The Best Irish Whiskey of 2019 Is Like a Fine Wine
The Tyrconnell redefines a flourishing whiskey category
Yes, the Irish invented whiskey.
And they have the fastest growing spirits category in the world, which is an amazing rebound for a country that once accounted for 60 percent of the world whiskey market in the 18th century but saw that figure dwindle to just one percent by the 1980s.
And where there were four distilleries a few years back, there are now 26 distilleries in the country, with 16 more in the works, according to Beam Suntory Irish Whiskey Ambassador Michael Egan.
So it’s a good time to be in the Irish whiskey game. Helping matters is that Irish whiskey tends to be a smoother ride if you’re new to brown spirits, and certainly a consistent one. And inexpensive! You can find a really good bottle for under $30.
If there’s a drawback, it’s that the revived industry is just now starting to show, no pun intended, an adventurous spirit. This is why The Tyrconnell 16 Year Old Oloroso & Moscatel Cask Finish Single Malt is our Irish whiskey pick of the year. It’s the oldest release in The Tyrconnell family — a distillery dating back to 1762 and a namesake expression launched in 1876, albeit with several decades of inactivity until 1987 — and it follows the same M.O. as its younger siblings. As with the others, this is a single malt double distilled (in lieu of the usual triple distilled) in pot stills, giving the expression a fruitier flavor.
The limited-edition 16 Year Old is aged in ex-bourbon barrels, followed by additional maturation in wine casks from the Andalucia region of Southern Spain; these casks were initially seasoned with Oloroso sherry before a second seasoning with Moscatel wine.
The end result is sweet, floral, creamy and well-rounded, with a long finish. It’s still a smooth sipper, but there’s a complexity here that I’ve rarely experienced in the Irish whiskey category.
Some shoutouts to Irish whiskey from the previous few months, along with a few other standout brown spirits that do not hail from Scotland or the U.S.:
Since I wrote about Melbourne’s Starward whisky in July, I’ve been able to visit the distillery and try one new expression (Two-Fold) that I liked even more than their exceptional Nova release.
It wasn’t the summer of frose or Aperol spritzes … this was the summer where we embraced whisky again and particularly (but not exclusively) those spirits hailing from Japan.
The Tyrconnell wasn’t the only Irish brand trying out interesting barrels. Knappogue Castle debuted The 12 Years Old Château Pichon Baron Finish, part of a Cask Finish Series that also includes Marsala and Barolo wine cask expressions.
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