The 13 Best Bottles Of Irish Whiskey To Add To Your Bar This Year

  • If you’re looking for the best Irish whiskey to add to your bar, you’ve come to the right place
  • We put together a list of 13 bottles every whiskey lover should try in 2021
  • Read more about whiskey here

Over the past decade or so, whiskey has experienced a huge surge in popularity that has also been accompanied by a noticeable surge in the prices of some of the most sought-after bottles on the market—especially when it comes to bourbon and the fantastic spirits being distilled in Japan.

As a big Whiskey Guy, I’ve assembled a bar filled with bottles from regions all around the world, and I’ve noticed there’s one country that’s been largely immune from a spike in price despite being the origin of some of my favorite offerings on the globe: Ireland.

At the risk of blowing up my own spot, I decided to put together a list of some of the best Irish whiskey on the market right now—many of which don’t get the attention they deserve. However, before we dive into things, it’s probably worth explaining what sets the category apart from the rest of the pack and what you can generally expect.

What Is Irish Whiskey?

best irish whiskey 2021

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Compared to the fairly strict regulations distillers must follow to legally call their product “bourbon” or “scotch,” producers of Irish whiskey don’t have to adhere to too many rules. If the liquid (made from a mash of grains or cereals) was distilled in Ireland and boasts an ABV of at least 40% (80 proof) after being aged in wood barrels in the country for a minimum of three years, the spirit can be labeled “Irish whiskey.”

With that said, there are a few traditional techniques harnessed that set Irish whiskey apart. Many distillers use what is known as a “pot still” (essentially a big tea kettle) as opposed to a column, which is a more labor-intensive process but one that tends to produce a more flavorful whiskey. The country’s most notable producers also tend to pride themselves on the “triple-distilled” method, which gives Irish whiskey its signature smoothness.

In addition to that relative lack of bite, Irish whiskey tends to be defined by fruity and floral notes as well as a subtle sweetness. However, as you’ll soon see, there’s no shortage of variety depending on what you’re in the mood for.

What Is The Best Irish Whiskey?

I’m glad you asked.

Jameson Bow Street 18-Year

best irish whiskey 2021

 

ABV:  55.3% (110.6 proof)
Suggested Price: $160

There’s no better way to kick off this list than with Jameson, an Irish whiskey that needs no introduction. Despite the many snobs out there who are quick to dismiss a liquor that’s become inextricably linked with picklebacks and shot specials, there’s a reason Jameson is the best-selling Irish whiskey in the world.

When it comes to the spirits in this category, you can do much, much worse than what you’ll find in Jameson’s signature green bottle—but when it comes to Jameson, you can also do much, much better. The brand has garnered a fair amount of attention for mixing things up with its Caskmates line and also offers a lineup of premium bottles sporting a variety of age statements—none of which have impressed me more than the 18-year-old Bow Street.

Bow Street is a combination of pot still and grain-based whiskeys that are eventually combined before getting to know each other in the barrel at the Dublin distillery located on the street where John Jameson first opened up shop in 1780. The cask strength concoction is big on toffee flavor, and while nobody is stopping you from chasing it with pickle juice, you’re probably going to be just fine without some.

Blue Spot

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV:  58.7% (117.4 proof)
Suggested Price: $85

In the early 19th century, William Henry Mitchell began to import wines from around Europe to serve to patrons of the restaurant he opened in Dublin in 1805. That venture eventually evolved into a company dubbed “Mitchell & Sons,” which partnered with Jameson and other distillers to age their whiskey in used casks before deciding to get in on the action with their own line.

Mitchell & Sons did so in the form of a line of spirits named after the dabs of paint used to track the aging process in their barrels: the 10-year-old Green Spot, 12-year-old Yellow Spot, and 15-year-old Red Spot. You can’t go wrong with any of those offerings, and the same can be said about the 7-year-old Blue Spot, which made its grand return earlier this year after being discontinued almost 60 years ago.

The Irish whiskey is elevated by the addition of some liquid taken from Madeira casks, which give it a very fruit-forward flavor in addition to the baking spices you’ll get on the tail-end of each sip.

Redbreast Lustau

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Suggested Price: $75

When it comes to premium Irish whiskey, there’s probably no brand that’s more widely known than Redbreast. Its 12-year-old is a simply phenomenal dram, and the only real downside to its older variations is that they’ll make it harder to go back to the younger ones once you’ve tried them.

However, I’ve been a huge advocate of the fairly overlooked Redbreast Lustau ever since I got to experience it for the first time while raiding my parents’ liquor cabinet during a trip back home. The whiskey is the product of a collaboration with the famed Spanish winery Bodegas Lustau, which sends its best Oloroso sherry casks over to Ireland to help create a delicious product defined by notes of fresh fruit and almond.

Slane

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Suggested Price: $30

Slane Irish Whiskey has a fascinating history that’s inextricably connected with music. The world-famous Slane Concert Series has hosted acts including The Rolling Stones, U2, David Bowie, and countless others throughout the years at Slane Castle, which is also home to a distillery.

This Irish whiskey is triple-distilled and blended from three Irish malt and grain whiskeys that are individually aged in ex-bourbon barrels from Tennessee, new virgin oak casks, and Olosoro sherry casks. Each component of the blend works together in perfect harmony for smooth notes of spice, oak, cinnamon, butterscotch, and taffy.

The best aspect of Slane Irish Whiskey is that it’s meant to be consumed in basically any form; you can shoot it, drink it neat or on the rocks, or even mix it into a cocktail if you prefer—and thanks to its relatively low price point, you’ll have plenty of freedom to experiment.

Teeling Single Malt

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Suggested Price: $60

A couple of years ago, I was offered a pour from a bottle of Teeling. While I’m by no means an expert when it comes to detecting flavor notes, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’d been some sort of mixup after being caught off guard by the smokiness of the Irish whiskey.

I soon discovered the bottle in question was Teeling Blackpitts, which is quite the departure from your standard Irish whiskey thanks to the peat used to smoke the malt. That unconventional spirit defines all of the distillery’s offerings—including its single malt.

There is a lot going on here, as Teeling Single Malt features a mash bill of 100% malted barley aged in five different types of wine casks: sherry, port, Madeira, white Burgundy, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s an ambitious experiment but one that’s been executed expertly, as the end result is a fruity and full-bodied Irish whiskey that is just so damn enjoyable.

Tullamore Dew 12-Year

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Suggested Price: $67

Tullamore Dew’s flagship Irish whiskey is an incredibly solid go-to bottle (and, based on personal experience, a great one to drink straight from while sulking in your bed after your college girlfriend breaks up with you until your roommates grab it out of your hand and make you hit the bars with them).

It’s also a great deal based on how much it typically sells for, but if you’re willing to shell out a bit more, you’ll be rewarded by what you’ll get in a bottle of Tullamore Dew’s 12-year. The blend of single malt, grain, and single pot still Irish whiskey is a spicy and chocolatey dram that’s just begging to be nursed while you’re wearing a wool sweater and sitting next to a fireplace on a cold winter’s night.

Writers’ Tears Double Oak

ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Suggested Price: $60

Writers’ Tears is a throwback to the Golden Age of Irish Whiskey; an homage to the spirits the likes of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde were fond of in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Writers’ Tears currently offers five different varieties, but I’m personally partial to the Double Oak—a combination of single pot still and single malt aged in ex-bourbon and cognac casks. As the name suggests, you’re going to get plenty of oak, but it’s complemented by vanilla, a variety of spices, and some notes of citrus and pear.

Dead Rabbit

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 44% (88 proof)
Suggested Price: $45

If you want to sample most of the Irish whiskeys on this list before committing to a bottle, there aren’t many places in the United States that are worth taking the trip to more than The Dead Rabbit in New York City.

Named after the crew Leonardo DiCaprio’s character commanded in Gangs of New York, this Wall Street watering hole is known for both the innovative cocktails it whips up in an intimate upstairs room as well as a massive menu of Irish whiskeys served up inside a rustic bar with a sawdust-covered floor on the first level.

In 2018, the acclaimed drinking establishment launched Dead Rabbit whiskey, a relatively young 5-year offering where oak takes center stage. Given its origins, it should come as no surprise that it’s a great tool to deploy in a cocktail—and if you’re looking for some ideas, the bar also has a book filled with recipes you can draw from for inspiration.

Powers John’s Lane

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Suggested Price: $91

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to make a trek to Ireland courtesy of Powers, whose flagship Gold Label was once the most popular whiskey in Ireland and remains one of the best-selling spirits in the category to this day.

During the trip, I got to take a tour of the Midleton distillery where the masterminds behind Jameson, Blue Spot, and (you guessed it) Midleton whip up their various wares—a pilgrimage that any whiskey fan who finds themselves in Ireland needs to make. During an excursion to the heart of Dublin, I also visited the former site of the Powers distillery located on the road that lends its name to the 12-year-old John’s Lane.

Powers Gold Label is one of my favorite Irish whiskeys, but John’s Lane is one of my favorite whiskeys produced anywhere on the planet. The magical liquid is defined by the notes of honey and subtle oak that help it go down a bit too easily, and I’d genuinely recommend grabbing a couple of bottles based on how quickly the first one will likely disappear once you get to experience the elixir contained within.

Midleton Very Rare

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Suggested Price: $200

Midleton Very Rare is perhaps the premium Irish whiskey, and while you may hesitate to pull the trigger on a $200 bottle boasting a relatively modest 40% ABV, you only have to take a sip to understand why that’s a bargain compared to what it tends to go for on the secondary market.

Midleton Very Rare is carefully selected from barrels curated by the master distiller at the aforementioned facility each and every year (a tradition originally started by Irish whiskey legend Barry Crockett) before they sign their name on the individually-numbered wooden case each handpicked bottle comes in.

The nature of the whiskey makes every release unique, so while you might not know exactly what you getting depending on the vintage, you can be assured it’ll be one of the best glasses you’ve ever had.

Bushmills 16-Year

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Suggested Price: $130

If you’ve watched The Wire, then you know that McNulty was not a fan of what he derisively dubbed “Protestant whiskey.” Bushmills may technically be produced in what is now officially recognized as Northern Ireland, but it’s impossible not to mention a spirit that was first produced in a distillery constructed on the Emerald Isle in 1784.

Bushmills is essentially the Jameson of Northern Ireland, and like its cousin to the south, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you ignore some of its older expressions. That’s especially true when it comes to its 16-year, which is a mixture of Irish whiskey aged in barrels previously used for bourbon, sherry, and port.

If the words “oatmeal raisin cookie in a glass” sound appealing to you, then you don’t need to look any further than this.

Limavady

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Suggested Price: $55

Vermont’s WhistlePig initially made a name for itself with the rye whiskeys favored by drinkers across the border in Canada, which were perfected with the help of distilling legend Dave Pickerell. However, the brand has recently started to branch out from its roots, as it unveiled its first-ever bourbon over the summer in addition to adding Limavady Irish whiskey to its portfolio.

As is the case with Bushmills, Limavady is produced in Northern Ireland and prides itself on being the “only single-barrel Irish whiskey” on the market. The barrels in question are ex-bourbon casks finished in those that once contained PX sherry, which gives it the sweetness you’d expect in addition to a pleasant spiciness and notes of dried fruit.

Glendalough Pot Still

best irish whiskey 2021

ABV: 43% (96 proof)
Suggested Price: $59

There’s no better way to cap off the list of the best Irish whiskeys out there than with this bottle from Glendalough, which is about as Irish as they come. The Wicklow-based distillery harnesses the traditional pot still method before aging a whiskey that’s finished for a year in virgin casks made with oak harvested from Ireland, which are about as rare as they come.

The end result is a malty and spicy Irish whiskey, which is definitely a bit more aggressive than some of its fellow countrymen but tasty nonetheless.




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