What defines the best Irish Whiskeys? We look at some of the best Irish whiskeys on the market in terms of smoothness, taste, affordability.
There is an never ending amount of great Irish Whiskeys coming on to the market at the moment. Some of these Whiskeys come from the original Distilleries of Ireland and many are coming from new distilleries popping up on the Island of Ireland.
If you’re here looking for Whiskey Stones, you can purchase them here.
Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world, though a long period of decline from the late 19th century onwards greatly damaged the industry. So much so that although Ireland boasted over 30 distilleries in the 1890s, a century later, this number had fallen to just three.
There is a real renaissance in the Irish Whiskey movement at the moment which is fantastic to see, considering the history of this golden nectar and our beautiful Island. There has been a decline in Distilleries over the past few centuries for a variety of reasons, most to do with the economic fortunes of those involved but now a corner has been turned and once more, Whiskey will be getting distilled in many locations over Ireland (apparently there are over 25 in construction at the moment around the country.).
Most Irish Whiskeys differ from their Scottish cousins in that Peat isn’t used in the process (it is in some) and is triple distilled so offers a smoother tasting experience.
We shouldn’t have to tell you that at Manly Stuff HQ, we’re fond of a drop of the good stuff. Pairing a Whiskey with a fine Cigar is one of life’s luxuries and something to be savoured.
We’ve been sent different bottles of Whiskey from well established Irish Whiskey Distilleries and some new kids on the block, lets begin talking about the Best Irish Whiskeys around.
The Dingle Whiskey Distillery was crafted and conceived by three independent spirits: Oliver Hughes; Liam LaHart and Peter Mosley. Oliver, Liam and Peter are the people behind Porterhouse Brewing Company; one of the pioneers of craft brewing in Ireland in 1996. Craft beer in Ireland in the mid-1990s was not appealing to the masses. The idea was radical to some, simply mad to the rest. The refined pallets of the then youthful Oliver, Liam and Peter had seen a love for beer. As their palates became more and more experienced to the taste of Earth’s natural ingredients, the attention turned to whiskey.
The long awaited Single Malt Batch 4 from the Dingle Distillery in Co. Kerry. This whiskey has been carefully matured in a combination of of Bourbon, Port and Sherry casks, resulting in a full flavoured, balanced mix of vanilla, oak, dried fruit, apricot and sultanas.
This marriage of Bourbon, Sherry and Port casks has resulted in a full flavoured, yet harmoniously balanced mix of creamy vanilla sweetness from the American oak, which combines beautifully with dried fruit flavours of apricot and sultanas from the fortified wine casks.
Colour – Deep gold with hints of amber.
Nose – Fresh and smooth
Taste – Vanilla, Oak, Dried Fruit, Apricots
Finish – Warming, elegant and gently melts away
Clonakilty Distillery founders, the Scully family, have farmed their coastal land for eight successive generations. A commitment to both heritage and innovation has led them to revive ancient malting barley varieties. They are patiently nurturing their scare grains in order to create a range of whiskies that honors the unique inheritance. Clonakilty Single Batch Irish Whiskey is a premium whiskey created from hand selected 8 year old grain and 10 year old triple distilled malt.
An Irish non-chill filtered, triple distilled whiskey and finished at the Atlantic Warehouse of the Clonakilty Distillery. This delicious single batch blend is bottled at 43.6% and is the first whiskey from the Clonakilty Distillery. On the nose you’re going to get hints of vanilla, pear and fresh leather tones with a taste of pepper and ginger, hazelnut and almond notes.
Clonakilty were kind enough to send us a bottle of their Single Batch/Double Oak whiskey which recently won Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
We’re really looking forward to see how Clonakilty continue and the heights they climb to. They’ve a brand new state of the art distillery down in Cork and we can’t wait to get down to visit!
Sliabh Liag Distillers is the first distilling company in the Donegal for over 175 years! Established with the purpose of reclaiming the distilling heritage of Donegal. They have returned to Sliabh Liag with their team to create a legacy that the whole community can be proud of. When you think of artisan creations in Donegal you usually think of tweed – Add fine Whiskey to that now too. Located on the Sliabh Liag peninsula, the distillery is surrounded by one of the world’s most striking landscapes populated by resilient people, steeped in folklore and with a legendary distilling heritage.
Driven by a passion for authenticity, the goal of Sliadh Liag Distillers is to recreate the rich liquids and challenging smoky Irish whiskies from before the industrial revolution, harnessing the knowledge and legends of the west coast of Ireland to bring a modern, confident Donegal Gaeltacht to the world through super-premium spirits brands.
Named after the mysterious Silkies, mythical sea maidens that legend says once lived off the coast of Donegal. This is the first whiskey released from the newly formed Sliadh Liag distillery.
Colour – Straw gold with hints of amber.
Nose – Fresh and malty, brisk like green apples, opens to be more honeyed with a gentle butteryness.
Taste – Super soft, honey to the fore, bright, hints of orange zest, digestive biscuits, brioche, butterscotch and stem ginger.
Finish – Warming, elegant and gently melts away
The House of Camus has partnered with the Baring family-owned Revelstoke Trust to create Lambay Irish whiskey, Sabine Sheehan says“Our approach in the Irish market will be simple but challenging, geo-targeting consumers in key locations both in the on-trade and off-trade and driving brand awareness over the next three years.” Lambay Irish Whiskey is located off the coast of Dublin on Lambay Island (home to wallabies!!). We’ve wanted to visit the island for many years as it always seems so mysterious – close but far. Lambay Irish Whiskey is distilled in West Cork using a blend of malted barley and grain whiskey and is matured in bourbon barrels with a pleasant cognac cask finish.
Lambay Irish Whiskey is a portfolio of Irish Whiskeys that bring a unique cognac cask finish to the Irish whiskey category. Created through a collaboration of leading family owned Cognac producer- Camus and the Baring Revelstoke Trust, the whiskeys are inspired by and named after the island of Lambay, Ireland, a private wildlife sanctuary owned by the Baring Family since 1904. Lambay Island’s Trinity Well water is also used to craft thisIrish whiskey …
A beautiful Whiskey, the cognac casks add an interesting depth to the Whiskey and it’s one we can heartily recommend. You can purchase it here for €42 from the Celtic Whiskey Shop.
Floral and citrus aromas with a hint of spiciness, you can taste pepper, malt with some floral notes on the tongue.
Pearse ‘Founders Choice’ 12yr Single Malt Irish Whiskey, is a 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey produced by the newly opened Pearse Lyons Distillery located in Dublin City Centre.
On the nose this Irish Whiskey ripens with orchard fruits of white peach, apple and a tingle of spiced pear that come together to produce herbal and pine notes. Hints of lemon, dried orange and a touch of honeysuckle can be experienced from this Irish Whiskey. Pearse Founder’s Choice has a medium to long finish, is deliciously silky smooth and leaves you with warm notes of ginger and clove.
Roe & Co is named in honour of George Roe, the once world-famous whiskey maker who helped build the golden era of Irish Whiskey in the 19th century.
His distillery, George Roe and Co extended over 17 acres on Thomas Street in Dublin and was once Ireland’s largest distillery. Diageo will now build on this rich heritage with the creation of a new distillery by converting the historic former Guinness Power House on Thomas Street.
Roe & Co is made from the finest hand-selected stocks of Irish malt and grain whiskies and aged in bourbon casks. It has the signature smoothness of Irish Whiskey with remarkable depth of flavor – a luxuriously smooth blend, with a perfect harmony between the intense fruitiness of the malt and the mellow creaminess of the grain whiskies.
West Cork Black Cask, is a Blended Irish Whiskey from the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen.
The whiskey itself has been matured in some highly charred bourbon barrels, with each barrel charred to a level of 5. From this chariness comes vanilla, butterscotch and toffee flavours which in turn brings smoothness and sweetness to a whiskey.
On the nose, West Cork Black Cask has aromas of vanilla, toasted oak and spices which remind you of your favourite curry dish. The palate is light and delicate making the whiskey well balanced. the finish is that of chocolate and ginger.
West Cork Irish Whiskey – Bourbon Cask (40%) is a blended Irish whiskey containing 75% grain Irish Whiskey and 25% malt Irish Whiskey.
Patiently matured in the first fill bourbon casks to deliver a smooth, subtle and quintessential Irish Whiskey.
A light oak colour with aromas of malt, citrus and cracked pepper. Tastes of malt, citrus, apple, nutmeg with a lingering sweetness.
An easy drinking, smooth instant favourite.
The Jameson Caskmates release is a unique whiskey that has been made with the help of Cork’s Franciscan Well brewery. Barrels that had been previously used for Jameson whiskey were taken to the Franciscan Well Brewery to use in the ageing of their full-bodied craft stout.
This has added notes of cocoa, coffee and butterscotch to this classic Irish whiskey.
Whereas Jameson Original is light, floral, and a little fruity, Caskmates Stout Edition is caramel-y and creamy. It still has a light mouthfeel and a smooth finish with just a little burn but instead of grassy fruitiness, there’s the richness of butterscotch. The nose is especially different, showcasing burnt sugar, toffee, and campfire scents.
Available for around €38
Nose: Crisp orchard fruits like green apples and pears, mild pot-still spices.
Taste: Subtle touch of hops and cocoa beans, marzipan and charred oak.
Finish: Long and sweet with milk chocolate and butterscotch.
The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil: €45.99
The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil is a relatively new IrishWhiskey launched in July 2015.
The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil Irish Whiskey is a non chill-filtered 46% blend of malt and grain whiskies, aged for many years in selected casks. It takes its name from the Liberties area of Dublin, a riotous quarter of the city known as ‘Hell’ in the 1700s. An oak-carved devil stood watch over the entrance to the Liberties watching the mayhem happening within.
Over time the devil disappeared and, legend has it, the carving was made into whiskey barrels; its dark power subsuming and infusing the maturing spirit.
The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil is a premium whiskey for those who are looking for a more complex Irish Whiskey with depth and spirit, to be enjoyed on the rocks or in crafted cocktails.
The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil Irish Whiskey is distilled and matured in Ireland. We really enjoyed this Whiskey, both in terms of it’s apperance and rich, malty tasting notes with aromas of dark fruits and soft wooded notes. Think a smooth and spicy taste with notes of caramel and a smooth and lasting finish.
Powers Whiskey – John Lane: €63.99
Powers Whiskey is a company that needs little introduction, being founded in 1791, it’s now made in the Middleton Distillery in Cork. We were kindly invited along to a Powers Tasting event in Louis Copeland & Sons recently where we got to sample 3 different Powers Whiskey, The John Lane was our favourite, it’s their 12 Year Old Offering.
Powers John’s Lane was first released in 2011, picking up many awards along the way. It’s a robust, heavy pot still spirit and is aged in ex-bourbon casks with a little sherry cask ageing.
Power’s John Lane was intended to recreate the old style of whiskey once made in Dublin. At full strength, it’s very soft and smooth, feel velvety on the tongue. It is crisp with a spice laden palate with a taste of fruit and toffee. Add water to reduce, it is then more citrusy with fruit aromas being released.
A dark finish, almost oaklike makes this Whiskey a real treat and an absolute beauty to enjoy for a special occasion. Like a Wednesday, Wednesday’s are special.
Prizefight Whiskey: €49.99
is a fine Irish whiskey
finished in American rye casks, which required a unique collaboration between two craft distillers: one in Ireland, and the other in America.
West Cork Distilling created the whiskey
, and Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire arranged the finishing.
Together, they produced a fresh, clean whiskey with fruit and floral notes that gets a hit of spice from the rye cask finish.
Prizefight Irish Whiskey has a light nose with aromas of vanilla, gingers, apples, mint and lemon peel. The palate is fresh and lightly fruity with flavours of vanilla, oak and prickly spice. Prizefight Irish Whiskey is a pale lemon yellow colour.
We’re quite a fan of a Whiskey sour and used this whiskey in one recently – perfection.
Writers’ Tears Copper Pot: €44.99
Always looking to save some money, we first came across Writers Tears when in the States a few years back, we grabbed a bottle of Writers Tears going through the airport and we were instantly enamored with it. Clare of Walsh Whiskey Distilleries was kind enough to send us a new bottle to sample (the original didn’t last long!)
This is a fine whiskey, which strictly speaking is a blend but only contains pot still whiskey and malt whiskey. Unlike other blends it does not contain any grain whiskey. This has been extremely popular since it was first released and is a favourite with our staff.
Writers Tears has won a plethora of awards, it’s a deliciously soft, sweet, easy drinking whiskey and we absolutely love the Name and branding of this one.
Writers Tears won the award of Best Irish Blend Under €50 in the 2013 Irish Whiskey Awards.
Writers’ Tears is a mix of a Single Malt and Single Post Still whiskey. Distilled from 60% Pot Still and 40% Malt. It’s a triple distilled, non peat whiskey which is matured and aged in bourbon oak casks.
. A nose of apple with a hint of vanilla and honey with a gently spiced palate with ginger, butterscotch and background notes of toasted oak. An elegant finish and a beautiful gift for someone.
GLENDALOUGH 7 YEAR OLD SINGLE MALT: €48.99
The 7 year old Single Malt from Glendalough Distillery is an impressive first release.
An impressive first release of single malt Irish whiskey from the recently formed Glendalough Distillery. This has been bottled from malt originally double distilled at a different Irish distillery and is very good considering it is only seven years old. We will have to wait a few more years to taste whiskey from their own stills, but this is good value for money and has some tasty spice notes, along with some fresh citrus and barley flavours.
Glendalough Irish Whiskey 7 Year Old
The 7 seas bridge 7 continents that some say were made in 7 days. It’s the world’s favourite number and some say, a lucky one. Glendalough Distillery have done really well here with a beautiful 7 year old single malt.
The Man on the bottle is that of St Kevin. According to their website, before he built his “City of 7 Churches” at Glendalough, aul Kevin spent 7 years in the wilderness.
As ever it’s all about the man on our bottle, St Kevin. Before he built his “City of 7 Churches” at Glendalough, Kevin spent 7 savage years in the wilderness.
He lived off the land around the upper lake, completely at one with nature, he was the kind of outdoorsman that’d put some of today’s action-men to shame. Tested through 7 sharp winters and inspired by the blush of 7 summers, it shaped him to be the man we revere. This whiskey was made in the traditional style its character shaped by 7 years.
Have a look on their bottle, you’ll see 7 silver crosses. “These will lead you to each of the 7 churches, should you ever be stirred into going to Glendalough.”
Glendalough has got to be one of the most special places in Ireland
The nose is rich and sweet, a premium single malt Irish whiskey with a touch of cinnamon and more than a hint of citrus fruits – orange zest, lemon infused with vanilla ice cream. A touch of fresh floral notes like meadow flowers.
The taste. A silky velvety smooth palate with the returning orange zest tones to the fore, with rich creme brulee and dark chocolate notes
and just enough cinnamon and white pepper spice to keep it interesting, followed by the beautiful robust malt and oak influenced flavours, almost butterscotch, which mix wonderfully as the warmth expands through.
The finish is luxurious and lingering, the spicy, sweet notes elegantly marry on the finish and stay an eternity. Everything you’d expect from the perfect sipping whiskey.
If Dublin was the epicentre of distilling in Ireland during Irish whiskey’s golden era, then the Liberties area was the epicentre of distilling in Dublin. George Roe’s Thomas Street operation and William Jameson & Co’s Marrowbone Lane were at one stage the two biggest distilleries in the capital, with the John Power & Son’s John’s Lane Distillery not far behind. Between them, they occupied over 36 acres of the bustling area outside the old city walls.
By the 1920s, the first two had disappeared, with Power’s bowing out and moving to Cork in the 1970s. For around 40 years, not a drop of whiskey was distilled near the banks of the River Liffey, until Stephen and Jack Teeling woke the Spirit of Dublin on Newmarket Square.
The sons of John Teeling, founder of the Cooley Distillery, they already had valuable experience of the industry. In fact, the family name is embedded in Dublin distilling since 1782, when Walter Teeling set up a craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane.
Teeling Irish Whiskey Small Batch
Their background from the Cooley Distillery meant they were able to secure some superb mature whiskey stock to bottle and brand until their own Dublin spirit has rested sufficiently in oak casks (we were informed it should be this year whilst on the tour).
Teelings Flagship Irish whiskey and their attempt to create the most interesting Blended Irish whiskey. This small batch bottling consists of hand selected casks which are given further maturation in ex-rum barrels imparting extra character and smooth flavour unique to Irish whiskey. Bottling at 46% with no chill filtration completes an Irish whiskey of true character. Nose: Ripe fruity aromas. Candyfloss, dried apricots and some apples and pears on the nose, Palate:Sweet and fruity on the palate with good mouthfeel. Flavours of fresh apricot, pears and apples with some spicy vanilla infused oak. Dryer towards the finish with some sappy, oak and cedar wood nuances coming through. A young whiskey and surprisingly soft at 46%, a great starting point with a beautiful golden colour. Which looks great in the best handmade Irish whiskey glasses.
Teelings Whiskey were kind enough to invite us in for a tour and tasting (we robbed some glasses, sorry Teelings!) which was really interesting and definitely worth doing.
Hyde 1938 No. 6 Sherry Finish: €49.49
Karl Cummins from Hyde Irish Whiskey was kind enough to organise a bottle of the Hyde 1938 which is aged in Sherry cask. HYDE is handcrafted in very small limited edition batches and non-chill filtered for a more original character, it gets it’s name from Ireland first present – Douglas Hyde was from a small town called Ballaghdareen in Co Roscommon, which is coincidentally where the Handmade Shaving Bowls and Brushes from wetshaving.ie are made. HYDE is a presidential quality whiskey, celebrating the inaugural appointment of Ireland’s very first president Douglas Hyde.
The Hyde family have a long tradition of being involved in the Irish drinks business. From 1640 until 1962 the family ran a tavern located just outside the picturesque town of Bandon in West Cork. The Hydes sold traditional Irish Whiskey and draught stout straight from wooden casks, tapped by hand with a mallet and brass tap.
The drink business runs through twelve generations of the Hyde family tree. At one stage in 1916, their grandfather, granduncle and grandaunt were all publicans in Bandon. Today, Alan and Conor Hyde are the first generation not to own a tavern, but they continue the family tradition by producing some of Ireland’s finest whiskey.
Composed of 8 year old single grain whiskey along with some ‘considerably older’ malt whiskeys. These have been married in oloroso sherry casks giving the whiskey a full-bodied and pleasantly spicy flavour.
Irish Whiskey Conclusion:
As you can probably tell, there has been a HUGE resurgence in Irish Whiskey Distilleries and Brands in the past few years and this is set to continue – competition is always a good thing and there are some really unique and exciting Irish Whiskey companies in development at the moment utilising novel methods. We hope we’ve given you an idea of where to go in terms of some of the best Irish Whiskey out there, one we didn’t mention but is one of our favourites is Green Spot Irish Whiskey.
We know we’ve missed out on many favourites so let us know in the comments what your favourite is!
Please remember to drink alcohol responsibly.