In 1979, a bartender in Connecticut named Charles Burke Cronin Oat created a drink with three of Ireland’s most beloved adult beverages—Jameson Irish whiskey, Bailey’s and Guinness—and named it after an act of terrorism that has haunted generations of Irish citizens. Needless to say, this was not the American bartending community’s finest moment. Ah, but you know the old saw about dark clouds and silver linings...in the early-aughts, sales of Irish Car Bombs blew up stateside (sorry, couldn’t help myself) paving the way for an explosion (there I go again) in Irish whiskey’s popularity.
Being a discerning drinker, you would do well to steer clear of Oat’s abomination on St. Patrick’s Day (or any other day, for that matter). Instead, seek out these delicious drams of usquebaugh and enjoy them neat:
Green Spot Single Pot Still (80 proof/$50)
Up until two weeks ago, when Pernod Ricard began importing it to the US, this small-production triple-distilled whiskey from County Cork was available only in and around Ireland. Time to send Pernod Ricard a thank-you note, for this is a special spirit. Old dogs and whiskey neophytes alike will find plenty to love in this extremely agreeable, honey-tinged bottling.
Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix Limited Edition (110 proof/$55)
At 55 percent ABV, this will get you wasted fast. Whereas the Green Spot is a what you might call a “drinkable” whiskey, Tully’s latest release is a “drunk-able” one. Proceed with caution—it’s deceptively smooth, yet packs a wallop. If Liam Neeson were an Irish whiskey aged in sherry casks, he’d be this one. It’s bold and brawny and can kick your ass...but there’s something sweet about the big lug (in the biz we call that “sherry nuttiness” and “toffee”).
Powers John’s Lane Release 12 Year Old Single Pot Still (92 proof/$70)
My friend Robinson, an Irish Zen-Baptist boozehound from the hinterlands of Kentucky, says this whiskey is a reminder of why so many bourbon distillers are of Irish ancestry. For one thing, it’s aged for not less than 12 years in American bourbon casks. For another, this whiskey sings...like Celtic bluegrass.
The Irishman Founder’s Reserve (80 proof/$30)
It’s called The Irishman...for the love of God, what more do you want in a whiskey? There are hints of green apple, butterscotch and spice. And the vanilla gets right in your grill. There’s nary a finer dram to be had at this price.
Redbreast 15 Year Old Single Pot Still (92 proof/$65)
The gorgeous redbreast robin is the only bird that sings the whole dark Irish winter through. Like its namesake, this is one stout beauty. Spices, toasted wood, the succulent flavor of fleshy fruit. It’s all in this majestic bottle of classic-style Irish whiskey.
And coming soon...
Teeling (92 proof/$40)
Due for April 1 release in the US, this rich golden-yellow whiskey spent a few years hanging out in Flor de Caña rum barrels that impart an extra sweet and smooth flavor quite unique to Irish whiskey. Teeling is sure to cause quite a stir when it arrives on our shores.
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