent mildness of the barley, with a little bit of spice and subtle fruit notes popping up in each sip. ($30 list price)


Conncullin Irish Gin

$30, reservebar.com

Irish gin is making waves, and it has actually outpaced whiskey as the fastest growing spirits category in Ireland in recent years. Conncullin is a good example of a pot distilled Irish gin, made by the Connacht Whiskey Company, with a recipe based around juniper and other botanicals native to Ireland, like elderberry and hawthorn. ($30 list price)


Dingle Original Gin

$35, thewhiskyexchange.com

Another new gin from Ireland comes from the Dingle Distillery. Dingle Original Gin is a copper pot still London dry style gin, which uses botanicals like heather, bog myrtle, and chervil in an attempt to capture the character and flavors of the Kerry countryside. The botanicals are macerated in the base spirit for a full 24 hours before re-distillation. ($50 list price)


Straw Boys Vodka

$21, reservebar.com

Where there’s gin, there’s most likely vodka, which is basically boring, flavorless gin. The Connacht Whiskey Company’s Straw Boys Vodka is pot distilled from a 100-percent wheat mash bill. The brand describes hints of orange peel and anise on the palate, but this is vodka, so it’s best to take all that with a grain of salt. ($20 list price)


Dingle Vodka

$34, reservebar.com

Lots of vodka brands talk about how many times their spirits are distilled—in the case of Dingle Vodka, it’s five times. The distillery says that this ensures the purity of the spirit, as well as gives it a creamy mouthfeel and slight sweetness. ($50 list price)


Blacks Spiced Irish Rum

$47, irishmalts.com

Rum is not the first spirit you might associate with Ireland, but a small brewery/distillery in Kinsale is now making some. Blacks Brewery distills small batches of its Spiced Irish Rum from sugar cane molasses, flavors it with a mixture of seven different spices (including vanilla, black pepper, and ginger), and ages it in oak casks for up to three years. ($70 list price)