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6 Extraordinary Irish Whiskeys to Try This St. Patrick’s Day

These brands are pushing the boundaries of what Irish whiskey can be.

<p>Janet Maples / Food and Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food and Wine

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching and that means one thing — Irish whiskey is about to flow. Many shots of the Emerald Isle’s most popular whiskeys will be knocked back as people celebrate all things Irish, but there is much more to Irish whiskey than the familiar names and labels.

“Generally, casual consumers perceive the industry by the traits of Jameson, the dominant player in the Irish category, which states ‘triple-distilled, twice as smooth’,” says Mark McLaughlin, director of Irish spirits for The Dead Rabbit in New York and founder of the Irish whiskey education platform, The Irish Whiskey Genius. McLaughlin explains that this smooth, shootable style of whiskey isn’t an accurate representation of Irish whiskey as a whole.



"“Irish whiskey has the potential to be the most flavorful, diverse category of any in the world, and that’s truly exciting.”
Mark McLaughlin, director of Irish spirits for The Dead Rabbit"



Though a much smaller category than Scotch Whisky and American bourbon and rye, Irish whiskey has a major advantage — Irish distillers have much more freedom than distillers in other regions.

“This [freedom from many distilling restrictions] gives a world of possibility for diverse flavor profiles influenced by grains such as barley, oats, wheat, rye, or corn. [The distillate is] also impacted by a variety of wood styles, commonly American and European oaks, but also with woods, such as chestnut, cherry, acacia, and mulberry,” says McLaughlin. “Irish whiskey has the potential to be the most flavorful, diverse category of any in the world, and that’s truly exciting.”

Instead of bringing the same old standby to your St. Patrick’s Day party, take the opportunity to explore the frontiers of Irish whiskey. With McLaughlin’s help, we assembled this list of exciting, delicious whiskeys pushing the boundaries of what Irish whiskey can be.

Teeling Single Malt

<p>Janet Maples / Food & Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food & Wine

Dublin-based distillery Teeling is a bit of a newcomer to the world of Irish Whiskey. Still, they have made a big impact with the trio of whiskeys that make up their core range, especially their single malt, along with their highly aged, limited edition expressions like the Teeling 33-year-old.

“The Teeling Single Malt is matured in five different cask types: ex-bourbon, virgin oak, white port, ruby port, and Madeira. It’s bottled at 46% and non-chill filtered,” says McLaughlin. “It’s got a wide array of fruit flavors from the multiple cask maturation, [with notes of] chocolate, ginger, and caramelized apples.”

Waterford Irish Single Malt Whisky Peated Cuvée Fumo

<p>Janet Maples / Food & Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food & Wine

As evidenced by the way they choose to spell the word whisky, Waterford Whisky is following its unique path in the industry. “Waterford is a progressive distillery that focuses on the terroir of whisky, working with farmers across Ireland to distill their grain in single runs,” McLaughlin explains. The distillery recently released the Cuvée Fumo, a peated single malt whiskey distilled from barley sourced from multiple farms.

“When compared with other peated whiskies from Ireland & Scotland, the main difference is the textural elements of the spirit,” McLaughlin says. “The barley’s floral, biscuity notes shine through the distillate with a balanced pungent smoke that makes for an incredibly impressive peated single malt.”

Powers Irish Rye

<p>Janet Maples / Food & Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food & Wine

Powers Irish Rye is the first whiskey produced in Ireland using 100% Irish-grown rye. “It’s balanced with loads of flavor, signature rye whiskey spice notes but soft and delicate at the same time," McLaughlin says. “It’s an impressive, approachable dram.”

“Irish Rye as a category is in its infancy,” McLaughlin says. “We are seeing distilleries produce rye distillates now that will reach the shelves in the coming decade, with also a large amount of pot still style distillates being produced with the inclusion of rye as a grain, so the category will certainly be more developed in years to come.”

Lost Irish

<p>Janet Maples / Food & Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food & Wine

When it comes to barrel maturation, it doesn’t get much more ambitious than Lost Irish. They age their whiskey in a variety of casks from all 6 continents; South African brandy casks, Japanese Mizunara casks, European Sherry casks, bourbon barrels from the United States, Australian Tawny Port casks, and rum casks from Colombia.

“Lost Irish balances the drinkability you want from a blended whiskey combined with the versatility you get from the complex flavor profile that the multiple cask maturation creates,” McLaughlin explains. “It’s a great recommendation for anyone who likes fruit-forward whiskeys with well-balanced spice, perfect as a Boilermaker, or in a cocktail.”

Bushmills 25 Year Old

<p>Janet Maples / Food & Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food & Wine

Bushmills may be one of the oldest and best-known whiskey distilleries in the world, but that hasn’t stopped them from innovating within the category. Bushmills 25 is part of the distillery’s range of ultra-aged single malts. This particular expression is aged for its first four years in ex-bourbon barrels and oloroso sherry butts for around four to six years. The whiskey from each barrel type is then married and aged in European oak port pipes for another 21 years.

“The combination of the fruitful bourbon & sherry components lend to an incredible development of flavor of the 21 years in port,” McLaughlin says. “It’s [an] incredibly well-balanced, textural single malt, bringing Bushmills distillate to a new level. The balance of oak spices to fruit is incredible — a firm new favorite for me.”

Dunville’s 10-Year-Old PX Finish

<p>Janet Maples / Food & Wine</p>

Janet Maples / Food & Wine

“[This is] arguably the most consistently excellent 10-year-old single malt release on the market in the Irish whiskey category,” says McLaughlin. “It is widely considered one of the best value-for-money whiskeys to be found in Ireland.”

This whiskey is first aged in ex-bourbon barrels and then finished for between six to 18 months in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, imbuing the whiskey with notes of rich stewed fruits, orchard fruits, sweet sherry, and marzipan.

“It’s just a banging whiskey that sets a standard that only seems to get better with Dunvilles,” says McLaughlin.

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