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It's hard to find a bottle of Irish whiskey that's truly disappointing. Most are genuinely good, pleasantly smooth to sip, and fun to mix into your favorite Irish whiskey cocktails. Since there are only a few distilleries in Ireland, the offerings are not as numerous as you’ll find with other whiskey styles. That takes nothing away from the craftsmanship or allure of these smooth blended whiskeys. There are a number of notable Irish whiskeys you'll definitely want to seek out, including single malts, small-batch whiskeys, and whiskeys aged in special barrels. From a high-end splurge or two to affordable everyday whiskeys for mixed drinks, these are the bottles worth adding to your bar.
Redbreast is a favorite among Irish whiskey connoisseurs and known for producing whiskey that anyone can enjoy. The 15 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is a perfect example of this style of whiskey. Produced from a combination of malted and unmalted barley, it is distilled three times in copper pot stills then aged for a minimum of 15 years.
Often described as “beautiful,” this Irish whiskey offers an array of flavors, from malt to caramel, with a little fruitiness thrown in for good measure. The finish is long, and the entire experience is as smooth you could imagine. It’s bottled at 46 percent ABV (92 proof) and does have a price tag to match its prestige, but the first sip proves that it’s worth the money.
In Ireland's County Carlow, the Walsh Whiskey Distillery is doing fantastic things with Irish whiskey. The Irishman is one of two labels produced there and the Single Malt is not only top-rated and award-winning, but is also a mid-range bottle that’s relatively affordable.
The distillery limits batches of this triple-distilled single malt to just 6,000 bottles. After aging in oak bourbon barrels, it's finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The taste offers delicious fruits, vanilla, and almond flavors wrapped in a perfectly sweet, exceptionally smooth, 80-proof whiskey. The finished profile would indicate you paid a lot more for it. It's a nice surprise for the budget-conscious drinker who enjoys sitting down with an uncomplicated sipping whiskey and likes to shake up the occasional cocktail.
In a catchy verse that explained how to make the iconic cocktail, the bartender who created the Irish coffee called for “Whiskey—Smooth as the Wit of the Land.” Kilbeggan Single Grain definitely fits the bill. You’d almost swear it was made for mixed drinks, and it comes at a guilt-free price.
“Single grain” means that the whiskey was produced in one location using malted barley and at least one other grain. In this case, it’s corn, which adds a wonderful sweetness that plays remarkably well off 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.
The hard times of war, U.S. Prohibition, and the Great Depression rocked Ireland’s whiskey industry, leaving just two distilleries operating for most of the 1900s. Around the turn of the 21st century, that number began to increase, and Tipperary is one of the few "boutique" distilleries in the country. Started in 2016, it keeps everything small and local, including the barley and water, both of which are sourced from the family-owned Ballindoney farm.
The Watershed expression is a nice introduction to this top-shelf brand. It's aged in former bourbon barrels and bottled at a comfortable 47 percent ABV (94 proof). Impeccably smooth, you'll enjoy the 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 the country’s tradition of distilling fine whiskey.
As a style, Irish whiskey is characteristically smooth, though there are some brands that break the stereotype. A brilliant, bright, and spicy whiskey, Connemara is a great choice for anyone who enjoys a peaty scotch. Malted barley dried over peat is the heart of this premium bottle produced at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth, Ireland.
Connemara 12 Year Old is the best of the portfolio. Where the original is a little harsh, and the cask strength a bit too bold, this whiskey is simultaneously smooth and bold. The well-balanced whiskey has a ton of character and a full force of peaty spice to tantalize the tongue. The long finish ensures that it’s a memorable experience. For what this 40 percent ABV (80 proof) drink has to offer, the high-end price is not unreasonable.
Jameson is arguably the best-known name in Irish whiskey. The familiar green bottle can be found in nearly any bar and liquor store in the world. 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 of this whiskey style.
Distilled three times and aged in oak for at least four years, the finished whiskey is a blend of pot still and grain whiskeys. There are no fancy gimmicks, just old-fashioned Irish distilling techniques that lead to 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.
Every bar needs at least one Irish whiskey that's always in stock so you can mix up a drink or pour a shot whenever you want. Tullamore D.E.W. Original is the perfect everyday whiskey with a hard-to-beat price tag.
There's nothing fancy about this one and that's perfectly fine. Almost all Irish whiskey is triple distilled, though this budget-friendly bottle rests in both former bourbon and sherry casks, so there’s an extra layer of flavor to intrigue the palate. It’s simply a smooth 80-proof whiskey that's reliable and easy to find, and it makes a very nice drink. Pour it into a whiskey and ginger or an indulgent caramel Irish coffee, or just sip it on the rocks.
Knappogue Castle is an Irish whiskey to keep on your radar. A specialist in single malts, this is one of the few brands that focus solely on age statements. Each bottle clearly declares the minimum amount of time the whiskeys in that blend spent in the barrel, so whiskey drinkers are not left guessing. While the younger 12- and 14-year expressions are impressive and cost less, Knappogue Castle’s 16 Year Old Single Malt is pure elegance.
One of the “Twin Wood” labels, this whiskey spends 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels. It then finishes the aging process 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.
Straight out of Dublin, Teeling Small Batch shows off the family's two centuries of experience crafting fine whiskeys. It's made from grain and malt whiskeys aged in hand-selected bourbon barrels, then finished in former rum casks for an additional six months. This finishing gives Teeling a unique character not found in the average Irish whiskey and offers drinkers a novel experience.
Bottled at 46 percent ABV (92 proof) without chill filtering, this small-batch whiskey offers a full-bodied taste with underlying tropical fruit tones and an invigorating spicy and woody finish. The fact that it’s also priced in the mid-range of whiskeys is simply a bonus. Feel free to mix it in the Massey and similar high-end whiskey cocktails.
It's fun to taste spirits aged in a variety of barrels. The previously used wood soaks up flavors from its former inhabitant and imparts those qualities to the new liquor. That's what happened in The Tyrconnell 10-Year Old Madeira Cask, which is produced at the Cooley Distillery (best known for Kilbeggan and the makers of Greenore).
This 92-proof single malt whiskey is finished in Portuguese Madeira casks for six to eight months. Madeira is a fortified wine that’s noted for its caramelized fruity flavors, and that juicy sweetness translates wonderfully into the whiskey. Apples, citrus, and berries are just a few fascinating flavors that make it an enjoyable drink. It’s a solid whiskey that’s smooth and has the perfect spicy finish to keep you pouring another round.
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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.