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.
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 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 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 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 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.