WORDS by EWEN HOSIE
Ireland has a long and storied history of whiskey production and the debate rages to this day over whether it was actually the Scots or the Irish who invented the stuff. Following a lull in production throughout the 20th century, Irish whiskey production is back on the rise, and whiskey fans can track the best examples of the island’s output via guides such as the Ireland Whiskey Trail.
Famed for its relative smoothness due to a distinctive triple distillation process (for point of comparison, most Scotch whisky is distilled twice), Irish whiskey can count itself among the best in the world. To celebrate this year’s World Whisky Day on Saturday May 21, here’s a guide for drinkers looking to dip their toes into Irish whiskey – not literally of course – with a selection of introductory drams.
Bushmills Black Bush
Founded in 1606, Bushmills is Northern Ireland’s – and in fact, the world’s – oldest licensed distillery. Notable fans include James Joyce, who name checked the brand in his infamous tome Ulysses. Bushmills Black Bush is a great place to start here – matured in Oloroso sherry casks, it’s a smooth and fruity number perfect for beginners.
Possibly Ireland’s most famous whiskey with its iconic green bottle, Jameson is a floral, honeyed pour, which is triple distilled and makes for an excellent all-round choice equally suited to straight drinking or as a mixer. Another great starting point for curious drinkers.
Teeling Small Batch Whiskey
Teeling’s flagship product, Teeling Small Batch Whiskey, is our pick from this distiller. Bottled at 46%, it has a heavy rum and wood kick, and is perhaps best consumed with a small pour of water. Teeling operates out of Dublin. Having originally opened in 1782, the company fell into relative obscurity in the 20th century before re-launching in 2012.
Tullamore D.E.W. is a solid entry-level choice; a popular whiskey and a mellow pour, Tullamore D.E.W. (the ‘D.E.W.’ being named after the whiskey’s creator Daniel E. Williams) is triple distilled and triple blended with a mix of grain, malt and pot still whiskeys, lending it a balanced character.
Cooley Distillery whiskeys (Kilbeggan/Tyrconnell/Connemara)
Cooley Distillery has seen its fair share of awards for its whiskeys, including over 100 gold medals awarded from various outlets over the last decade. Some of the distillery’s top drams include the lightly peated Connemara, fruity Tyrconnell, and its flagship Kilbeggan malt, all of which come highly recommended.
Produced at New Midleton Distillery in County Cork, also responsible for production of the more famous Jameson brand, Redbreast is a fantastic whiskey that has received much acclaim. Whisky expert Jim Murray, known for his Whisky Bible series, called Redbreast an “astonishing experience”. Produced in single pot stills, it is a heavy pour with strong sherry and toffee notes. Redbreast 12 is a great entry point here.
Like Redbreast, a single pot still whiskey produced at the Midleton Distillery, Green Spot is known for an intense creaminess and spicy body that has won it plaudits from whiskey aficionados everywhere. A sister brand, Yellow Spot, is also available, having been reintroduced in 2012 following a half-century absence from the market.
Get involved on World Whisky Day
World Whisky Day is a global celebration, which invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life. Events are taking place all over the globe and it couldn’t be easier to host your own. If you’re going to be raising a dram on the day then head over to the World Whisky Day website to see what’s going on near you or to register a public or private event for free. All that’s required is some good company and some good whisky.