On 17th March every year, just about everyone is a little bit Irish. And we’re no exception. Why? Because it’s St. Patrick’s Day!
In our opinion, this holiday is one of the best. Renowned all around the world, it has to be the most fun and festive national holiday currently celebrated. So, in honour of the day, we thought we’d discover what’s special about Irish Whiskey and we’ll recommend FIVE of the best Irish Whiskeys to try.
But first, a little backstory…
Who was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick was born in Britain in the 4th century. After his village was ransacked by raiders, he was sent to Ireland to serve as a slave. According to folklore, Patrick heard the voice of God, who showed him in a vision of how to escape and before long he had fled back to Britain. In a second vision, Patrick heard the voice again and was told to return to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity.
After his death, St. Patrick was made a saint by ‘popular acclaim’ and within a few hundred years, the day of his death was already being marked. It became an official ‘feast day’ in the early 1600s, but by 1903 St. Patrick’s Day had officially become a national holiday in Ireland.
However, it was not quite the ‘all out’ boozy celebration we know and love today. In fact, drinking only became part of the celebrations from the 1970s, when pubs in Ireland were finally allowed to open all day.
And the rest is history.
Irish Whiskey is always a popular choice on St. Patrick’s Day. But did you know it’s been around longer than Scotch Whisky? Well, slightly anyway. It’s been produced since the early 14th century – a full century before Scotch Whisky!
In the early days, Irish Whiskey was the whiskey of choice – especially in the United States. Sadly though, the Irish War of Independence, the effect of World War 1 and the introduction of prohibition in the United States saw the industry take a massive downturn. One that has taken more than a century to bounce back from.
But bounce back it has…
With booming global sales and new distilleries opening every year, Irish Whiskey has made a huge comeback. In 2010 there were just four operational distilleries left in Ireland but by the end of 2022, the number had climbed to 42. It’s an exciting era and industry experts believe that by 2030 Irish Whiskey will be set to rival its Scottish cousin for shelf space in the average whiskey-drinker’s home.
What makes Irish Whiskey different?
Irish Whiskey is made using both malted and unmalted barley as well as other grains such as wheat and rye. Known for its smoothness and unique flavour profile, it can often be characterised by notes of honey, vanilla and fruit.
There are four types: single malt whiskey, single pot still whiskey, grain whiskey and blended.
Our Five Recommended Irish Whiskeys
In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve picked five Irish Whiskeys that we think you should try. Whether you’re entirely new to whisky, new to Irish Whiskey or regard yourself as a bit of a connoisseur, these five will not disappoint…
Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – 40% ABV
Green Spot Single Pot Still is made in very limited quantities at Midleton Distillery and has been in continuous production for more than 100 years. It matures for up to ten years in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. This highly prized, award-winning whiskey bursts with notes of banana, toffee and mint chocolate. The oaky finish brings vanilla and a hint of spice.
Serve: Neat, on the rocks or with water.
Redbreast 15-Year-Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – 46% ABV
Redbreast 15-Year-Old Single Pot Still is regarded by some as being the definitive pot still whiskey, full of rich and complex flavour. It’s made using malted and unmalted barley before maturing for a minimum of 15 years using a careful balance of first fill and refill casks. Creamy and silky in texture, the flavour profile suggests dried banana, orange and nutmeg before leading to a long cinnamon and toffee finish.
Serve: Neat, on the rocks or with water.
Teeling Small Batch Blended Irish Whiskey – 46% ABV
Teeling Small Batch Blended Irish Whiskey stands out as being oddly unconventional but is packed full of complexity and character. Made from a high proportion of malt to grain, this whiskey is smooth and slightly woody. Initially aged in bourbon barrels, it spends up to twelve months maturing in Flor de Caña rum casks, giving it a wonderful woody and fruity undertone - before a sweet, spicy finish.
Serve: On the rocks or mixed in a cocktail.
Tullamore D.E.W. XO Rum Cask Finish Irish Whiskey – 43% ABV
Tullamore D.E.W. XO Rum Cask Finish is a carefully crafted blend of the very best single malt, single grain and pot still whiskies. Finished in first-fill Demerara rum barrels, this expression enjoys notes of deep caramel and banana with hints of dates and spice. Developed as a tribute to the role Irish immigrants played in the development of rum, this whiskey is Irish at its heart but Caribbean in its soul.
Serve: Neat, on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail.
Powers John’s Lane Release 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey – 46% ABV
Powers John’s Lane Release 12-Year-Old is a single pot still whiskey named after the John’s Lane Distillery in Dublin where Powers was first made. Aged for a minimum of 12 years in second-fill bourbon and sherry casks, this expression is outstanding in flavour and complexity. Hints of vanilla, honey and dried fruit on the palate lead to clove and cinnamon on the long lingering finish.
Serve: Neat or on the rocks.
A new era…
There are plenty more excellent Irish whiskey selections beyond the five highlighted here and St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to experiment.
It’s an exciting era for Irish whiskey - with booming global sales and new distilleries opening every year, Irish whiskey is soon set to rival its Scotch counterpart and command shelf space in every whiskey lover’s drink cabinet.
We wish you a very happy St. Patrick’s Day, or, in Gaelic, Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!