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An Irish Whiskey Primer

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Whether it’s the taste, versatility or just thanks to an amazing marketing department, Jameson has become the No. 1-selling Irish whiskey in the United States and the world. It’s a popular choice among bartenders and shot seekers, but that certainly doesn’t make it the only choice.
We met up with Pernod Ricard USA off-premise district manager Timothy Webber, who tells us there’s a different Irish whiskey for every day of the week and then some, each with its own distinct flavor profile and effect. Of course, everyone’s palate is different, so where one person might pick up hints of pepper, another senses a subtle sweetness.
For all intents and purposes, this is just a general guide to Irish whiskey. Still, it’s good to have a jumping-off point before you dive in head first this St. Patrick’s Day.
Jameson: It’s a tried-and-true classic any time of the year. It’s quite light, which makes it ideal for mixing and — the bartender’s favorite — shots. Webber goes out on a limb and suggests substituting the vodka in a Bloody Mary with Jamo (keep that in mind tomorrow morning when you’re needing a bit of the hair of the dog).
Jameson Gold: Until 2008, this specific spirit was only available for purchase in duty-free zones like international airports. What’s unique about this one is that it’s the only one to use a combination of aged bourbon barrels, sherry casks and virgin American oak barrels, so you get a sweet finish with hints of vanilla. If you like original Jameson but haven’t tried this one, today is your day.
Jameson 12 Year: The youngest drop in this bottle is 12 years old, though other drops in the batch could be as old as 15 years. The aging brings out full-bodied, fruity influences of the sherry cask, compared to your base Jamo. You’ll notice it. It’s outstanding on the rocks or neat.
Powers: Known as the “father of Irish whiskeys,” Powers was the first of its kind to be commercially bottled. Take heed of the hidden message on the bottle: the neck label features three small birds and the words “three swallow.” You do the math. It’s dry, and mixes wonderfully into coffee.
The Knot: This is another big shooter spirit. The caramel-colored, 100-proof whiskey-flavored liquor is infused with butterscotch, giving it a subtle sweetness that makes it go down with dangerous ease.
Middleton Very Rare: Referred to as “a masterpiece of the distiller’s art,” Middleton is aged exclusively in bourbon casks, giving it a rich, deep, complex flavor. And it should — it’s over 25 years old.
Redbreast 12 Year: It’s the only 100 percent pure pot still Irish whiskey available in the United States. If you’re a single-malt scotch drinker, this is the Irish whiskey for you. Sherry cask influence. It’s got a wonderfully spicy finish.
Bushmills: This is another good candidate for making an Irish coffee drink this morning. It’s rather light and spicy with distinct hints of vanilla and honey.
Bushmills Black Bush: Thought initially light on the palate, this whiskey mixes hints of nuts and spices, giving you a warm, comforting, home-cooked meal sensation (is that mom’s pie I taste in there?) That comes from the eight-plus years it spent aging in a sherry cask.
Tullamore Dew: This 180-year blended brand is the No. 2-selling Irish whiskey in the world after Jameson. A popular way to drink Tullamore Dew is with just a touch of water. The water doesn’t dilute the spirit, but rather pushes the heavier alcohol to the top of the glass, bringing out the aroma and flavor.
Do you have a favorite Irish whiskey?
[This article originally appeared in and is republished with their permission]

Sharpologist Staff

Sharpologist Staff

5 thoughts on “An Irish Whiskey Primer”

  1. You left out two heavyweights: Connemara Peated Whiskey and Killbegan. Both excellent choices for those who want something more than another boring bottle of Jameson.

  2. Great little article. Redbreast 12 year is one of my favs. Another, not mentioned, is Michael Collins 10 year (not the other Micheal Collins). It is a single malt, double distilled, lightly peated, and aged in bourbon barrels (which gives it an awesome flavor profile). Anyway, I only drink it neat… I know I sound like an advertisement but I’ve tried a lot of Irish whiskeys and I LOVE this one. BTW, I love this website too!

  3. I’m not very familiar with Irish whiskey, I’m more into single malt scotch, but Redbreast 12 Year sounds interesting. I’ll definitely give that one a try at some point.
    @MrMoonbeam: Have you tried Bowmore 15 Year or MacAllan 15 Year? Both of them strike a very good balance between that smokey peat feeling and smooth deliciousness!

  4. I’m a fan of the single malts myself.
    Still trying to figure out which one I .enjoy best, but Highland Park 12 is on top of my personal leader board

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