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.

Top Shelf Irish Whiskey Brands

Top shelf Irish whiskeys are all super premium, and they really reach for the sky. A lot of people will argue this point, but some of the finer Irish whiskeys can even give a good single malt scotch a run for its money. Prices range from affordable to extravagant, so it’s possible to enjoy a number of the top shelf brands without blowing your whole liquor budget in one sitting.

Jameson

Jameson is  a mainstay of lower priced Irish whiskeys, but it also provides a number of premium options. Jameson 15 year is a highly affordable blend that’s aged in used sherry casks from Spain. The sherry really comes through in the nose, and it has a strong vanilla tones in the finish.

Jameson 18 year is about twice the price of its younger brother, but it’s definitely worth a taste. The 18 year recipe calls for blending together three different whiskeys, one of which is 23 years old. After the three whiskeys are blended together, they are finished off in old bourbon barrels for several months. The resulting flavor profile is complex, and you may note hints of chocolate or fudge along with the familiar spice and vanilla.

Top shelf Jameson Whiskey price can vary from about $70 – $270, so there is quite a range there.

 

Bushmills

This is another workhorse brand that pretties up real nice. Bushmills offers a 16 year malt that’s aged in three different types of casks. This is a nice step up from Black Bush that can provide you with a taste of things to come.

Another option is Bushmills 21 year, which is also aged in three types of casks. This malt spends its first 19 years in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. The malt is then moved to madeira casks, where it is allowed to mellow for two more years. The nose brings a scent of orange peel and spice, and it feels like smooth satin on the palate.

Knappogue

Knappogue Castle is a lesser-known brand that has found its way onto the top shelves of savvy Irish whiskey drinkers. Older bottles are vintage dated, such as Knappogue Castle 1995, but newer bottlings simply state the age. The vintage-dated bottlings were all 12 years old, but that wasn’t immediately clear to people who were unfamiliar with the brand.

Knappogue Castle 12 year old is an option  for those who are interested in a more advanced type of Irish whiskey. The palate is less mellow than other options, and it has a definite smoky quality.

The various Knappogue offerings are all quite affordable, though the brand does offer one option that supersedes the top shelf altogether. Knappogue Castle 1951 was bottled in 1987, which means it was aged for a full 36 years. This extremely expensive Irish whiskey might make your wallet beg for mercy, but it’s almost definitely worth the admission price. Less than 1,000 bottles are left, so jump on the chance if it ever appears.

Redbreast

This is another gem that belongs on any whiskey drinker’s top shelf. Redbreast 12 year old is a pure pot still whiskey that’s priced right in between Jameson 15 and Jameson 23, so it’s definitely affordable. It has sweet, fruity notes in the nose, including apple, sherry and a bit of toffee. The palate is as complex as one might expect from a top shelf option, and there’s a hint of that smoky, almost peaty flavor that’s also present in Knappogue Castle.

Connemara

Connemara makes a cask-strength Irish whiskey that’s bottled straight out of the casks. That means it isn’t blended for uniformity, so each bottle is slightly unique. The flavor is powerful and complex, which includes both the sweetness associated with most Irish whiskeys and a hint of the smoky peat flavor you’d expect from an Islay scotch.

All of these top shelf options, aside from Knappogue 1951, are priced at or below the sixty dollar range. Perhaps too expensive for daily drinking, but affordable enough for an intrepid whiskey drinker to add to his or her collection. There are also a number of options that span the range between Connemara and Knappogue 1951, such as Bushmill’s 21 year and Midleton Very Rare, which cost well over $100 for a bottle.