Tomorrow is a big day. A big green day. And there are few better glasses to raise for St. Patrick’s Day than those filled with Irish whiskey. Scotch’s sexier cousin, Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, distinctly smooth and an arguably more spirited spirit than any Caledonian offering. What’s more, it’s an altogether more sophisticated option than Guinness if you’re looking to pour yourself a patriotic drink this March 17.
But you shouldn’t be sloshing just any old whiskey into your glass. Trust us — St. Patrick didn’t banish all those snakes so you could drink a cut-price bottle of supermarket special. No, you should only be investing in the best to honour Pat’s grand work. And, while these whiskeys may be a little above your usual price point, they are the perfect bottles to save for this special occasion, and hide away in your drinks cabinet for the rest of the year. So take a look; a proper salute to the Irish tricolour is just a trickle away…
For an exotic bottling, Redbreast 27 Year Old
Red may not be a colour you immediately associate with St Patrick’s Day, but take one sip of this scarlet-bottled blend and you’ll never wear a green stitch on March 17 ever again. The oldest permanent expression in the Redbreast series, this whiskey is almost three decades old, and features spirit matured in ruby port barrels from Portugal’s Douro Valley.
Tasting notes: Expect a nose of exotic fruits and red berries, followed by an incredibly rich taste of ripe stone fruits, cherry menthol and toasted oak. For the finish? A satisfying balance of ripe fruit and woody spices longer than your night.
Best enjoyed when: You’re grasping a glass of it in one hand and a copy of Ulysses in the other. Don’t worry – it’s not the fourth glass of whiskey – no-one’s ever really understood what James Joyce was going on about. But it’s patriotic nonsense, isn’t it?
Redbreast 27 Year Old
For a party bottle, Slane Irish Whiskey
Now this may be the cheapest bottle on our list — but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of an investment. In fact, from Ireland’s Boyne Valley, this family-made spirit is keeping the arts of barrel-raising and whiskey-making alive in County Meath. It’s also one of the most handsome bottles to make our cut.
Tasting notes: As it’s aged in a combination of virgin oak, refill-American whiskey and oloroso sherry casks, you’ll pour yourself an elegant, yet spicy dram — slick with notes of caramel, dried fruits and butterscotch.
Best enjoyed when: You’re in need of a particularly swingable, swiggable bottle to keep your rhythm when you’re dancing on the tables. That jig of yours is a serious matter, and there are few whiskeys as motivating or intoxicating as this.
Slane Irish Whiskey
For an enigmatic spirit, Teeling Brabazon Bottling
The first release in Teeling’s Brabazon Bottling is still the best. Named for William Brabazon, the 3rd Earl of Meath, this is another series that explores the impact of sherry casks on Irish whiskey. A collaboration made in Hibernian heaven, it may become a little hard to pronounce as the night goes on, but it’s a darn good way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Tasting notes: Surprisingly plummy on the nose, with hints of marmalade and roasted hazelnut also in there. On the palate, that rich sweetness of sherry comes through, along with liquorice and a whisper of clove. A crispy marshmallow finish tops off a real enigma of a bottling.
Best enjoyed when: You’ve just plated up a 28-day aged, grass-fed, richly-textured Irish steak. We’re talking a Glenarm Shorthorn fillet — the gold Irish standard. Pour yourself a rocks glass of the Brabazon and you’ll find your tastebuds jigging their way through the tenderest, maltiest mouthful you’ve ever enjoyed. Sláinte!
Teeling Brabazon Bottling
For a unique taste, Midleton Very Rare
The clue’s in the name; this is a white whale of a whiskey. Precious and peerless, Midleton’s crowning glory was created in 1984 and remains one of the most pioneering moves in the world of whiskey. It’s a marriage of specially-selected casks of pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys — and rarer than a four-leaf clover.
Tasting notes: On the palate, there are rich, welcoming notes of vanilla, with subtle floral notes and fresh citrus alongside black pepper, cloves and cinnamon. For the finish, expect a rounded, roasted, toasted taste of oak.
Best enjoyed when: You’re brewing up an Irish coffee and you want to make it the best mugful of your shamrocking life. Mix with cream, brown sugar and a measure of the strongest, most sippable coffee you can bring yourself to percolate.
Midleton Very Rare
For the best blend, Jameson Gold Reserve
This isn’t a bottle of Jameson you’ll find down your supermarket spirits aisle. This, the brand’s Gold Reserve, is made with lashings of pure potstill Irish whiskey and is one of Jameson’s most acclaimed releases of all time. For a blend, you’d be hard pushed to find a better bottle.
Tasting notes: Reasonably understated on the nose, with aromas of sweet spice and dried fruit. But take a sip and you’ll taste honeyed fruits, spicier oak and punchy baking spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon.
Best enjoyed when: You’ve just garbled your way through a sixth rendition of Oh Danny Boy and your pipes, your pipes are calling. Irish whiskey is smooth as it is, but this stuff? One more glass and you’ll be singing Galway Bay until Donnelly and Cooper come home.
Jameson Gold Reserve
For a juicy dram, Bushmills 16 Year Old
Another big name; another big bottle. It’s a crying shame that we only see the cheapest, most basic releases from big brands like Jameson and Bushmills — because their higher-ticket bottlings and limited-edition launches are among the best in the business. This, for example, is a near-perfect dram.
Tasting notes: A superb single malt, this whiskey has been aged in sherry, bourbon and port casks, and has layers of flavour, juicy fruits, nuts and spice to show for it — as well as a hint of ruby redness.
Best enjoyed when: You’re halfway through your annual rewatch of The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and find yourself in desperate need of something to catch your tears. Because nothing gets those waterworks working like early-career Cillian Murphy…
Bushmills 16 Year Old
For an unexpected treat, Method and Madness Virgin Hungarian Oak Finish
We’ve dipped into Portugal to help with our patriotic Irish whiskeys — and even hopped the Atlantic to borrow some bourbon casks from the US. But Hungary is perhaps the most unexpected partner in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. From nouveau spiritmakers Method and Madness, this single pot offering is finished in Hungarian oak — and it’s a treat.
Tasting notes: Thanks to those Hungarian barrels, you get a raft of unique flavours — from treacle and toasted coconut to campfire ashes. On the tongue, there’s also dry woodland notes and bittersweet liquorice.
Best enjoyed when: Your city break to Dublin has been unceremoniously cancelled, and you’re looking to recreate the heady, heavy night you would have had in The Temple Bar from the cramped comfort of your Hackney one-bed. Let’s make the best of things, shall we?
Method and Madness Virgin Hungarian Oak Finish
More into your wine? Here are the best bottles to start your wine cellar…
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