Irish whiskey suffers no shortage of history — the first known record of it was in 1405 — but few in the industry would argue there’s ever been a more exciting moment for the category than the present. In the last decade alone, the number of operational distilleries in Ireland increased eight-fold, from four to 32. And producers are making their marks via the four styles permitted in the country — blended, single grain, single malt, and single pot still, which is uniquely Irish — and special techniques like cask finishing.
With an ever-increasing selection of Irish whiskeys to navigate, VinePair tasted through dozens of bottles to find the ones truly worth drinking. From intriguing blends to releases that are legally old enough to drink stateside, here are 19 of the best Irish whiskeys to try right now.
19. Roe & Co. Blended Irish Whiskey
Launched by Diageo in 2017, this Irish whiskey brand pays homage to a historic name in the category’s history: George Roe, a powerhouse in the nation’s distilling industry during the 19th century. A blend of aged malt and grain whiskeys, this dram has perfumed aromas and a rich palate that highlights the ex-bourbon casks used for maturation. Average price: $35.
18. The Sexton Single Malt
This is a bold non-age-statement single malt that enjoys generous influence from oloroso cask maturation. Its aromas recall golden raisins and honey, while the well-rounded palate kicks in an array of dried fruits and a hint of oak. The Sexton is nuanced and versatile and ideal for cocktails. Average price: $28.
17. Slane Triple Casked Irish Whiskey
As you might expect from its name, this blended Irish whiskey gains much of its character from the maturation process. A combination of whiskeys aged in virgin oak, ex-American whiskey barrels (likely former Jack Daniel’s), and oloroso sherry casks, Slane is rich in dried fruit, baking spice, and vanilla aromas, with a depth of flavors on the palate. Offering more complexity than most blends, this whiskey shows subtle signs of age and serves a generous finish. Average price: $26.
16. Powers Gold Label
This blend of grain and triple-distilled pot still whiskeys is immediately inviting with tropical aromas (banana and pineapple husk) and a luxurious streak of vanilla. The palate is honied, velvety, and rich, with an enticing wave of oak rounding out the finish. This is a captivating whiskey that’s full of character. Average price: $30.
15. Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey
Banana and spearmint aromas set a lively tone for this blend of grain and malt whiskeys, which age between three and 10 years in French oak, bourbon, and rum casks. Cereal and spice notes lead an energetic palate and continue long into its finish. The profile of this release promises to please regular rye whiskey drinkers. Average price: $36.
14. Jameson Black Barrel
From an Irish whiskey brand that needs no introduction, this bottling delivers more intensity and complexity than Jameson’s ubiquitous flagship offering. The name refers to a process of re-charring bourbon barrels for maturation. The influence is obvious on the nose and palate, with toffee and spice aromas leading to caramel, banana bread, and intense toasted oak flavors. Average price: $37.
13. The Busker Triple Cask Triple Smooth
A blend of single grain, single malt, and pot still whiskeys, this release is aged and finished in bourbon, Marsala, and sherry casks. If the name sounds a tad corny, it is at least bang on the money in terms of the whiskey’s texture and flavor profile. Rich malt, caramel, and tobacco notes lead the nose, while the palate is all about the oak. This is robust enough for cocktails but don’t count it out as a sipper. Average price: $26.
12. Knappogue Castle 12 Years Old Single Malt
A triple-distilled single malt, this release ages for at least 12 years in ex-bourbon casks before release. Notes of dried apricots, walnuts, and anise characterize its aromatic profile, with the latter continuing onto its lightly spiced palate. For a well-rounded single malt with clear signs of age, look no further. Average price: $46.
11. Two Stacks The Blender’s Cut Cask Strength
Though common in American whiskey, cask strength releases are a rarity on the Emerald Isle but this whiskey makes a compelling case that there should be more of them. Comprising a complex blend of grain, pot still, double malt, and peated malt whiskeys, the nose leads with banana, toffee, and caramel aromas, and a subtle puff of smoke. The palate is charged and spicy, with a rich fruit core. Average price: $60.
10. Walsh Whiskey The Irishman Small Batch Founder’s Reserve
A blend of 70 percent single malt and 30 percent pot still, this is an approachable, flavorsome Irish whiskey. Cereal notes shine brightest on both nose and palate, with banana, apple crisp, and hazelnuts contributing to its complexity. The concentration of flavors and aromas bats well above its 40 percent ABV content. Average price: $33.
9. The Tyrconnell 10-Year-Old Madeira Cask Finish
The Tyrconnell offers three cask-finish releases, with each double-distilled single malt aging 10 years in bourbon barrels before the additional finishing period. The port- and sherry-cask releases deserve a mention, but it is the Madeira cask release that continues to rank as our favorite. Golden honey and whiskey-soaked raisins define the nose, while bold malt, dried fruits, and fortified wine drive the palate. Average price: $84.
8. Teeling Single Pot Still
Teeling’s Single Pot Still contains an unusually high 50 percent unmalted barley in its mash bill. The whiskey is fermented in wooden washbacks and later ages in new American oak, bourbon, and sherry barrels. The finished spirit exudes character, displaying a mix of cereal, banana chip, green tea, and dried apricot notes. Each sip is nicely rounded and coats the palate, with gentle heat provided by its 46 percent ABV content. Average price: $68.
7. Egan’s Vintage Grain
Aged for 10 years in bourbon casks, this single grain whiskey has a light straw hue and delicate profile. Its nose hints at dried fruit and nuts with a subtle vanilla undertone. The palate is lithe and lively and has more depth than its appearance and aromas lead you to expect. This is ideal for summer sipping and perfect for Highballs. Average price: $28.
6. Kilbeggan Single Pot Still
Kilbeggan includes 2.5 percent oats in the mash bill for this single pot still whiskey. The influence of the cereal is notable, with wafts of warm oatmeal rising from the glass before a rich, creamy mouthfeel. With added aromas of banana chips, hazelnuts, and raisins, and an earthy streak to the palate, this Irish whiskey promises to convert Scotch drinkers. Average price: $43.
5. Redbreast 12-Year-Old Single Pot Still
Before scores of distillers re-embraced the pot still style, Redbreast kept the category alive almost single-handedly for decades. The brand’s contribution to Irish whiskey is more than historical, though. This is an easygoing, approachable intro to pot still, full of toffee apple and cereal notes. The palate has a luxurious texture and memorable finish. Average price: $64.
4. Tullamore D.E.W. 14-Year-Old Four Cask Finish
This triple-distilled single malt is finished in bourbon, oloroso sherry, port, and Madeira casks, and the balance of malt, age, and oak is remarkable. The malted barley provides a sweet, fruity core, while the whiskey’s maturity is evident via subtle tobacco and leather aromas. The influence of the four casks shines throughout — especially the sherry barrels, which lend a raisined spice to the finish. Average price: $75.
3. Glendalough Pot Still
Glendalough goes all-Irish with this release, opting to finish the nation’s signature style of whiskey for up to a year in new Irish oak casks. The process adds extra layers to the spice provided by the base blend of malted and unmalted barley. The palate delivers the traditional opulent (almost oily) pot still mouthfeel, and crescendos with notes of oatmeal and golden honey. Average price: $54.
2. Green Spot Single Pot Still
Made up of 7- and 10-year-old pot still whiskeys, Green Spot draws you in with banana muffin, creamy oat, and golden raisin aromas. The palate quickly delivers on the promise of the nose. Beyond its depth of flavors, there’s complex texture, which grabs the attention. Slightly tannic like a strongly brewed tea, a pleasant black pepper spice lingers on the palate. This bottle is a true ambassador of Irish whiskey and the pot still style. Average price: $64.
1. Bushmills 21-Year-Old Single Malt
While the price tag sets an admittedly high barrier of entry, this bottle justifies every cent. Aged for a minimum of 19 years in oloroso and ex-bourbon casks, the whiskey spends the last two years of maturation in Madeira casks. The whiskey’s age and the aging process are delivered in perfect harmony. The nose delivers notes of ripe banana, leather, and cigar box. The palate follows with concentrated dried fruit, lively oloroso, and tingling pepper, and each sip is a tale of intensity and grace. This is a special whiskey crafted for special occasions, but we’d drink it every single day given the chance. Average price: $248.
Published: March 11, 2021