SHARP Drinks: The Best Irish Whiskey To Sip and Savour Today

Don’t let all the St. Paddy’s Day hype fool you — Irish whiskey is not some flash-in-the-pan novelty that’s meant to be consumed once a year. Though often overshadowed by their Scottish counterparts, the world of Irish whiskey is arguably just as diverse. The first recorded production of Irish whiskey dates back to 1405, which is about 90 years before the first Scottish whisky, for those keeping count. Ireland’s tumultuous history had its part in tamping down the growth of the industry, yet as of six or seven years ago, Irish whiskey took hold as the fastest growing spirit on the planet. As with many spirits, the more entry-level offering is what springs to mind first (Jameson, et al), but the premium Irish whiskey category is filled with smooth and sippable options that can be enjoyed neat or on ice. It would be a lengthy list to try and cover off every possible available option, so for the sake of brevity, we’ve narrowed it down to some of our team’s personal favourites.

Tullamore Dew XO Rum Finish Irish Whiskey

TULLAMORE DEW XO RUM FINISH
Learn More

Granted, we’re starting things off with a rather unorthodox Irish whiskey, but with good reason. Tullamore Dew’s standard whiskey is a good one to begin with, however the added character due to the Carribean rum casks make this offering stand out from the pack. Notes of vanilla and butterscotch are prevalent, to the point of blurring the lines between the two spirits in the best possible way. ($47)

Bushmills 10-Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Whiskey Bottle
Learn More

Bushmills is the oldest Irish whiskey producer there is, and their years of history are reflected in the quality and diversity of their offerings. It’s worth noting, they’re one of only a handful of producers from Ireland that survived the struggles that came with American prohibition. This 10-year-old single malt is triple distilled from 100 per cent malted barley, and matured for 10-plus years in former sherry and bourbon-seasoned casks. Expect honey, vanilla, and chocolate aromas here. ($47)

Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey

Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey
Learn more

It’s understandable that some will always prefer a more classic approach — this is where Redbreast comes in. The company’s roots date back to the late 1850s, but to be fair, it was a tumultuous journey as the company shifted hands multiple times. What really matters is its current ownership, which rebooted the brand in 1991 and launched their first 15-year single pot still whiskey in 2005. It was an award winner in its opening year, and remains a fan favourite now, delivering complex notes of citrus and spice. ($125)

Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021 Irish Whiskey

Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021
Learn More

An exceptional expression crafted by Midleton master blender Kevin O’Gorman, the Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021 is part of an ongoing tradition from the producer dating back to 1984. The release is blended from select barrels, ranging between 15 and 35 years in age — specifically American oak barrels previously used in bourbon aging, in case you’re wondering. Remaining true to Midleton’s general profile, this Irish whiskey leans toward the lighter end of the spectrum in body, though still rich with notes of cocoa, pepper, clove, and hints of citrus. It’s a rare bird, so grab it while you have the chance. ($300)

Writers’ Tears Copper Pot Mizunara Irish Whiskey

Writers' Tears Copper Pot Mizunara Irish Whiskey
Learn More

Originally launched as a limited travel retail edition for the Rugby World Cup, this special edition from Writers’ Tears has since made it into international distribution for a limited time. Unlike the brand’s standard editions, this release is finished in Japanese Mizunara casks, which bring forth a punch of exotic wood notes — sandalwood, oak, and cedar — before giving way to more typical toffee, coconut, and spice notes. ($140)

Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Learn More

Another interesting history lesson in the Irish whiskey scene: when relaunched in 2015, Teeling was the first whiskey distillery to operate within the city limits of Dublin in roughly 125 years. It’s also one that is still run by members of the original founding family. The brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling are the leaders behind the reboot, having gotten into the whiskey world through their father John, who founded the Cooley distillery in 1987. Using a very typical Irish mash in its production (50 per cent malted barley and 50 per cent unmalted barley), the end result is a smooth and richly charactered whiskey, with notes of fresh baked bread, brown sugar, and hints of grape and honey. ($105)

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey
Learn More

You all knew that Jameson would wind up in the mix here somewhere — the “household name” of Irish whiskies is a bit pedestrian in standard guise, but their premium efforts remain worthy of recommendation. In the case of the Black Barrel, you’re looking at one of the richer, heavier offerings in this list. Strong notes of sherry, nutmeg, oak, and dry fruit lead the charge, while still avoiding any of the peaty smokiness found in whiskies from other regions. Though a step up from the standard, Black Barrel is still on the affordable end of the spectrum. ($48)

Dunville’s PX 12YO Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Learn More

Another peculiar edition to the list is this 12 year old “PX” aged Irish whiskey fro Dunville’s. For those wondering, PX stands for Pedro Ximinez — the grape used for most sherry and dessert wines from Spain. Also offered in a 10-year expression, Dunville’s 12 develops further character in those last two years, as it gets transferred into smaller PX casks. This leads to a smoother malt profile, notes of green apple, and a substantial sherry influence that thankfully doesn’t overpower the spirit. Can be a good stand-in substitute for bourbon when mixing Old Fashioneds, but we’d still stick to a neat pour, given the option. ($233)

Method and Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Method and Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Learn More

Though you wouldn’t know it looking at the bottle, Method and Madness is in essence the more experimental arm of Midleton — a project that allows the firm to push boundaries and step outside the historical conventions that its main house is known for. In the case of this release, we’re looking at a single grain Irish whiskey (using grain rather than malt), aged in virgin Spanish Oak casks. Light and woody on the nose, the flavour profile here is a rich one; sweet notes of vanilla and other confectionary present themselves alongside the typical toasted oak and spices. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s still a bit of a change of pace. ($50)

Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey

proper no twelve irish whiskey
Learn More

Rare releases and special processes aside, sometimes a good “standard” whiskey is all your bar really needs. Enter Proper No. Twelve, Conor McGreggor’s Irish whiskey outfit named after his home neighbourhood in Dublin. With the help of former Bushmills distillery manager David Elder, the outfit has been off to a solid start. It’s got a bit more punch than Tullamore, but rests more understated than Jameson. ($35)

Natterjack Irish Whiskey

natterjack irish whiskey
Learn More

Last but certainly not least is a relative newcomer to the Irish whiskey scene. Natterjack isn’t bound to tradition either, as its producers have played around with the grain versus malt mash — coming in with a split of 80 per cent corn and 20 per cent barley. The end result can best be dubbed an American style Irish whiskey, perhaps in part due to the influences of Master Distiller Jordan Via, best known for his work with Bob Dylan’s “Heavens Door” Whiskey. We’d be quick to recommend this one if you’re a seasoned whiskey drinker looking for a change of pace. ($74)