The Irish whiskey market in America has doubled over the last five years. The reason for that phenomenal growth is simple: Irish whiskeys are generally high-quality, approachable, and reasonably priced. That said, there are a flood of brands coming into the market, and it can be tough to tell the best Irish whiskies from lesser brands.
All Irish whiskeys are aged a minimum of three years in oak casks, and they are traditionally triple-distilled, versus double-distillation for bourbon and Scotch whiskies. The result is a style of whiskey that is generally lighter and fruitier than either bourbon or Scotch. Of course, there are exceptions to these generalizations, but these serve as a good rule of thumb.
To get a good understanding of Irish whiskeys, tasting your way through several expressions becomes key. Here are five great Irish whiskeys to taste as you begin your exploration. These offer a variety of flavor profiles and styles to help you choose the Irish whiskey that is right for you.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
Jameson is the category leader and a classic example of Irish whiskey. Made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley, then triple distilled for maximum smoothness, Jameson is slightly sweet and easy drinking. It’s the perfect place to start your Irish whiskey journey. Look for citrus and green apple flavors.
Jameson Black Barrel
While regular Jameson ages five to seven years, Black Barrel averages 12 years’ maturity. This is a deeper, darker expression of Jameson, with vanilla, baked apple, and pie spice notes. It’s hard to find, but worth the effort.
Redbreast Single Pot Still 12 Year
Triple-distilled in traditional copper pot stills, Redbreast now also offers a cask strength version. Highly regarded among whiskey enthusiasts, Redbreast is fuller flavored than both Jameson marques and has a bigger, creamier mouthfeel. A delicious dram.
Michael Collins Irish Whiskey
Unique in that it is double-distilled versus the traditional triple-distillation, Michael Collins is a blend of whiskies from four to 12 years old. Notes of vanilla, oak, and citrus abound.
Michael Collins Single Malt 10 Year
Lightly peated, this full-bodied whiskey is double-distilled and features notes of chocolate and orange before giving way to a gentle smoky finish.