Filed under: Spirits
There's lots of beer consumed on St. Patrick's Day, and liberal drams of Irish whiskey. And while standard Jameson's, Bushmill's, Paddy's, Redbreast, Murphy's and Tullamore Dew are okay, it's nice to break out some of the higher-end expressions that aren't found just everywhere for you and a few close friends to share over good, sober conversation and a bit of Clancy Brothers or Van Morrison on the box.
Irish Whiskey has long fought for equal prestige against their better regarded Celtic cousins to the East. But innovation and creativity at Ireland's distilleries in the last decade has yielded some interesting and compelling pours. Indeed Irish Whiskey has been one of the fastest growing segments of the brown spirits business the last few years.
Before recommending some top pours from my drinks library, it's worth mentioning what separates Irish Whiskey from American, Scotch, Canadian, Welsh and others. The principal difference is that Irish whiskey must be distilled three times before going into the aging barrels in order to be called "Irish Whiskey." Scotch is distilled twice. American "Bourbon" is distilled just once. Like Scotch, Irish whiskey is aged in used oak barrels from American whiskey distilleries, and often finished in Madeira, sherry or port barrels depending on the creativity of the master distillers. Irish whiskeys tend to have sweeter, lighter profiles than their Scotch counterparts. While Scotch is made from blends of malted barley, Irish distillers play around more with blending both malted and un-malted grain.
$45: Michael Collins Single Malt: This single-malt uses barley dried over peat smoke, giving it a slightly smoky aroma and mouth feel. Made up of whiskies aged 8 to 12 years in oak. Spicy on the mouth at first, but smoothes out.
$250: Jameson's Rarest Vintage Reserve: Rich, deep, long finished and almost oily, this is a special expression and well worth the money if you have it. Jameson's combine some whiskies that have aged in port casks with others that have aged in ex-Bourbon barrels. No chill filtering, which helps keep the flavors complex and layered. Carmelized bananas, dates, figs. You get the idea. Not your typical Irish Whiskey.
$43: Connemara Peated Single Malt: If Compass Box hadn't already copped "Peat Monster" for one of its expressions these folks could have used it for this peatiest of all Irish Whiskies. This is as gentle as the Irish Sea, which is to say not at all. I like it, and it's an interesting contrast to what you expect from an Irish whiskey.
$48: Powers 12-Year Old Special Reserve: Just recently launched in the U.S., this is a superior pot-still whiskey consistent with Power's signature flavor profile of marrying up spiciness with a honey flavor. The 12-year old definitely benefits from the extra years of aging in ex-Bourbon barrels. Oaky and longer finish than Power's flagship blend.