Essential Irish Whiskeys For Your Liquor Cabinet
Jameson is up there with Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, and Johnnie Walker as the best-known names in whiskey. It’s everything you want in a go-to bottle—reliable, drinkable, at every pub and dive bar the world over. Pair it with a pint, mix it with ginger beer, pour it into an Irish coffee; there’s not really a wrong way to drink it.
As inexpensive as Jameson, Clontarf is another great choice for everyday drinking—aged in bourbon barrels, it picks up notes of vanilla and toffee; it’s great in an Irish coffee or in many cocktails.
Though it’s the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland (established in 1757), Kilbeggan is still relatively new to the States. But their entry-level bottling, in the eyes of some, is superior to Jameson for an all-around versatile Irish whiskey. It’s light and woody, equally suited to sipping and mixing.
Teeling Small Batch
Dublin’s first new whiskey distillery in generations has become a bartender favorite; mixologists gravitate toward Teeling’s entry-level blended whiskey thanks to its friendly price (under $40) and rich flavor, owing in part to its aging in Flor de Caña rum barrels, lending it sweetness and spice.
If you’re just getting into the world of Irish pot still whiskeys—often more sophisticated and richer in flavor than their blended counterparts—Green Spot is an incredible introduction, a creamy spirit that picks up nutty notes from sherry casks and toffee and vanilla from bourbon. A perfect after-dinner sipper.
Redbreast 12 Year
Everything we want from an Irish whiskey—rich, fruity, beautifully balanced. Made from a blend of pot still whiskeys, some aged in bourbon casks and others in sherry, it has a stronger influence from the latter; think dried fruit and toasted nuts. (Try the Cask Strength version, bottled up at 117 proof, for an even more intense version.)
Knappogue Castle 12 Year Single Malt
Though some of Knappogue Castle’s bottles are beyond the reach of us mere mortals—like the 1951 Pure Pot Still, aged for 36 years in sherry casks and retailing for over $1000—their 12-year is exceptional in its own way. A single-malt, made entirely from malted barley, it’s a lovely balance of fruit and spice. Sip it, mix it, drink as you like.
Bushmills Black Bush
While Bushmills is an old name in Irish whiskey, there’s quite a bit of variety in their offerings. The Red Bush will appeal to any American bourbon drinker, but it’s the Black Bush I’m particularly fond of, with a high proportion of malt whiskey aged in Oloroso sherry casks. Honeyed-fruity-nutty sherry notes come through loud and clear. It’s a sipping whiskey that’s a great value.
Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask
Another established brand with a fascinating new bottle just released in the States: their triple-distilled Irish whiskey spends three months finished in hard cider casks, accenting the light-bodied spirit’s mellow, fruity character. The first of its kind and a perfect fall sipper.
Tyrconnell 16 Year Old Old
Drink this one neat: Tyrconnell is a double-distilled single malt that spends sixteen years in bourbon barrels, fresh on the nose, bold and oaky in the finish. A limited release that’s a perfect gift bottle for connoisseurs.
Connemara Peated Single Malt
When you hear “peat” and “single malt,” your mind likely leaps to Scotch. In terms of Irish whiskey, Connemara is an outlier, but a delicious one, with notes of honey and heather (and of course prominent peat) that would appeal to any Scotch drinker, though it remains lighter and cleaner than some of the more intense Islay whiskies.