Favorite Irish Whiskey Brands

It’s tough to name the best Irish whiskey, since there are so many factors in play. Some of the most expensive options are just too costly to justify the price, and personal taste plays a huge part too. Everyone has their own favorite Irish whiskey; here are a few of mine.

Everyday drinkers.

Okay, I don’t actually drink every day. I actually try to moderate my intake as much as I can, since I just love the stuff so much. But when I do, I try to keep the costs down as much as possible. And that’s one of the great things about Irish whiskey: there really are no bargain basement, bathtub-moonshine brands. Even the most affordable Irish whiskey is typically quite palatable.

Jameson Original is a great standby, as is Bushmills Original. A lot of people keep one or the other on hand, even if they aren’t big on Irish whiskey. That means you’re usually safe ordering one of these at a bar, or asking for one at a friend’s place, even if the selection isn’t too great.

Bushmills pairs good with either 7up or coke, but it’s smooth enough to drink by itself or on ice. If there isn’t anything else available, I’ll definitely order Bushmill’s Original on the rocks. If they’ve got Black Bush, then all the better.

Expand your palate.

Tullamore Dew is another bottle I always keep stocked. It’s not too pricey, so I can confidently break it out without simultaneously breaking the bank. It’s also a little more complex than the basic Bushmills and Jameson bottles, so I’ve used it to introduce more than a few people to the wider world of Irish whiskey.

Another favorite I latched onto a few years ago is Knappogue Castle. The price isn’t too bad for what you get, and it’s also a great way to introduce people to a few more complexities. It has an almost peaty flavor to it, which is a great way to make inroads with staunch scotch drinkers. I have an uncle who is ardent about the superiority of scotch whisky, but even he loved the Knappogue when I poured him a glass.

I don’t have a bottle of Knappogue 1951 on my shelf, but if the opportunity ever presented itself I’d have to stop and think. (The most expensive bottles on my shelf are in the $1-200 range, so the 1951 represents a pretty big step up.)

It’s genetically different.

The same company that produces Knappogue Castle also has another label. It’s called Clontarf, and it’s probably my own personal favorite Irish Whiskey. It comes in three varieties (Classic Blend, Single Malt and Special Reserve) and they’ve all got places on my shelf. Single malt was the first Clontarf I tried, and it remains my favorite.

A lot of people prefer the classic blend, and some even say it’s better than the special reserve.  I feel like they both have slightly harsher flavor profiles than the single malt, which is why I reach for the white label first.

There’s also a “trinity collection” that includes all three varieties in a clever packaging scheme. The collection consists of three bottles that nest into each other, so that you can stack them up into a single bottle. I not sure if it’s the first whiskey/transformer crossover, but it’s definitely the first one I’ve seen.

Mid-shelf Irish Whiskey Brands

Anyone interested in really stepping into the world of Irish whiskey should start with some of the solid, mid-shelf products. The most obvious option is Bushmills, which is a pretty well known name. Their black label product (Black Bush) is a great place to start, and they have a 10 year malt that offers a lot of character. The rabbit hole goes much deeper than that, however, since there are a great many Irish whiskeys good enough to fit on any connoisseur’s middle shelf.

Bushmills

Most whiskey drinkers have tried Bushmill’s at one point or another, and it’s a fairly popular contender for mixed drinks and cocktails. Even the lowly Bushmill’s Original is smooth enough to drink straight, and a number of the distillery’s offerings are downright tasty. Black Bush is a blended product that includes a lot of whiskey that’s aged in used sherry casks. That imparts a light, almost fruity note to the finished blend. Like other Bushmill whiskeys, Black Bush is a very smooth drink.

Bushmills also makes a 10 year malt that sits confidently on my own middle shelf. This triple distilled whiskey is mainly aged in old bourbon barrels, which should bring a smile to any fan of that Kentucky classic. Bushmill’s 10 year has a somewhat honeyed aroma, and it brings a hint of vanilla to the palate. It also has a slightly dry finish with very little aftertaste.

Jameson

Jameson is another well known name that produces some very nice mid-shelf whiskeys. Jameson Original is a great option for a new whiskey drinker, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in stepping up your game a little without breaking the bank, Jameson 12 year provides a great option.

Similar to other Irish whiskeys, Jameson 12 year is triple distilled and aged in used sherry casks. It has a spicy aroma, and the fruity sherry notes really come through when you taste it.

Tullamore Dew

Tullamore Dew Original is a blended whiskey with malt and citrus notes. The finish is a bit strong for some, and the aftertaste lingers a bit overlong.

Another option is Tullamore Dew single malt, which is an incredibly mellow Irish whiskey that’s aged in four separate casks before bottling. The use of aged bourbon, sherry, madeira and port casks impart a unique flavor on this single malt offering.

 

Powers Whiskey

Powers is the most popular whiskey in Ireland, but it’s somewhat lesser known elsewhere. It may be known as Powers Gold or John Power & Son, but either way it’s definitely worth a try for anyone who is interested in delving a little deeper into their cups.

There are a number of different Powers whiskeys, and they use a combination of pot distilled malted barley and column distilled grain spirits. Powers Gold Label has a somewhat peppery nose, and it finishes off with a long, lingering spice.

Clontarf

Clontarf is another lesser known Irish whiskey that absolutely must be tried. The least expensive version is simply referred to as Clontarf Irish Whiskey, and it is also the least complex option. It’s a great choice for anyone who wants to expand their palate beyond Bushmill’s and Jameson without reaching up to the top shelf.

Clontarf also makes a single malt and a special reserve. The special reserve blends pot and column distilled whiskeys, and offers a somewhat muted flavor profile. The single malt is my personal favorite mid-shelf Irish whiskey, and I actually think I’ll go pour myself a bit right now.