It's hard to find a bottle of Irish whiskey that's truly disappointing. The style is known for its smoothness and mixability, and it's indispensable for your favorite St. Patrick's Day cocktails. Ireland may be a small country, but its long history of whiskey craftsmanship means its famous spirits can be found all over the world. And in recent decades, the craft-distilling movement has come to Ireland, too, with plenty of producers putting out innovative creations, limited editions and small-batch releases that incorporate all sorts of flavors.
From high-end splurges to affordable everyday options for mixed drinks, these are the best Irish whiskey bottles to add to your bar.
Redbreast 15 Year Irish Whiskey
Redbreast is a favorite among Irish whiskey connoisseurs and known for producing complex but accessible whiskey that anyone can enjoy. Its 15-year-old is a perfect example of the Irish style. It's fermented from a combination of malted and unmalted barley, and distilled three times in copper pot stills before aging.
This bottling is a mix of whiskey aged in two types of wood: Former bourbon barrels add caramel sweetness, while casks used for sherry contribute fruit notes, with a balanced maltiness underneath from the original grain. The finish is long, and the entire experience is as smooth as you could imagine. It’s bottled at 46 percent alcohol by volume (92 proof) and has a price tag to match its prestige, but the first sip proves that it’s worth the money.
Price at time of publish: from $110
ABV: 46% | Age: 15 years | Volume: 750 ml
The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Made entirely from malted barley, single malt whiskey is most commonly associated with Scotch, but distilleries around the world produce spirits in the same style. This one comes from County Carlow, where the comparatively young Walsh Whiskey Distillery is doing fantastic things with Irish whiskey. The Irishman is its single malt, which is triple-distilled, aged in bourbon and sherry wood, and made in limited batches of just 6,000 bottles at a time.
The Irishman offers delicious fruits, vanilla, and almond flavors wrapped in a perfectly sweet, exceptionally smooth, 80-proof whiskey. The complex profile tastes like it costs a lot more than it does, a nice surprise for the budget-conscious drinker. But the price is low enough that you don't have to feel bad using it in a whiskey cocktail or three, either.
Price at time of publish: from $38
ABV: 40% | Age: No age statement | Volume: 750 ml
Best for Cocktails
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
Opened in the heart of Dublin in 2015, the Teeling facility was the city's first new distillery in more than a century. But owners Jack and Stephen Teeling are steeped in tradition, as members of a family that's been making whiskey since the 1700s, Small Batch is their flagship spirit, a mix of whiskeys made from malted barley and from other grains that are aged up to 6 years in bourbon barrels, then finished for up to a year in rum casks.
The rum finish gives Teeling a unique character not found in the average Irish whiskey, with vanilla and tropical-fruit tones, plus an invigorating and spicy finish. It's bottled at 46 percent ABV (92-proof), making it powerful enough to stand out in cocktails (like the Massey). And it's sold at a low enough price that you don't have to feel bad mixing it.
Price at time of publish: from $30
ABV: 46% | Age: no age statement | Volume: 750 ml
Best for Beginners
Jameson Irish Whiskey
First sold in 1780, Jameson is arguably the best-known name in Irish whiskey. The familiar green bottle can be found in nearly any bar or liquor store in the world, and its gentle, approachable style has become the model for many other Irish brands. Not only is it readily available and reliable, but it’s also extremely affordable. Overall, it’s a great introduction for anyone who’s looking for their first taste Irish whiskey.
Jameson is a blend of malt and grain whiskeys, distilled three times and aged in oak for at least four years. It's traditional all the way down the line, a smooth 80-proof whiskey with an ideal balance of spices, nuts, and vanilla. Mix it into any cocktail or sip it straight—this one will not let you down either way.
Price at time of publish: from $25
ABV: 40% | Age: no age statement | Volume: 750 ml
"Got mint in your garden (even better, chocolate mint)? Make a whiskey smash by muddling three lemon wedges in a shaker. Add Irish whiskey, simple syrup, mint leaves, and ice, and shake until well-chilled. Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig." — Humberto Marques, Owner/Entrepreneur and Lead Mixologist at Curfew Bar in Denmark
Best Single Malt
Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
A rare Irish whiskey brand focused entirely on single malt, Knappogue Castle makes uniquely delicious spirits. Its 12- and 14-year-old expressions are impressive and cost less, but we love the 16-year-old the most. It's pure elegance. While the younger bottlings are aged only in ex-bourbon barrels, this one spends its last two years in oloroso sherry casks, which is immediately apparent on the nose when you open the bottle. Vanilla, malty woods, and a pleasing array of fruits infuse this smooth 80-proof whiskey that’s a fantastic choice with or after dinner.
Price at time of publish: from $95
ABV: 40% | Age: 16 years | Volume: 750 ml
Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey
Named for the town where it's made and the initials of founder Daniel Edmund Williams, Tullamore D.E.W.'s standard bottling is a perfect everyday whiskey, with a hard-to-beat price tag. There's nothing fancy about this one, and that's perfectly fine. Like most Irish whiskey, it's triple-distilled, and this budget-friendly bottle rests in both former bourbon and sherry casks for an extra layer of flavor to intrigue the palate. It’s a simple and smooth 80-proof whiskey that's easy to find, and it makes a very nice cocktail. You can drink it with ginger ale, make an indulgent caramel Irish coffee, or just sip it on the rocks. (If you like the spirit's flavor profile, Tullamore D.E.W. makes several higher-end spirits; some are aged longer, some are single malts, and one is even finished in apple cider barrels.)
Price at time of publish: from $22
ABV: 40% | Age: no age statement | Volume: 750 ml
Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt Whiskey
In general, Irish whiskey is characteristically smooth, though there are some brands that break the stereotype. Like this one. Connemara is one of the only Irish whiskeys made from barley that's been dried using the heat and smoke from burning peat, a layer of partially decomposed plant material often used as fuel in the British Isles.
Peated whiskey is much more common in Scotland, where it contributes the smoky and briny notes of spirits like Laphroaig, while Connemara's whiskey marries those flavors with the bright and fruity notes usually found in Irish whiskey. Connemara is a great choice for anyone who enjoys a peaty Scotch or just wants to try something new from Ireland. Its 12-year-old is less harsh than the brand's younger Original single malt, with a nice balance of spice, fruit, smoke, and flowers.
Price at time of publish: from $70
ABV: 40% | Age: 12 years | Volume: 750 ml
“The best way to drink Irish whiskey is however you like to drink it. I know that some purists would disagree with me, but I honestly believe that if you enjoy whiskey on the rocks, you should drink it on the rocks. If you enjoy adding soda to your whiskey, you should add soda to it. Or, mix it up in a cocktail. Irish whiskey is a beautiful spirit made to be enjoyed, so that’s the only rule for me." — Matt Conner, Brand Ambassador for Teeling Whiskey
Best for Irish Coffee
Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey
The legend behind the iconic Irish coffee cocktail goes that an airport bartender in the town of Shannon whipped it up on a rainy day in the 1940s to warm up (and cheer up) a group of delayed passengers. Named Joe Sheridan, the inventor gave his cocktail's recipe in rhyming form: "Cream as rich as an Irish brogue, coffee as strong as a friendly hand, sugar as sweet as the tongue of a rogue, and whiskey as smooth as the wit of the land”
Kilbeggan Single Grain definitely fits the bill for smoothness. Unlike a single malt, made at a single distillery from from 100 percent malted barley, a single grain whiskey must be made at a single distillery but can use a mix of grains. In this case, it’s corn in addition to barley, which adds a wonderful sweetness that plays remarkably well with the flavors of bourbon-barrel aging. Hints of nutmeg, butter, and vanilla accent the oaky palate. The 86-proof whiskey’s depth of flavor is the perfect backdrop for the cocktail’s strong coffee sweetened with brown sugar and topped with cream.
Price at time of publish: from $30
ABV: 43% | Age: no age statement | Volume: 750 ml
Best New Brand
TIPPERARY Watershed Boutique Selection
Founded in 2014, Tipperary Distillery is bringing a local focus to Irish whiskey, with plans to produce spirits using barley grown entirely on-site. But while stocks of the fully homegrown spirit age, the brand has partnered with other Irish distilleries to produce custom batches of whiskey that are cut to proof using spring water from the property.
The Watershed expression is a nice introduction to this soon-to-be-top-shelf maker. It's aged in former bourbon barrels and bottled at a powerful 47 percent ABV (94-proof). It's impeccably smooth, with warm flavors of vanilla and black pepper along with sweet fruits and a surprisingly long finish. The well-balanced and simply delicious taste perfectly showcases Ireland's tradition of distilling fine whiskey, as well as its next generation of independent distilleries.
Price at time of publish: $57
ABV: 47% | Age: no age statement | Volume: 750 ml
The Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Madiera Cask
Barrel-aging makes a big difference to the final flavor of a whiskey, and The Tyrconnell brand is focused on exploring that. Produced at the Cooley Distillery (also known for making Kilbeggan, Connemara, and Greenore Irish whiskeys), the brand has separate 10-year-old bottlings finished in sherry, port, and madeira casks. All three are worth trying, but our favorite is this version.
Madeira is a Portuguese fortified wine that’s noted for its caramelized fruity flavors, and 6 to 8 months in a Madeira cask translates that juicy sweetness wonderfully into this whiskey. Apples, citrus, and berries are just a few fascinating flavors that make the 92-proofer an enjoyable drink, especially neat or with just a little water added. It’s a solid whiskey that’s smooth and has the perfect spicy finish to keep you pouring another round.
Price at time of publish: from $80
ABV: 45% | Age: 10 years | Volume: 750 ml
For a world-class whiskey that's worth every penny, we recommend the renowned Redbreast 15 Year Irish Whiskey. For a more affordable dram great for mixing or sipping, try Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey.
What is Irish whiskey?
There are some legal and technical regulations around exactly how it can be made, but Irish whiskey, put simply, is whiskey distilled in Ireland. (When it comes to whiskey, Ireland includes both the independent Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.) Many brands are distilled three times in copper pot stills, but other distilleries and styles use other methods and types of still. Some whiskeys are made from only malted barley, while others use a combination of barley and other grains.
Irish whiskey must spend at least three years aging in oak barrels, but distilleries can use casks that formerly held anything from bourbon to sherry to beer. Whiskey usually goes into the barrel at fairly high proof and is then "cut" with water to bring it down to its final strength. Bottle proofs vary, but the minimum allowed by US law is 40 percent ABV, or 80-proof.
What is Irish whiskey made from?
All whiskeys are made from some kind of grain. Malted barley—barley that's been allowed to sprout and then dried—is a very common ingredient, as it contains an enzyme that helps break down starches into fermentable sugars. If a whiskey is called a "single malt," that means it's made from 100 percent malted barley, at one individual distillery, while a "single grain" whiskey is made at a single distillery but can use a mix of barley and other grains, such as corn or wheat.
Irish whiskey can legally be made from any type of grain, and different brands use different grains in different combinations, which is why there's such a wide range of flavors available. Sometimes the grains are fermented and distilled individually and blended afterward, and sometimes they're combined before fermentation.
What does Irish whiskey taste like?
In general, Irish whiskey is known as one of the smoothest whiskeys available. These easy-drinking spirits are characterized as having a lot of flavor but with a lighter profile than American bourbon. Fruit and vanilla notes are very common, and the aging imparts a pleasant oak and caramel background to the whiskey. With that said, there's no single set of flavors you'll find in every Irish whiskey. There are Irish distilleries break with tradition to make single malt whiskeys with a more austere flavor similar to Scotch, including some that use smoky peated malt. Others have created unique styles by aging their spirits in unusual casks, like barrels that previously held various types of beer or wine.
How long is Irish whiskey aged?
Irish law dictates that whiskey must be aged for at least three years to bear the name "Irish whiskey," but that's only the minimum. Longer-aged bottlings are typically between 10 and 20 years old, but there are rare (and very expensive) expressions out there that have aged for 50 years or even longer. If you see an age on the label, that's the minimum amount of time every drop of the whiskey has spent in wood—it could potentially be a blend that also includes older spirits.
Ireland also has its own local version of "moonshine," an unaged whiskey called potcheen (also spelled poitín or poteen). Because it's not aged for three years, it can’t legally have “Irish whiskey” on the label, but it is another type of whiskey made in Ireland.
What should you mix with Irish whiskey?
Its smoothness and well-rounded whiskey flavor make Irish whiskey an excellent candidate for cocktails. It is famously paired with coffee in the Irish coffee and shines in simple soda highballs. Manhattan-style cocktails are another fantastic use for Irish whiskey, and it’s a great choice for nearly any classic cocktail that calls for any type of whiskey. While many people associate whiskey with cold-weather drinking, Irish whiskey can create some refreshing summer-worthy cocktails when used with fresh fruits and herbs.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Colleen Graham is a beverage writer with over a decade of experience writing about cocktails and bartending. The author of two books, she has visited numerous whiskey distilleries and learned a great deal about the industry from the talented individuals who produce it.
Kate Dingwall, who updated this roundup, is a sommelier and spirits writer. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for more than five years and has her BarSmarts and WSET certification. It was further updated by The Spruce Eats commerce writer Jason Horn, who is a former senior editor at Liquor.com and has been writing about cocktails and spirits for more than 15 years.
Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Labelling of Irish Whiskey. 2019.