Love whiskey? We lineup the best in Irish whiskey from top shelf to affordable.
When it comes to the battle of the boozes, vodka and whiskey have always been neck-and-neck for the U.S.'s best-selling spirit. And Irish whiskey is more popular than you think! It's been taking the lead in the alcohol industry and become a drink of choice whether it's served straight, on the rocks, in a mixed drink, cocktail or shot. More than 5.9 million cases of it were sold in the United States of whiskey, generating $1.3 billion in revenue, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
The revival in worldwide admiration for Irish whiskey over the last three decades has made a high demand. Ireland has 18 Irish whiskey distilleries and there are 16 more opening up since this liquid delicacy has boomed. More and more Irish whiskey brands have been popping up and other countries around the world like Japan, Canada and Australia and producing whiskey to become a part of the movement. Now it's time for you to get in the spirit! Even if you don't know a lot about Irish whiskey, you don't have to! Yep, that's right, don't be intimidated... we've made it super easy for you to buy Irish whiskey because we rounded up the 15 best types of Irish Whiskey for you. By the way, high-end Irish whiskey makes one of the best gifts ideas for men, so read on to see which bottle he'd like best. From old standards like Bushmills and Jameson to the exotic skull-label Irish Whiskey, Sexton and newer arrivals like Slane Irish Whiskey, we've got a ton of sips for you to try.
What is Irish Whiskey?
Irish whiskey was invented around the 12th century in Europe and was one of the earliest distilled drinks that existed. Now, it's originated throughout the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There are approximately 65-69 calories in a shot of Irish whiskey and its taste can be described as smooth, light, rich oak, fruity or grainy.
So what's Irish whiskey made of? In order for something to be categorized as "Irish whiskey," it must include malted barley and may include other unmalted cereal grains. There are four different types of Irish whiskey: Malt, pot still, grain and blended. Most often, Irish Whiskey is triple distilled from unmalted barley that's blended with grain whiskey—there are single malts of Irish whiskey as well. Fun fact: By Irish law, all whiskeys have to be aged for a minimum of three years in barrels and are usually bottled at 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 80 proof) or higher, reaching 120 proof. This spirit, in particular, is known for its exceptional smoothness so it's no wonder Irish whiskey sales are growing and more Irish whiskey brands are hitting the market.
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Best Irish Whiskey
Let's start with one of the best-selling Irish whiskey labels: Jameson. To the nose, the Jameson Black Barrel has intensified aromas of butterscotch, fudge and creamy toffee and you'll taste abundant nutty notes alongside the smooth sweetness of spice and vanilla. This 750 ml bottle of high-end whiskey matured in a combination of American oak, sherry casks and double charred bourbon barrels. In terms of the type of Irish whiskey, it's a blend of small-batch grain and traditional Irish pot still whiskeys.
Originated in Midleton, East Cork, Ireland at the Old Midleton Distillery, Redbreast 12 Year Single Pot Irish Whiskey was the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold Medal Winner. It has a sweet and subtle flavor and is known for its smoothness. Aged in an oak cask that let its flavors mature, there is no additional water added during the bottling process and you'll always experience a full-bodied whiskey for under $100. Redbreast is used in a variety of citrus-based cocktails, including the Robin Song or the Red Hush.
This Irish Single Malt Whiskey has 40% ABV and is aged 16 years individually seasoned in hand-selected bourbon barrels and sherry casks before being married and finished in port casks. Bushmills is a classy malt from Ireland and known as a rare "3-wood whiskey" (bourbon, sherry and port cask aging) that yields distinct complexity, texture and finish. "As a beginner to drinking whiskey this actually tasted good," shares a Drizzly reviewer. "It was super smooth. It doesn’t have that harsh burning that you associate with whiskey. I would highly recommend this whiskey."
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An annual award-winner best in its class at the World Whiskies Awards since its release, get the Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey for $72.99. This Irish Whiskey is 92 proof and is made using an unconventional mash bill crafted from 95% corn and 5% malted barley that's triple distilled and matured exclusively in French oak Ex-Cabernet Sauvignon red wine casks from California. The rose-gold whiskey has only been around since March 2015, but has a growing reputation in popularity by whiskey enthusiasts.
For an affordable price of $30.99, the Sexton 750 ml bottle of single malt Irish whiskey is distilled in copper pot stills and is made from 100% Irish Malted Barley then Matured in European Oak Ex-Sherry Butts for 4 years. "Affordable, tasty and enjoyable" are the words reviewers use to describe this Irish whiskey that delivers smooth, rich dried fruit flavors.
Founded by Ciaran Mulgrew in the year of 1983, The Quiet Man 8 Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey has a golden color in the glass and exceptional notes of vanilla, oak and honey. The scent of this Irish whiskey originated in Derry, Ireland evokes fresh-cut apple and pear fragrances. Finished in first-fill Bourbon barrels, this proof 80 award-winning labels is known for its smooth textures and complex flavors.
This limited-edition Tullamore DEW 15 Year Old Trilogy Small Batch Irish Whiskey is made from three different grains, including malted barley, unmalted barley and corn. This trilogy of Irish whiskey has a rich aroma filled with tropical fruits, mixed nuts, tannins and oaks. The palate then transitions to flavors of chocolate fudge and whipped cream, which makes this blended Irish whiskey a good choice for after-dinner drinks.
Slane Irish whiskey uses three different types of casks: Virgin, seasoned and sherry. For this reason, it complements other spirits when crafting cocktails. "Well balanced, clean, yet full of character," says a 5-star Drizzly reviewer. "Perfect for cocktails or sipping." Distilled in the iconic city of Slane, Ireland, also known as the Rock n' Roll Capital of Ireland, the triple-casked whiskey is a legacy label in every liquor store.
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As a Gold Medal winner at the 2016 Irish Whiskey Awards, Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish whiskey is aged for a minimum of 14 years in bourbon barrels, then finished in Oloroso sherry casks to complete a minimum of 16 years. It has a deep orange finish and the flavors consist of fresh citrus, melons, vanilla and mellow. Fun history fact: This Irish whiskey is named after a real castle built by the Irish clan MacNamara in the 15th century. Grab this whiskey bottle that has nutty and sherry notes at Reserve Bar.
If you're into smoky flavors on the nose and palette, this high-rated Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey is for you. It has an unusual peated profile, which is very rare for an Irish whiskey. Connemara is actually known as the only Irish whiskey with a smoky flavor so it's a unique top-shelf item. You can also expect notes of honey, barley, chocolate and salt. Pick up your bottle at Caskers for $44.99.
Voted by 200+ people at 7.5/10-stars on average, Powers Gold Label is a high-quality Irish Whiskey that has been distilled for nearly 230 years. With notes of cinnamon, white pepper, honey and cloves, plus an underlying scent of toasted oak, sweet fruit, butterscotch and orange zest, this Irish whiskey appeals to a lot of different palettes and is pretty versatile. A great choice for beginners, this renowned whiskey comes from Powers, one of the first distilleries in the world and is a good choice for new whiskey drinkers. "She liked the sweeter taste," a reviewer says about his wife's experience trying the whiskey. "Very smooth and complex favor."
This Midleton Vintage Release is one of the finest Irish whiskeys around. Only 50 casks are made each year, so it's exclusive and limited. Known for its honey gold appearance, it's named after Midleton which is the location of the distillery, and is a top-of-the-line whiskey, hand-selected by the Master Distiller Brian Nation once each year from a limited selection of premium ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks, aged anywhere from 12-25 years.
Exotic sweet notes are in this delightful whiskey that's been awarded three times. Opposed to other "finished" whiskies, this one matures for a full 12 years in three oak cask types: American bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and uniquely, Spanish Malaga casks. Yellow Spot is a rich infusion of dark fruits, prunes, dates and figs with licorice, marzipan, toasted oak and aromatic spices.
The Irishman Small Batch Single Malt Irish Whiskey earned a score of 94 points from the Beverage Testing Institute – and it won the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The fan-favorite whiskey is matured in a special combo of American oak casks that were previously used to mature bourbon and European oak casks previously used to mature Oloroso Sherry. You can expect notes of vanilla, sweet granola, toasted almonds and honey on the palette, finished with a touch of malt and sweet oak.
This is one of the newer Irish whiskey labels and it's included in Ian Buxton’s publication “101 Whiskeys to try before you die," so you can bet it's pretty darn good! It has a long and elegant finish with dark chocolate and is distilled entirely from barley, both malted and unmalted. It's known for being an easy-drinking Irish whiskey because it's super smooth on the lips and palette—a good choice for women whiskey-drinkers!
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