Choosing Irish Whiskey
So, you’ve tried Scotch and found it too rough, or you’ve been watching Peaky Blinders and are curious as to why they are drinking so much Irish Whiskey, or maybe you’re a whisky veteran and just want to explore something new. If you look at national sales trends, Irish whiskey has been gaining momentum for years. And that has led to more people than ever before deciding to try out Irish whiskey for themselves. A natural question, though, is “Where to begin?”
For most people, the easiest way to answer that question is simply opting for one of the biggest, best-known names in the market and taking it from there.
And, indeed, Jameson Irish whiskey is by far the most common way that people get started with Irish whiskey. Jameson is BY FAR the best selling Irish whiskey worldwide, and out-sells all other Irish Whiskeys put together. But there are plenty of other options out there, including most that not be immediately recognizable to the typical consumer. With that in mind, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know before you get started.
Choose an Irish whiskey with a smooth finish
If you’re a whiskey beginner, it’s best to opt for a whiskey with a silky or smooth finish. That should be your first consideration. That’s one major reason why Irish whiskey is so popular – there’s less alcohol burn when drinking than with other types of whiskey. As a result, it’s viewed as being more approachable. In fact, many first-time Irish whiskey drinkers say that the liquid can feel “quite delicate” in the mouth, and not nearly as harsh as they expected. So if you’re reading reviews about Irish whiskey, look for descriptive terms like “smooth” or “silky.” If smoothness is what you are looking for, then our top recommendation would be Writers Tears Copper Pot.
Writers Tears Copper Pot is a lovely blend of 60% Single Pot Still and 40% Single Malt. Light and sweet, it goes down very easily, perhaps too easily! It’s a great introduction to premium Irish whiskeys.
Don’t feel like you have to buy the most expensive Irish whiskey
Yes, there is a direct correlation between price and quality, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice much in quality if you opt for an Irish whiskey priced at less than $100 per bottle. Two of the best options at this price point include Bushmills Black Bush and The Irishman Founders Reserve.
Bushmills Black Bush is a huge step up in quality from the regular Bushmills Original. A blend of 80% single malt and 20% grain whiskey which has been aged for 4-5 years in Caribbean rum casks, this really is one of Ireland’s best kept secrets.
The Irishman Founders Reserve is a unique blend, containing none of the cheaper grain whiskeys normally associated with blended whiskey, but is instead a blend of Single Malt and Single Pot Still whiskeys. The result is an incredible smooth and flavoursome whiskey which we are sure you’ll love!
Experiment with pot still whiskey
If you have decided to experiment with Irish whiskey, one term that you will begin to see almost immediately is “pot still whiskey.” This is a very specific term and refers to the way the whiskey is produced. It requires a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley, which is then distilled in a copper pot.
One great introduction to the pot still whiskey is Green Spot, which is aged for at least 8 years. Green Spot is a mix of one-quarter sherry oak-aged whiskey and three-quarters bourbon barrel-aged whiskey. It’s routinely described as one of the best possible intros to a single pot still whiskey for beginners. Most long-time whiskey drinkers say that pot still whiskey should be the second type of whiskey that you try, right behind a mass-market whiskey like Jameson or Bushmills. In fact, some say that pot still whiskey is the way that they fell in love with Irish whiskey in the first place. You get a bigger body and a better mouthfeel, and you can really feel the extra time and effort that went into making it.
Try one single malt whiskey
If there’s one single malt Irish whiskey that you absolutely have to try, it’s Bushmills. This company is now Ireland’s second-largest distiller, and you have plenty of options across a variety of price points. For the beginner, though, a good starter Irish whiskey is Bushmills Single Malt 10-Year-Old. This whiskey is moderately priced and comes with a very rich flavor. Bushmills describes this Single Malt as having flavors and aromas of honey, vanilla, and milk chocolate. There’s no alcohol burn, either, just flavor. Plus, this Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, so you know you are getting real quality. Best of all, Bushmills is moderately priced.
Look for award-winning whiskeys
In 2010, the Whisky Bible named Redbreast “Top Irish Whiskey of the Year.” Even though Redbreast might not have the same name-brand recognition as Jameson or Bushmills, it routinely wins awards for being the best overall Irish whiskey and is Ireland’s most awarded whiskey having won numerous awards all over the world. Redbreast 21 was even awarded the World’s second best whisky in the Whisky bible in 2018. The best option for Irish whiskey newbies is Redbreast 12-Year-Old. This is one of the most approachable whiskeys that the distillery offers and the easiest on the wallet.
Try a small batch craft whiskey
Finally, with the outgrowth of the craft distilling movement, it’s only natural that we are beginning to see the arrival of excellent craft distillers in Ireland. One favorite is Teeling Small Batch, which many consider having exceptional quality – even more so than you’d find with a mass-market whiskey like Clontarf. A blend of grain and malt finished in Central American rum casks which gives it a sweet and approachable taste, which works well both sipping on its own or in cocktails.
Getting started for less than $100
As can be seen above, you have plenty of options for how to get started with Irish whiskey. What makes things interesting, of course, is that “getting started with Irish whiskey” is usually synonymous with “getting started with whiskey.” You’d be surprised at how many people first try Irish whiskey before then experimenting with Scotch or Bourbon. So it’s important to get things right from the very beginning, otherwise, you might be turned off whiskey in favor of lighter spirits. That’s why Irish whiskey is so unique – when it comes to flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel – it’s usually smooth, silky with plenty of batter-coated mouthfeels.