Once the first choice of whiskey connoisseurs, Irish pot still whiskey has taken a back seat for years due to revolutions, wars and famine. However, the nation’s number one spirit is undergoing its own revolution with many companies—new and old—bringing delicious copper pot stills and single malts back from the dead.
If your experience with Irish whiskey has been limited to the blended variety, this collection is an alternative take on the category featuring purely pot-still types and magnificent malts, all coming from from the Emerald Isle. For the full story on the “Pot Luck of the Irish,” see our latest March/April issue of Cigar Aficionado—on newsstands March 23.
Bushmills Single Malt 21 (80 proof, $200)
Bushmills is the outlier in Irish whiskey because it’s made in Northern Ireland, not the Republic. Overlook the geographical distinction. This 21-year-old melds Sherry- and Bourbon-aged whiskeys and then finishes the combination in Madeira casks. The result teems with vanilla, caramel, maple syrup, toffee and raisins.
Connemara Single Malt (80 proof, $43)
Connemara sets itself apart from most Irish whiskey in being not only double distilled, but also peated. The product of the Cooley Distillery, which spear-headed the island’s expansion of production, not only plumes with peat smoke, but follows up with notes of cinnamon, hard candy, bread dough, caramel and salt spray.
Green Spot Single Pot Still (80 proof, $75)
Made by New Midleton for a wine merchant, Green Spot only recently arrived in the United States—and in very limited quantity. It’s not just its rarity, but its performance that makes it a prize find for enthusiasts. Aged in Bourbon and Sherry casks, it combines fruit and savory notes, with apple, cinnamon, toffee and molasses.
The Irishman 17 Years (112 proof, $140)
Bernard and Rosemary Walsh have made a business out of finding interesting casks of whiskeys and then doing interesting things with them. In this case, however, it’s what they didn’t do that is showcased. This 17-year-old is a single-cask release (each bottle is numbered) of single malt that hasn’t been chill filtered. It’s also a big bundle of flavor reflecting Sherry-cask aging, smacking of chocolate, raisins and maple syrup, with a slight nuttiness.
Kilbeggan Single Pot Still (86 proof, $45)
The Kilbeggan Distillery has had ups and downs. Opened in 1757, it was silenced in 1957, but kept alive by a local preservation group. In 2007, it began operations anew. The single-pot version is double distilled and contains a small portion of oats, following an antique recipe. It brings together sweet lemon and apple with nuts and cream, and it was named the No. 8 most exciting whiskey of 2020 by Whisky Advocate magazine, with a score of 93 points.
Red Breast 15 Single Pot Still (92 proof, $80)
Originally made at the Jameson’s Distillery in Dublin and now produced at New Midleton, Red Breast is the world’s best-known Irish pot still whiskey. The non-chill-filtered whiskey has notes of berries, peach, honey, nougat, caramel and licorice.
Sexton Single Malt (80 proof, $25)
The bottle doesn’t say it, but this is likely the product of the Old Bushmills Distillery. Aged for four years in Sherry casks, this is a great value. Don’t be fooled by its youth—its deep flavors include almond, honey, anise, cherry and passion fruit.
Teeling Blackpitts Peated Single Malt (92 proof, $86)
John Teeling reopened Cooley Distillery in 1987 and his sons, Stephen and Jack, returned whiskey making to Dublin in 2015. Having begun by sourcing whiskey from Cooley, this is their first release from the new Teeling Distillery. It’s triple-distilled and peated to create a beguiling mix of smoke, candied orange, tart apples, caramel and spice.
Tullamore D.E.W. 14 Years (82.6 proof, $70)
While awaiting the fruits of the new Tullamore Distillery, enjoy this four-cask-finished, single malt sourced at New Midleton for its notes of pear, vanilla and a bit of spice.
Tyrconnell 10 Year Sherry Cask Finish (92 proof, $90)
From Cooley Distillery, Tyrconnell is named after a racehorse that recorded a 100-to-1 upset. It must have been a sweet victory as this double-distilled single malt could stand in as dessert, brimming with cinnamon, graham cracker, raisins and Sherry.
Writers’ Tears Double Oak (92 proof, $60)
Another Walsh product, this spirit is aged in Bourbon and Cognac casks and contains pure malt and pot still whiskeys. It is sweet with cocoa, tangy with orange peel, mellow with caramel and spicy with ginger and pepper.