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Beyond Jameson: Four Irish Whiskeys For St. Patrick’s Day

Brad Dunn encourages you to try something different this St. Patrick's Day. These four Irish whiskeys are great no matter if you're shooting, mixing or sipping.

irish whiskeys on the bar

Nothing Fancy

When you’re talking about St. Patricks’s Day, the Irish don’t mess around.

In cocktail culture, we can get wrapped up in talking about fancy drinks, expressions of zest and the imagination of the mixologist. All of that pretty much goes out the window this time of year. I always say the best beverages for St. Patty’s are a shot of Irish whisky and a pint of Guinness — often the two combined.

Know Your Whiskeys

Irish whiskey is considered lighter, smoother and easier to drink than, say, scotch whiskey which is thought of as more complex, smoky and mysterious. It tends to be very easy to enjoy several shots of Irish whiskey instead of ruminating over a glass or two.

I’ve pulled several bottles of Irish whiskey from the shelves at the Uptown Cafe (Bloomington, Indiana), and one things you’ll notice right away is the variety in color. Don’t be fooled! Most whiskeys are actually much lighter in color than the final product might indicate. Why? The addition of caramel coloring. This has to do more with the aesthetics dictated by the marketing department and less with the actual taste or quality of the spirit.

Taste Test

While Scotland boasts almost 100 distilleries, there are really only three distilleries in Ireland — Old Bushmills Distillery, Cooley Distillery and New Midleton Distillery.

Normally I don’t talk about brands, but there are four specific Irish whiskeys I would like to recommend this St. Patrick’s Day:

  • Millars 8 Year Special Reserve Irish Whiskey (Cooley): This was originally made by Adam Millar and Co, and it was often referred to as “a classic Dublin sipping whiskey.” The best way to describe it is buttery. You might have to do some searching at your local bars or liquor stores to get your hands on Millars — it’s incredibly hard to find!
  • Slieve Foy (Cooley): This whiskey is named after the highest peak of a ridge of mountains collectively referred to as Carlingford Mountain in the far north of Ireland. It is single malt, aged 8 years. Its smokiness is a nod toward the Scottish style, which makes Slieve Foy a bit unusual for an Irish whiskey but it’s an example of the range of the style.
  • Powers Gold Label (Midleton): This whiskey is amber colored, which as we’ve learned doesn’t necessarily say anything about the quality of the whiskey. What’s important to know is that Powers is one of the most popular whiskeys in Ireland. It’s also a couple of my bartenders’ favorite. I call this the whiskey of the people.
  • Redbreast, 15 Year Old (Midleton): This is an example of a pot still whiskey, for which Midleton Distillery is famous. This 15 year old whiskey has something special going on. I’ve never come across a really good explanation of what happens as spirits and wines mature, but it’s magical — and you can taste it.

It’s St. Patty’s Day. This is no time to be fancy, so grab yourself a shot and a beer. Cheers, or as they say in Ireland… Sláinte!

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