St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, which means it’s time to break out the Irish whiskey. When you think of Irish whiskey, chances are Jameson springs to mind. And while Jameson is a solid, tried-and-true pick, it only scratches the surface of Irish whiskey as a whole. In today’s market, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Irish whiskies to choose from. Some are well suited to cocktails, while others are best enjoyed on their own.
The last few years have seen a resurgence in the relevance of Irish Whiskey.
In fact, according to the Irish Whiskey Association's 2022 Irish Whiskey Global Report, 14 million cases of Irish whiskey were sold globally in 2021 — an increase of 21 percent from 2020. Additionally, The U.S. owns 40 percent of volume share, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis and the consumption of Irish whiskey in the U.S. increased in volume by 15 percent in 2021. To get more insights on Irish Whiskey, download SevenFifty Daily's State of Irish Whiskey Infographic here.
To celebrate the holiday and the growth of the Irish Whiskey category, here are the underrated whiskies to stock up on this St. Patrick's Day.
In 2015, founder Louise McGuane held the reigns to the future of her father’s farm, determined to contribute to the global resurgence of Irish whiskey. With that, McGuane built a rackhouse and blending room on the land, becoming Ireland’s first modern Whiskey Bonder, now home to over 30 cattle and hundreds of sleeping Irish whiskey casks. Looking to take an innovative approach to the art of whiskey bonding, McGuane looked to the methodologies of bonders from the 1800s. Serendipitously, legendary bonder, J.J. Corry’s residence and shop were just a short distance from the family farm.
An innovator in the rackhouse and adopter of new technologies, Corry went as far as inventing his own bicycle, which he named “The Gael.” The Gael rightfully adorns the label of McGuane’s flagship whiskey — an homage to his legacy and the seemingly lost art of Irish whiskey bonding. Blending the rarest single malt and grain casks from their collection, aged from four to 30 years, the heart consists of a vatting of Irish single malts, distilled from 2002 to 2006 and matured in ex-Bourbon barrels, with a top dressing of 1991 single malt from an ex-Sherry butt, for added complexity and depth. Orchard fruits on the nose blend with bursts of ripe white peach flavors and apricots before giving way to candied peel and bittersweet Seville orange marmalade. The whiskey finishes with a touch of dry spice and pink peppercorn minerality.
The mythical dame of the notorious Dead Rabbits gang that roamed Manhattan’s Five Points area in the 1840s, Hell-Cat Maggie was a feared streetfighter, who wore razor-sharp brass talons on her fingers and filed her teeth to points. Less frightful is Hell-Cat Maggie Irish Whiskey, named accordingly as a remembrance of a legendary time and figure in Irish-American history. According to Phillips Distilling Co., “Hell-Cat Maggie is for those who defy convention and do things their own, rebellious way.”
Made from a blend of grain Irish whiskey and malted barley Irish whiskey, it’s distilled in Ireland using the traditional single copper pot still method, producing exceptionally smooth Irish whiskey. Top notes of light orchard fruit and honey, it’s all Irish on the palette. Butter biscuits, light jam, and a touch of roughness make it a great Irish whiskey to include in cocktails or as a boilermaker.
In the last few years, a new movement in whiskey has risen. Grain-to-glass, a distillery’s version of farm-to-table, is the process of growing, distilling, maturing, and bottling all directly on-site. Triple distilled in Irish Copper Pot Stills from Tipperary’s own homegrown barley, grown on their land, this single malt is matured in a traditional farm shed beside their farmhouse. The distillery uses water from their Ballindoney farm and is bottled at 100-proof (50% ABV). This is the first batch of homegrown barley whiskey to be bottled, sealed and labeled onsite at Tipperary Distillery.
The result, rich in heritage, is an amalgamation of time and dedication to working the land and the art of distilling and aging spirits. The nose gives an abundance of soft fruits with strawberry and raspberry notes and hints of dried grass. The palette compliments deep and round raspberry notes and hints of toasted marshmallows. The finish is medium-long and surprisingly robust for its age — a sophisticated expression of the unique terroir of Ballindoney farm.
For centuries, peat (or turf as it is locally known) was widely used in Ireland to dry cereal crops and to fire whiskey stills across the island. Lost over the last century to modernity, this tradition was revived with the intention of producing world-renown Connemara Single Malt Whiskey. With roots dating back to 1757, Kilbeggan Distillery, which produces this lauded spirit, is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in Ireland. Bottled from a single cask and aged for at least twelve years, Connemara 12-Year Peated Irish Single Malt Whiskey produces an expressive aroma with a vibrant malt and peaty smokiness. Connemara’s whiskies are often described as “Islay meets Ireland” as they retain the smooth and sweet taste of Irish whiskey with the peaty smoke associated with Islay.
Distilled in the heart of Dublin, The Dubliner Irish Whiskey is one of our go-to picks this Saint Patrick’s Day. The Dubliner distillery dates back to the 1700s and was originally designed as a mill. Today, Dubliner uses the building to craft its whiskey from 100% malted barley and it sources all of its malt from nearby Irish farmers. Although Irish whiskey requires a minimum of three years of aging, The Dubliner leaves their whiskey to age for much longer.
By using a variety of casks and techniques, Dubliner is able to create several different types of Irish whiskey, including Bourbon Cask, Whiskey & Honeycomb, Smoked Stout and Old Fashioned. Each of these varieties provides a smooth, drinkable whiskey. The Whiskey and Honeycomb option is a lower ABV liqueur at just 30%. It is perfectly at home sipped neat or mixed into a cocktail. The Bourbon Cask variety provides a more robust finish that is well-suited for the most discerning whiskey enthusiasts.
Bushmills is an icon within the world of whiskey. Founded in 1608, Bushmills is the world’s oldest, licensed whiskey distiller. The distillery can be found on the north coast of Ireland where Bushmills uses traditional distilling techniques to create premium whiskey. Bushmills has a rich history within Ireland and within the whiskey industry. As the company says: “We’re not the best because we’re the oldest, we’re the oldest because we’re the best.” Whether they're the best or not is up to the drinker to decide!
Bushmills offers a total of eight different whiskeys ranging from rare-cask varietals to their original signature whiskey. All of these can be enjoyed neat or on-the-rocks. Their aged expressions offer particularly compelling flavors that whiskey aficionados will enjoy. If you want to add an extra premium option to your menu, consider Bushmills limited release “Rare Casks” series. But for an all-around, multi-purpose whiskey, we highly recommend Bushmills Black Bush. This variety combines malt whiskey with light-grain whiskey and is matured in both Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks.
Teeling Whiskey focuses on combining traditional distilling techniques with modern, forward-thinking methods. Founded in 2012, Teeling Whiskey is one of the relative newcomers on our list. Despite this, they continue to produce premium quality whiskeys in Dublin Ireland. They pride themselves on creating an unrivaled complexity of flavor through their unique aging process. Teeling Whiskey varies the time, style, and number of barrels used during this process to create dynamic and exciting expressions.
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey challenges the convention of what an Irish Whiskey can be, with layers of unique flavor influenced by unconventional cask maturation techniques. Hand-selected casks of grain and malt whiskey are initially fully aged in Ex-Bourbon barrels, then married together in Central American Rum casks for up to 12 months for a unique, dried fruit profile.
The Powers family started distilling over 200 years ago, in 1791. Since then, they have been triple distilling Single Pot Still Irish whiskey with a clear focus on bold flavor. This style of whiskey is made from both malted and unmalted barley. Powers Whiskey also discards more of the top and tail during their distillation process. With this technique, they’re able to provide a bold, signature style of whiskey. Powers is aged in American oak barrels and blended with grain whiskey, which has been significantly matured to create the signature flavor.
Powers currently offers three varieties of whiskey. Our go-to is their signature Gold-Label Blend. With a reasonable price point around $30, Powers provides plenty of bang for your buck. In fact, it’s created in the same distillery as Jameson. Powers is one of the most versatile whiskeys that you can buy. It has enough flavor to enjoy on its own, but it is also well suited to cocktails. If you’re looking for an alternative to Jameson, Powers Gold is probably our number one pick.
West Cork Distillery was founded in 2003, making it another newcomer on our list. Created by three childhood friends, WCD is located in Skibbereen, Ireland. Cork County has a long tradition of crafting artisanal food and beverages, and WCD is no exception. Combine this with their mission to make Irish whiskey more accessible to a global audience, and you’ve got one of our favorite distilleries out there today.
WCD produces spirits for several brands, but our pick is the West Cork Bourbon Cask Irish Whiskey. Triple distilled and produced with Irish grain, and aged in bourbon casks. On the nose, you’ll find citrus (grapefruit), vanilla and brioche aromas. This whiskey comes packed with flavors of malt, sweetness, vanilla, and citrus. If that doesn’t ‘scratch your itch’, so to speak, WCD has numerous other options. The distillery has mastered the art of aging, and produces expressions aged in a huge variety of casks, including sherry, rum, port, calvados, stout and more. If you’re looking to upgrade from Jameson, there’s a WCD option for everyone.
We round out our list with this super premium Irish whiskey named for the Dead Rabbit Irish Gang and the award-winning Irish pub of the same name in NYC. Brought to life by industry-famous duo Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, alongside world-renowned Master Distiller Darryl McNally, this five-year-old blend brings unique characteristics to the table.
Aged first in bourbon barrels and then finished in American oak barrels, the whiskey is distilled and matured in Ireland and combines Irish single malt and grain whiskeys. This combination brings forth a unique bourbon vanilla taste, resulting in an Irish whiskey that stands on its own.
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