When it comes to Irish whiskey, it’s unfortunate that many people ponder the St. Paddy’s Day party they want to forget. In that painful night, they kicked back shots until they were barely standing intoxicated and finished their journey hovering over a toilet.
Irish whiskey is so much more than a one-day-a-year shot. It’s one of the more rewarding and value-added categories in all of drinks.
Premium Irish whiskeys like Redbreast, Yellow Spot , Teeling, and Midleton are finding their way into American liquor cabinets. I actually believe we’re in the beginning of the greatest Irish whiskey awareness decade since Sir Walter Raleigh gifted a barrel to Queen Elizabeth I.
Irish booze has deep historic connections. Some legends indicate St. Patrick introduced distillation of grains around 5 A.D., making Ireland the true origins of whiskey. But, there has been no scholarly evidence to support this. We do know for fact that the Irish were making whiskey in 1405, when “The Irish Annals” tell us some bloke died from drinking too much. And we thought we had bad memories from drinking Irish whiskey!
Shakespeare even discussed an Irish man drinking “aqua vitae,” Latin for water of life, in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” leading to many scholars wondering if this was Irish whiskey or brandy. My money is on whiskey.
So, the next time you’re camping and you want a historic dram near the campfire, consider packing Irish whiskey.
A fun starter Irish whiskey is Concannon Irish whiskey, a blended whiskey that’s aged in former wine barrels. It’s super fruity with notes of apple, pear, peach, and honey. At only 80 proof, this is an ultra-light whiskey and perfect for beginners.
Moving up a notch, the Bushmills 16-year-old jumps out of the glass with complexities found only in whiskies aged in several casks: American bourbon barrels, Oloroso sherry casks, and finished in old Port wine pipes. The harmonious nose brings notes from each of these barrels. The bourbon barrel adds the vanilla and caramel. The sherry cask brings layers upon layers of creaminess, chocolate, nutty, floral, and dried apricot notes, while the Port wine pipes add just a little cherry juice and dried fruit. On the palate, Bushmills 16-year-old creates one of the longest finishes in Irish whiskey. Bushmills makes several other premium whiskies, including the 1608 blend and a 21-year-old whiskey, but the 16-year-old is quite simply my favorite Bushmills for its daring dance of flavors.
Redbreast 15-year-old is a gorgeous whiskey with notes of raisins, praline, orange peel, chocolate, and a slight licorice that adds to the bitterness of the chocolate. This is a masculine whiskey that will cut a cold tongue and warm the chest.
So, it’s time to lose the college frat boy mentality with Irish whiskey. Sip and savor, my friends. This is great whiskey.