Whenever I hear “Irish Whiskey”, all I can think of is spirit that’s peculiar to the Irish; Whiskey made in Ireland. But there’s a lot more to this age old drink, and so we’ve seen.
The word Whiskey, has been translated from branches of Irish and Scottish languages to mean “water of life”, and I’m pretty sure it holds this much significance in the lives of many.
Irish Whiskey first of all, is whiskey produced in the land of Ireland, and the law insists that all whiskeys produced in Ireland be aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels (so it can be over three years, but it cannot be less). Used to be the most popular spirit in the world, the Irish Whiskey definitely stands apart from the others. For instance, where Scotch Whisky is distilled twice, Irish Whiskey is distilled three times (at least most Irish Whiskey), and it has a smoother finish which is a result of Peat rarely being used in the malting process.
There are several styles of Irish Whiskey. There is the Blended Whiskey (which constitutes 90% of all Irish Whiskey), the Grain Whiskey (produced in column stills and made from corn or wheat, this style is particularly light), the Single Malt Irish Whiskey (distilled in a pot still from 100% malted barley), and the Pure Pot Still Whiskey (a style unique to Ireland, is distilled in a pot still and constitutes a blend of malted and unmalted barley) . Also, every year since the year 1990, the Irish Whiskey has been the fastest growing spirit in the world at a growth rate of about twenty percent per annum. Something to ponder on right? I know.
A number of people cannot differentiate Irish Whiskey from Scotch Whisky; well, except for whiskey enthusiasts I guess. But there are notable differences.
- Irish Whiskey is smoother and not as smokey as Scotch Whisky.
- Scotch Whisky uses 100% malted barley mash bill in its pot stills during production, while Irish Whiskey is made in part with its pot still containing both malted and unmalted barley.
There’s a number of brands of famous Irish Whiskeys, all of which are worth naming. This whisky trail dates back a good number of years.
- Jameson – With sales of over 20 million bottles annually, the Jameson is the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey. It is available all around the world.
- Bushmills – Situated in County Antrim, Northern Ireland at Ireland’s oldest working distillery, Bushmills is the only distillery in Ireland to make triple distilled single malt whiskey. The brand portfolio includes Black Bush, Bushmills Original, Bushmills 10 Year Single Malt, Bushmills 16 Year Single Malt, Bushmills 21 Year Single Malt, and the Distillery Reserve, a 12 Year Single Malt. Founded in 1784, Bushmills used to be made under a different name in 1608.
- Connemara – An award winner at producing peated whiskeys, the Connemara is available in Europe, Ireland and the U.S.A., but harder to find in Asia and Australia.
- Greenore – The only single grain whiskey produced in all of Ireland, the Greenore is available in Europe, Ireland and the U.S.A., but not as readily available in Asia or Australia.
- Green Spot – Distilled from malted and unmalted barley, this Single Pot Still whiskey is the last remaining of the whiskey bonder brands and is available essentially in Germany, France and Ireland.
- The Irishman – Aged in Oak Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks up to ten years before bottling, the Irishman Whiskey (a classic Irish Malt), is one of a handful of Irish triple distilled single malts. With its exceptional flavor and complexity, each batch is limited to a maximum of six thousand bottles.
- Kilbeggan – Matured only in ex-bourbon casks, the Kilbeggan, is a blended Irish whiskey produced at the Cooley Distillery. It is available in Europe, Ireland and the U.S.A., but harder to find in Asia and Australia.
- Knappogue Castle – Knappogue Castle is a range of vintage irish Whiskeys named after the castle in County Clare. The Knappogue Castle 1951 is a traditional pot still whiskey made from malted and unmalted barley. Aged in sherry casks for thirty six years, the Knappogue Castle 1951 was triple distilled at the B. Daly Distillery in Tullamore. Lightly chill filtered, and with no artificial coloring, this is the oldest and rarest Irish Whiskey in the world.
- Michael Collins – With single malt whiskeys and blended whiskeys, the Michael Collins is a mixture of double distilled malt whiskeys and grain whiskeys. Distilled at the Cooley Distillery, it has an age range of four to twelve years.
- Powers – This extremely popular brand is a combination of grain and triple distilled pot still whiskeys, and was Ireland’s best selling whiskey for a long period of time. Distributed mostly in continental Europe, still it’s difficult to find. Small quantities available in the U.S.A.
- Redbreast – From the Midleton Distillery, the Redbreast is a Single Pot Still whiskey made from malted and unmalted barley in the traditional pot still method, and is available as a 12 YO, 15 YO, and also 12YO. It is distributed mainly in France, UK and Germany.
- Tullamore Dew – With malt whiskeys from Bushmills and grain and pot still whiskeys from Midleton, this triple distilled brand is the world’s second best selling Irish Whiskey. It is available around the world.
- Tyrconnell – One of a number of Irish Single Malts, the Tyrconnell is named after a race horse which became famous for winning the largest race in Ireland at odds of 100 to 1. From the Cooley Distillery, this unpeated Single Malt Whiskey is available in Europe, Ireland and the U.S.A., but harder to find in Asia and Australia.
- Locke’s – Also from the Cooley Distillery, Locke’s is available as an eight year old peated Single Malt, or as a high malt content blend. Locke’s is not exported extensively outside of Ireland, and so there is limited availability around the world.
Below is a list of our top 10 best Irish Whiskeys. Surely, a peek at perfection wouldn’t hurt.
- Jameson 18 – Has been described as the best blended whiskey in the world. The Jameson 18 is an almost tropical, bright, and aromatic whiskey. Smooth and juicy with lovely aromas, this drink is aged in oak casks for up to eighteen years. This rare and limited stock has every bottle numbered. A truly memorable experience of refined pleasures.
- Kilbeggan – Brawny and excellent for mixing, the Kilbeggan is blended and produced at the cooley distillery in Ireland. It is named after a distillery of the same name, this drink is made in the traditional Irish way to produce a drink that is sweet with a lovely malt finish. A fine grain and malt whiskey with a distinctive style.
- Redbreast 12 – Great for cocktails, this rich drink possesses flavors of plum and spice. Dark and leathery, it has an excellent feel in the mouth. Beautifully balanced, with a rich and warm texture, the Redbreast has earned its place as one of the best Irish Whiskeys available.
- Bushmills 21 year old (single malt) – with hints of butterscotch and dried fruit, this intriguing and delicate whiskey is aged for twenty one years in sherry casks and bourbon barrels which make for an interesting taste. The Bushmills 21 is an old, but rich and smooth Irish Whiskey with flavors of hazelnuts, oak, and honeyed cloves to the palate.
- Tullamore Dew Phoenix – Giving off hints of split logs and tar, this smooth Irish Whiskey is bottled at 110 proof. Finished in oloroso sherry casks, this warm and spicey drink is named after the phoenix which is part of the town’s coat of arms.
- Tyrconnel Single Malt – Great for a regular drink, this is one great tasting whiskey that’s pocket friendly as well. With a perfectly balanced taste profile and distinct character which includes hints of a malty and fruity bouquet, the Tyrconnel is one of the most celebrated of Irish Whiskeys. Great value at a great price. Who can beat that?
- Knappogue Castle 12 – Sweet and smooth, it is easy to get addicted to the Knappogue Castle 12. Aged in old bourbon casks for twelve years, this bright gold spirit is light with hints of milk chocolate, toasted malt, honey, and maple covered Wheaties. Sweet on the nose, the Knappogue Castle 12 is an exceptional whiskey.
- Powers Gold Label – Used to be the most populare whiskey in Ireland, the dark and grainy Power’s Gold Label includes hints of tea, and is bottled at 87 proof. Aged in Bourbon casks for five or six years, this spicy drink has character and an outstanding personality.
- Connemara 12 – Sweet and sensuous on the palate, the double distilled Connemara 12 is made from peated malted barley. With flavors of honey, sugarcane and lemon, this drink is delicate on the nose with a zest of lemon over smoky peat on the bottom.
- Locke’s 8 Year Old – With a clear and intense malt, this Irish classic is tasty peated single malt.
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