With the global outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), it feels wrong to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as we normally have in the past. After all, many large gatherings honoring the patron saint of Ireland have been rightfully canceled, while many areas are restricting the hours of bars and restaurants. Getting together for a drink is the last thing on many people’s minds.
In these uncertain times, though, perhaps raising a glass (and sparking a cigar) in honor of St. Paddy’s Day is just the bit of normalcy that many of us need at this moment. Even better, when you sip away be sure to also remember those members of our healthcare industry who are working hard to combat this pandemic.
Just be sure that whatever you choose to drink comes from Ireland. After all, the world of Irish whiskey has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in recent years as distilleries there are now offering a range of interesting choices; it would be a shame to let such creativity go unnoticed. And check out the prices—some of these delicious whiskies are fine bargains.
To help, we paired four standout whiskies from The Emerald Isle with a pair of outstanding smokes from our February 2020 tasting. The Four Kicks Selección No. 5 (92 points) from Nashville’s Crowned Heads is rolled in the Dominican, while the Casa Magna Jalapa Claro Toro Box Press (91 points) hails from Nicaragua.
Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still (40 percent abv, $60 per 750ml)
Made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, this liquid comes from the Midleton Distillery in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, where it is said to be triple distilled. It is then matured in a combination of Bourbon barrels and Oloroso Sherry seasoned Spanish oak butts. Whisky Advocate scored it 96 points in a past tasting.
Appearance: Pours a bright straw color with slow, thin legs.
Aroma: Raisin sweetness and fruits with some toasted wood.
Palate: Raisins with candied fruit and dough. Caramel and nougat along with toasted marshmallow segue in, before a crisp, short finish.
Cigar pairing: The Four Kicks Selección No. 5 teases out a pleasant coconut and banana bread note while also lengthening the short finish a touch. With the Casa Magna Jalapa Claro Toro Box Press, the toasted wood gains in intensity, and the leather from the cigar turns a touch saltier.
Tullamore D.E.W. XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish (43 percent abv, $26 per 750ml)
This blended whiskey is the result of taking Tullamore D.E.W. Original and finishing it in barrels that once were used to age XO Demerara Rum from Guyana.
Appearance: Dark gold with a slight green patina.
Aroma: Tropical fruits such as mango, papaya with a hint of green apple.
Palate: Pineapple and stone fruits at the start with faint toffee and dried strawberry. The finish is sweet and long, with a hint of nutmeg.
Cigar pairing: The sweet notes in the Four Kicks Selección No. 5 becomes more distinctly berry, while at the same time it brings out more sweet toffee flavor in the whiskey. The Casa Magna Jalapa Claro Toro Box Press also gains from this pairing, with the tea notes becoming fruitier and gaining in intensity. The smoke also brings out a more pronounced green apple flavor in the pour.
Kilbeggan Single Pot Still (43 percent abv, $45 per 750ml)
The mashbill of this whiskey is unique in that it uses not only malted and unmalted barley, but also 2.5 percent oats. According to the company, distillers in the late 1800s commonly used oats for filtration purposes.
Appearance: Pours a buttery yellow color with slow, fat legs.
Aroma: Fresh apple, with a hint of jasmine and honey sweetness.
Palate: The light and fruity start turns into a penetrating apple pie note of bread dough and cream. Persistently mellow texture throughout.
Cigar Pairing: The liquid draws ramps up the apple note of the Four Kicks Selección No. 5, while tempering the molasses quality in the smoke. With the Casa Magna Jalapa Claro Toro Box Press, the coffee bean notes of the cigar become more pronounced and the wood turns into a pleasant hit of vanilla.
Teeling Single Pot Still (46 percent abv, $64 per 750ml)
Crafted using both malted and unmalted barley, according to Teeling this expression pays homage to a famous Dublin style and was actually distilled in Ireland’s capital city. The liquid has also been matured in American Oak ex-Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks.
Appearance: Pours the color of Chardonnay, with slim, quick legs.
Aroma: Herbal and bready, with vanilla and faint banana.
Palate: Softly textured liquid offers citrus and banana at the start, with notes of honey and cereal to follow. The finish offers a nice lemon and grapefruit zest.
Cigar pairing: The honey note in the Four Kicks Selección No. 5 becomes more pronounced along with the hit of apple. With the Casa Magna Jalapa Claro Toro Box Press, banana notes from the liquid get ramped up while the wood turns a bit more vanilla.