Everbody’s Got A Little Irish (Whisky that is)
Come St. Patrick’s Day, a lot of beer and Irish whisky are going to be poured down the gullets of the merry souls looking to have a gala time. And while it will be nice to have the standard Paddy’s, Redbreast, Jameson’s, Tullamore Dew, or Murphy’s to give you company, nothing can really better it if you could secure some higher-end expressions or Irish whisky collectors’ items and some good friends are there to share it with you and make it taste even nicer, not to talk about some Van Morrison at the side.
Now, when it comes to the prestige of the Irish whisky, the Celtic whisky has always been one up than their Irish cousins and the connoisseur’s attention has showered more over it than the Irish version. However, things have somewhat tilted towards the latter in the last one decade, thanks to great creativity and innovation on the part of some of the best distilleries of Ireland.
But before we go further into this, let us have a look at what Irish whisky exactly is and how it differs from say, Scotch, Canadian or American. The cardinal thing is that Irish whisky goes through distillation three times before it is allowed to enter the oak barrels to age there. In comparison, Bourbon from America is distilled no more than once and Scotch, twice. Used oak barrels are transported from American distilleries to age the liquor and in the last phase of the aging process, it is kept in sherry, port or Madeira barrels, as those master distillers see fit. Irish whisky is also normally lighter in profile than Scotch and uses both malted and un-malted grain for the blend.
$45: Single Malt from Michael Collins: peat smoke is used to dry the barley used for this Irish whisky and this accounts for the smoky aroma of this single-malt Irish whisky. May appear a bit spicy at the start, but gradually the taste smoothes out. It is aged in oak barrels for 8-12 years.
$250: Jameson’s Vintage Reserve: this is as far as you can go from the typical Irish Whisky. A combination of whiskies aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and port casks, this Irish whiskey is an expression that comes expensive but which is worth the every last dollar you splurge on it. Oily, rich, deep, and with layered flavors, this is almost as good as you can get!
$43: Peated Single Malt from Connemera: when it comes to Irish whiskey, this is the peatiest of the lot and could compete the Irish Sea itself in its turbulence and lack of calm– somewhat of a stark contrast with your standard Irish whiskey!
$48: Twelve-Year Old Special Reserve, Powers: long finished and oaky, this is a superior version of pot-still Irish whiskey and mixes honey flavor with spiciness– the signature Powers mix. Has hit the US market only recently.
$45: Single-Grain Irish Whiskey, Greenore: aged in Bourbon casks and prepared from un-malted grains, this has somewhat a lighter flavor than standard Irish Whiskey.
$35: Single-Malt Irish Whiskey, Tyrconnell: Made by the lone independent distillery in Ireland, the Cooley Distillery, this one comes in three finishes: Sherry, Madeira and Port cask finish.
$1,000: Knappogue Castle 1951; Here comes the big one. Made in the Tullamore B-Daly Distillery years ago, no more than 1000 bottles left. So collectors may hurry. Aroma of molasses and bananas with gentle whiffs of honey, oak, apples and licorice.
$115: 21-year old Single Malt from Bushmills. Nutty flavor with notes of butterscotch and dried fruit. Aged for no less than twenty years in Bourbon barrels and Madeira casks for finish.
$150: Midleton Very Rare: limited edition release every year. Superior blend and floral flavor with notes of honey, lavender and almonds. Aged 12-21 years.
$60: Green Spott: another limited release per year. Aged 7-8 years, a quarter of the blend coming from sherry casks. Notes of menthol, coffee and honey in this Irish Whiskey. An interesting one to add to one’s Irish whiskey portfolio.