The Irish know whiskey. The spirit is so embedded in the culture that whiskey in Irish, “uisce beatha,” means the “water of life.”
The Emerald Isle has become synonymous with some of the best whiskeys in the world including Jameson, Tullamore Dew, and Bushmills, to name a few. Irish whiskey has also made a huge comeback with new distilleries and plans in the pipeline across the country from Teeling’s in Dublin to Waterford and Rademon Estate.
In fact, according to the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) 10 distilleries have commenced production of Irish whiskey in the last year or so, while plans are in motion to open an additional 22.
More and more, everyone wants to try new whiskeys and from 2002 to 2015, sales of Irish whiskey in the United States grew by an astronomical 642 percent, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Considering the new love affair with whiskey we decided to take a look as some of the old reliables.
There are as many brands of the spirit as dialects in Ireland, but they all adhere to the same strict guidelines in production.
Irish whiskey must be aged and distilled in the Republic of Ireland or in Northern Ireland. It must be aged three years in a wooden casket. If the product is a blend of two or more distillates, it then must be referred to as “blended” Irish Whiskey. And lastly the whiskey must be distilled to an alcohol by volume level less than 94.8 percent from a yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavor derived from the materials used.
Considering ourselves connoisseurs of the spirit, we have compiled a list of our ten favorites.
Jameson is the world’s leader in Irish whiskey, selling 31 million bottles annually. It is the third largest single whiskey distillery in the world and is produced by a division of the French distiller Pernod Ricard. Maintaining its “pure pot still” distilling tradition, Jameson is produced in Cork and vatted in Dublin.
The most popular brand of whiskey in Ireland is a mixture of pot-still and grain. Powers was first distilled at the St. John’s Distillery at Thomas St, Dublin in 1791. Powers Gold Premium sells over 2.5 million bottles in Ireland each year.
Redbreast is produced at the new Middletown Distillery by Irish Distillers and is only one of two pure pot whiskeys being produced today. First distilled in Cork in 1903, Redbreast has garnered many accolades including Irish Whiskey of the Year by whiskey writer Jim Murray and was listed as number one in John Hansell’s buyers guide.
Originally a pure pot whiskey distilled in 1829 in the small town of Tullamore, County Offally, Tullamore Dew is now a blended whiskey. It’s the world’s second best-selling Irish whiskey behind Jameson. Tullamore Dew is owned by Scottish company William Grant and Sons.
Tyrconnell is made by the Cooley Distillery, Ireland's only independent distillery. Originally it was owned by the Watt distillery. The family of the same name owned a horse, “The Tyrconnell” and entered him into the prized horse race “The National Produce Stakes." It won despite its 100 to 1 odds. This triumph inspired the family to name its premium whiskey after its prize-winning colt that appears on the label to this day.
The whiskey is produced at the Old Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim. In 1608 Sir Thomas Phillips was issued a license to distill in the area from King James I. Hence, Bushmills is widely considered to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world. The distillery is owned by Diageo. So popular is the whiskey that the old Bushmills Distillery appears on the reverse side of sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland.
This whiskey dates back to 1779. It was then known as Cork Distillery Company Old Irish Whiskey. The name was changed in 1912 to honor extremely successful company salesman Paddy Flaherty whose name became associated with the brand. The 80-proof blended Irish Whiskey is Ireland’s third best-selling whiskey. The brand has been selling better overseas. It was made available in the US in February 2010.
A whiskey fit for the legendary Irish statesman, Michael Collins, is a 3rd Party brand produced at the independent Cooley Distillery. This is where the flagship Tyrconnell is also distilled.
Yet another fine Irish whiskey distilled at Cooley distillery. This boutique whiskey is 100% Irish malt. It is available now in the States and is distributed by Preiss imports.