Get 1 Year of Cigar Aficionado for Just $14.95 + A Free Gift!

Irish Whiskey
Photo/Jeff Harris

St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally when everyone puts an O’ in front his name and lifts a glass of Irish whiskey in deference to the Old Sod. But so much is happening to a spirit that hasn’t had a lot of excitement in a while that we suggest earmarking more than a day to catch up on an resurgence that includes record growth and new choices. Since the ’60s the category included venerable thrice-distilled blends (e.g., Jameson, Bushmills, Powers, Paddy), but forgotten was that Ireland had a proud tradition for pot-still whiskey, single malts and even peated whiskeys. Then in 1987, Cooley distillery reopened with the addition of pot stills next to its columns, and a renaissance began.  

The Tyrconnell, a historic single-malt brand was bought and given new wrinkles like Madeira-cask finishing. Connemara brought back the tradition of the peated, single-malt made with only two distillations (most Irish today is triple-distilled). Michael Collins is a slightly peated 10-year-old blend. Revived as well has been poitín, an Irish version of moonshine. Later Kilbeggan, with its claims to be the oldest licensed distillery on earth, reopened, making a blend of the same name. The venture was successful enough that Jim Beam bought it in 2011. 

Success emboldened others to create new brands. Clontarf 1014 is a charcoal-filtered blend. Knappogue Castle started as marketer of a stock of rare single malts (particularly a $2,200 36-year-old distilled in 1951) and has gone onto more affordable bottlings. A half dozen new distilleries are popping up including one for the consummately smooth Tullamore D.E.W., which is getting its own home after being made elsewhere. Jack Teeling, a son of the leader of the Cooley initiative is even bringing distillation to Dublin for the first time in half a century.

The big boys have not rested on their laurels, however. Midleton Very Rare Reserve has produced a succession of beguiling editions. Jameson’s Gold Reserve is a malt-rich blend, as is Bushmills Black Bush. The latter’s 21-year-old Single Malt mingles whiskey matured in former Oloroso casks and ex-Bourbon barrels. Midleton whisky legend Barry Crockett and his successor, Barry Nation, have created an impressive array of single-pot-still whiskeys (a variation that combines both malted and unmalted barley). Redbreast now has several iterations of the category in the U.S. (most recently a 21-year-old) and Green Spot has just arrived. The company has also committed to releasing two new expressions annually for the next 10 years. Let’s toast the luck of the Irish.

Good Life Guide Drink

More in The Good Life

See all
On Sale Now: Tickets To Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest

On Sale Now: Tickets To Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest

The day has come to get your tickets to the inaugural Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest.

Apr 13, 2021
Macanudo Sponsoring Barstool Sports Golf Tournament

Macanudo Sponsoring Barstool Sports Golf Tournament

General Cigar Co. is sponsoring all 26 Barstool Sports events across the country.

Mar 30, 2021
11 Irish Whiskeys That Bring a Taste of the Old Country

11 Irish Whiskeys That Bring a Taste of the Old Country

The Irish whiskey revolution marches on with the country’s iconic copper pot stills.

Mar 16, 2021
Two New Cask-Strength Bourbons for 2021

Two New Cask-Strength Bourbons for 2021

Heaven Hill’s powerhouse Bourbons have arrived in the form of new cask-strength batches of both …

Feb 19, 2021
Johnnie Walker Puts Time in a Bottle

Johnnie Walker Puts Time in a Bottle

Renowned blended Scotch brand Johnnie Walker celebrates the Chinese New Year with a special Blue …

Feb 12, 2021
Tampa Bay Celebrates Super Bowl LV Win With Cigars

Tampa Bay Celebrates Super Bowl LV Win With Cigars

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought home the Lombardi Trophy last night to Cigar City as Tom Brady …

Feb 8, 2021