6 lesser-known Irish whiskies to sip and savor this St. Patrick’s Day
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‘Tis the season when we’re all feeling at least a little green — not with envy, but with the luck of the Irish. While we’re a firm believer that there’s never a bad time for a whiskey of any ethnicity, the week of Saint Patrick’s Day predictably brings bottles of Irish whiskey off of back bar shelves with a bit more regularity.
You may think you know plenty about Irish whiskey, and perhaps you do. But if your experiences with Ireland’s proud spirit have been limited to the likes of Jameson, Bushmills, or Tullamore D.E.W., we’re here to tell you that there’s a much bigger and broader world of great Irish whiskey waiting for you. We’re also here to introduce you to a few expressions that are worthy of your time.
So, as the Irish say, “May the road rise up to meet you.” And should you find yourself on the road to a destination where a tipple of Irish whiskey awaits, consider a pour of any of the following single malts.
Limavady Single Barrel (46% ABV)
Distilled from Irish barley and matured in ex-bourbon barrels, with a finish in Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry casks, this non-age statement single malt whiskey captivates at first whiff with a rich and layered aroma defined by brown sugar, hints of cinnamon, juicy stone fruits, and McIntosh apples. On the palate, baking spices and ripe fruit mingle like a spiced apple pie, with hints of grain introducing themselves mid-sip and pepper notes lingering on the finish.
Writers’ Tears Red Head (46% ABV)
By its name alone, this single malt prepares you for what’s to come, though the whiskey’s ruby-like hue doubles down on those expectations. With a sweet aroma that blends light brown sugar with caramel and hints of sundried tomatoes, this limited-edition whiskey immediately showcases the Oloroso sherry casks that held the liquid throughout its maturation. That sherry influence is celebrated even more on the palate, where flavors of dates, raisins, and figs take center stage, while a faint twinge of spice dances in the background.
Dingle (46.3% ABV)
On the nose, this single malt whiskey delivers fruity and floral aromas that are customary of Irish whiskey, with hints of fresh cherries and some baking spice accents. On the palate, the whiskey is lush and well-balanced, offering a mix of sweet and savory flavors — a characteristic that reflects the recipe’s marriage of six- and seven-year whiskies matured in ex-bourbon and PX sherry casks. With its juxtaposition of malty character and notes of vanilla and caramel, this new release will appeal to single-malt enthusiasts who typically find Irish expressions too sweet.
Waterford Heritage Hunter (50% ABV)
If ever there was a whiskey that celebrated the grain more than the barrel, this new release by Waterford Distillery — a terroir-focused whiskey producer — is without equal. On the nose, this spirit offers up dry cereal grain aromas that are so striking, it’s impossible not to recognize the liquid as a single malt whiskey. That grain character reemerges on the palate, sharing some of the spotlight with bubblegum-like flavors, though according to Waterford, notes of orange cake, cloves, and citrus oils can also be detected. The whiskey is bright and vibrant, delivering a subtle spice on the finish, and it will have you rethinking what you know an Irish whiskey to be.
IrishAmerican 10-Year (40% ABV)
Produced on the Emerald Isle’s west coast at Achill Island Distillery, Ireland’s only island-based distillery, this 10-year-old single malt whiskey is aged exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels. Described by its creator as a full-bodied whiskey “with a floral underbelly” and “hints of cinnamon spice,” the spirit brings a lightly herbaceous quality to the nose with hints of lemongrass; however, crisp, bright fruit notes dominate most of the aroma. On the palate, honey and light brown sugar intermingle with traces of vanilla and cherry, resulting in a layered whiskey that is smooth and easy-drinking.
The Irishman (40% ABV)
As with most Irish whiskies, The Irishman opens with fruity aromas, only these venture into candied apple territory with brighter notes of green apple, pear, and banana coming forward once you give the liquid in the glass a swirl. Take a sip, however, and those hints of fruit give way to flavors of vanilla, light brown sugar, and even a touch of cardamom. With a light body and short finish, this whiskey makes for an easy, quick sipper or—dare we say—a celebratory shot should your St. Patrick’s Day festivities tumble into unpredictable territory.