Over the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through a ton of Irish Whiskey with tasting partners Lance Mayhew and Jacob Grier. Together we’ve tasted over 20 different Irish Whiskeys. A common thread ran through all these spirits – smooth and sweet with a medium to short finish. This class of whiskey is fairly easy drinking, perhaps a jumping off point for people who have never explored whiskey to get their toe in the waters and see what all the fuss is about.
Here is Drink Spirits’ Picks for The Top 10 Irish Whiskey for St. Patrick’s Day:
- Michael Collins Single Malt Whiskey
- Jameson 18 Year Blended Irish Whiskey
- Bushmills Black Bush Blended Irish Whiskey
- Tyrconnel Single Malt Madera Cask Finish Whiskey
- Tullamore Dew 10 Year Blended Irish Whiskey
- Wild Goose Soldiers and Heroes Rare Irish Whiskey
- Connemara Peated Single Malt
- Kilbagen Blended Irish Whiskey
- Knappogue Castle 1994 Distillers Private Select Single Malt Irish Whiskey
- Bushmills Blended Irish Whiskey
Here are my tasting notes on all the Irish Whiskies we tried (a ton more Irish Whiskey Reviews Here too):
- Bushmills Blended Irish Whiskey – a nice Irish Whiskey blend with a light golden color. It’s got some corn grain and vanilla on the nose which gives way to a pear, apple and vanilla taste. This whiskey is very soft and easy and very drinkable. Recommended
- Bushmills Black Bush – One of my favorite of the blended Irish Whiskies, it has nice color and a little funky musk, like wet cardboard or a basement. The flavor has some nice floral notes with sweet vanilla and some citrus. It has an ever so slightly spicy finish that turns a little medium sour finish with some smoke. Highly Recommended
- Bushmills 10 – A little thinner than the other Bushmills’ whiskey, it’s got a green apple taste on the front, opening up to more vanilla on the back with a little salt. It’s missing something and didn’t wow me like the Bushmills Black Bush. Mildly Recommended
- Connemara Peated Single Malt – If you’re going for a peated single malt you may as well be drinking scotch. This whiskey has a nice peat and sweet flavor with small fire and a medium sweet finish, but I can’t help but feel it’s missing something. A better bet is to hop over to Ardbeg 10 and go full tilt into the world of peated single malt whisky. Mildly Recommended
- Connemara 12 year – This has less fire than the standard Connemara and its nice and sweet, but what’s missing with Connemara is missing more here. It’s light, thin and easy drinking, but it just never wins me over. Mildly Recommended
- Connemara Cask Strength – A bigger fire upfront masks some of the peat smoke and sweet back. Loses some of the flavor to give fire and that’s not a good thing. Of the three Connemara, the Peated Single Malt is your best bet; this one is only Mildly Recommended.
- Greenore Single Grain 8 yr – 93% corn. Grainy and thin without a lot of upfront flavor. Some heat and sweet on the back. Very one dimensional by design, but I’ve had American corn whiskey that blows this one out of the water. Not Recommended
- Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey – One of the most widely sold Irish Whiskeys in the world, the Jameson blend isn’t really all that great. It’s got a citrus sour bite with a quick finish. Not much there to love, it’s truly a mediocre whiskey. Not Recommended
- Jameson Gold Reserve Blended Irish Whiskey – More character than the traditional blend with more wood and more heat. It’s got a slightly longer finish but it’s still quite sour. Mildly Recommended
- Jameson 12 Year Blended Irish Whiskey – Similar sour taste as the regular blend with some more vanilla notes, some sulfur-like notes on the back end, and a longer finish, but it’s still pretty sour. Mildly Recommended
- Jameson 18 Year Blended Irish Whiskey – Sweet vanilla caramel nose with lots of vanilla. It’s much oilier and thicker than the 12 year and it’s got some nice woodsy notes. There’s some nice heat on the finish and it’s head and shoulders over the regular blend or the 12 year. Highly Recommended
- Kilbagen Blended Irish Whiskey – Very light golden body with some nice vanilla notes on the nose. It’s a very sweet blend, not a ton of fire, and solid vanilla notes. Slight smoke on the finish. One of the most drinkable Irish Whiskey blends. Highly Recommended
- Knappogue Castle 1994 Distillers Private Select Single Malt Irish Whiskey – Smooth and sweet with fruity herbal notes. It’s got a lighter, more spirity sour end. Lots of raves online for this whiskey but I just can’t find enough to love. It’s not bad, but doesn’t live up to the hefty price tag. Recommended
- Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey – Soft sweet nose with vanilla and apricot. Taste follows nose with a small amount of oak. A nice but not exceptional blend. Recommended
- Michael Collins Single Malt Whiskey – Surprisingly good, with nice oak and sweet on the nose with a very smooth and sweet taste. Just the right amount of heat and hints of smoke. A much longer finish than most Irish Whiskeys and clearly more complex and well balanced than almost any other I tried. Highly Recommended
- Tullamore Dew Blended Irish Whiskey - Nice sweet nose lends itself to a hot briney iodine taste. The finish is fast and clean and almost not there. It’s really lacking depth and complexity. It has a sour aftertaste. Not a lot to love. Mildly Recommended
- Tullamore Dew 10 Year Blended Irish Whiskey – Big caramel on the nose with a sweet and almost briney taste. Light spice at the end. Medium finish with some light smoke oak. Recommended
- Tyrconnel Single Malt – Light sweet nose with caramel and vanilla, some nice fire up front and oak in the back. On its own it’s not a fantastic whiskey but the cask finishes you can get it in (port, madera and sherry) all add some needed layers of complexity. Mildly Recommended unfinished but Solidly Recommended in the 3 finish options.
- Wild Geese Soldiers and Heroes Classic Blend – Light and sweet nose with some hints of apricot. Taste follows nose but it’s a little too thin and astringently sour. A quick hit and run with some smoke in the middle of the taste and grainy medium finish. Not Recommended
- Wild Geese Soldiers and Heroes Limited Edition Fourth Centenial – Strawberry vanilla nose with a sweet vanilla taste. Some smoke notes that lead to another sour and grainy finish. Way too grainy but a slight improvement from the Classic Blend. Mildly Recommended
- Wild Geese Soldiers and Heroes Rare Irish – Nice rich amber color and sweet nose with a vanilla honey smoke taste. Medium finish. Better balanced small grain at the end. It’s sweet and head and shoulders above the other Wild Geese Soldiers and Heros Whiskey. Recommended
- Wild Geese Soldiers and Heroes Single Malt – Strawberry vanilla nose with a sweet and slightly smokey taste. Nice body but again with a really over-dry grainy finish. Mildly Recommended
Of all the Irish Whiskey I tasted there were only a few that really wowed me, and only two - Michael Collins Single Malt Whiskey and Bushmills Black Bush – that I’d probably pick up on my own after tasting all these whiskeys.
Be sure to also check out over a dozen more Irish Whiskey Reviews all updated since this list first ran including: Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey Review, Bushmills Irish Honey Whiskey Review and Bushmills 16 Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review.
If you are in Portland, Oregon check out this link for all the Portland St. Patrick’s Day Events going on.Top 10 Irish Whiskey Picks for St. Patrick's Day by Geoff Kleinman