Food & Drink

6 wonderful Irish whiskeys for St Patrick’s Day celebrations

One of Ireland’s lucky charms are these amber drops, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

There has been a growing number of new Irish whiskey distilleries lately
Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey, Tesco There has been a growing number of new Irish whiskey distilleries lately

A public holiday in Ireland that’s celebrated the world over, St Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday (March 17) this year, and with a weekend roster of parades, parties and spirited fun planned, now’s the time to explore the Emerald Isle’s rich flavour profiles.

And while the Irish whiskey industry is dominated by a handful of big players, what’s truly exciting is the emergence of new distilleries, says Dawn Davies, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange.

“Pouring some amazing and interesting liquid that blends the richness of tradition with the promise of innovation,” enthuses Davies.

“As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, it’s these rising stars that ignite the spirit of excitement, shaping a new wave in Irish whiskey.”

She says brands like Dingle are pioneers of this spirited journey, and easy-drinking whiskies like Two Stacks Single Grain and Powers Rye are the ones “bringing a touch of magic to every sip.”

Indeed, with Irish whiskey enjoying a revival, Sam Simmons, award-winning head blender at Master of Malt, says: “Beyond technicalities, rules and regulations, or production differences, Irish whiskey captures the affection of millions of whisk(e)y drinkers.”

Simmons continues: “For its stories, rich legacy of what it has been historically and, with so many new producers in the country now, what it will be in the coming decades.

“It’s no exaggeration to say all eyes are on the rise and rise of Irish whiskey in the 21st century – and St Patrick’s Day is the perfect occasion to explore this growing category.”

To put you on the front foot, these are the names to know…

1. Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey, £21.25, 70cl, Tesco

Tullamore DEW Irish Whiskey, Tesco

With a new look label ahead of St Patrick’s Day, Tullamore’s distinctively packaged design features an Irish wolfhound to highlight its heritage – and first appeared on the bottle in the 1950s. Triple-distilled for a smoother, lighter style, this type is unique to Ireland; whereas Scottish whisky is double-distilled. Versatile with vanilla, honey and fruity tones, the sherried spicy notes lend themselves to all manner of cocktails.

2. Samuel Gelston’s Limited Release Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, £27, 70cl, Waitrose

Samuel Gelston’s Limited Release Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, Waitrose

A shimmer of stardust surrounds Samuel Gelston’s… a collaboration between the owner and his actor cousin Sam Neill (best known for Jurassic Park). The time spent maturing in bourbon and French oak (which previously held New Zealand pinot noir) is evident on the nose with summer berry aromas, baking spice and delightful red fruit sweetness which lingers on the palate; a little vanilla oakiness with hints of honey closes the finish.

3. Two Stacks Single Grain Double Barrel, £31.75, 70cl, The Whisky Exchange

Two Stacks Single Grain Double Barrel, The Whisky Exchange

With a lovely floral nose, aromas range from baked pear to almond, orange to citrus, Two Stacks showcases the elegance of Irish whiskey. Matured in oloroso sherry and American oak barrels, rich vanilla and dried fruits tantalise the tastebuds, giving way to more fresh fruit, soft spice and hint of sherry on the smooth, lingering finish.

4. Powers Irish Rye Whiskey, £34.75, 70cl, The Whisky Exchange

Powers Irish Rye Whiskey, The Whisky Exchange

Naturally spicy, this rye whiskey from historic brand, Powers (their Gold Label is a classic), is aged in a blend of virgin, first-fill, and refill American oak casks – and its peppery character works well in classic cocktails such as a Manhattan. Complex and robust, aromas of orange, toffee and spice draw you in, with flavours of dried fruits, brown sugar and sweet vanilla. A dash of water unlocks a note of red liquorice on the spicy finish.

5. JJ Corry The Hanson Whiskey, £52.94, 70cl, Master of Malt

JJ Corry The Hanson Whiskey, Master of Malt (Alex Holbrook)

Championing the lost art of whiskey bonding, JJ Corry have revived the craft of creating special blends by sourcing spirits from carefully selected distilleries – blending and bottling them into bespoke flavour profiles, such as The Hanson. Undeniably delicious, it’s a mellow, rich blend of Irish grain whiskey and offers waves of vanilla, notes of sweet, ripe, tropical fruits, gentle spice and soft oak tones on the honeyed finish.

6. Irish Single Malt #1  14 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Whiskey, £58.95, 50cl, Master of Malt

(Alex Holbrook)

Something special, this limited edition single malt is testament to time spent ageing and how the flavour profile can be so exquisitely satisfying – and the label’s sure to be a big hit. With a creamy, fruity character and scents of apricots and spice, it’s smooth and creamy with biscuity flavours, orange zest, warm hints of mixed spice and fruitcake on the long, lingering finish. A limited edition worth seeking out. Sláinte!