Green beer may be the staple beverage of St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s demand for Irish whiskey that’s growing faster than bourbon.
Irish pot-still whiskey — a premium product made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley in copper pot stills (as seen above) — is the style attracting the most interest, and New Midleton, the same distillery that makes Jameson, is at the forefront of the revival.
Below, you’ll find a number of single pot-still choices. But you’ll also find some non-traditional, forward-thinking ideas taking hold.
As the Irish say, sláinte.
Redbreast Single Cask
This is Redbreast’s first ever single-barrel release, put out last month and available exclusively through online retailer The Whisky Exchange—who were deeply involved in selecting the casks for the bottling. They worked with Midleton Master Blender Billy Leighton to narrow candidate casks down to just two, and samples of these were presented at a special tasting held at their brick-and-mortar shop last year. “It was a dead heat between the Midleton 1991 and the Redbreast 1999,” said Oliver Chilton of The Whisky Exchange, and that 1999 pot-still, sherry-cask-aged sample became the basis of Single Cask.
Midleton Dair Ghaelach
Considered one of the world’s finest whiskeys last year—it was named both best Irish whiskey and third overall whiskey by the Whisky Bible 2016, this spirit finally arrived on American shelves weeks ago.
Irish whiskey is aged in ex-bourbon barrels for the most part, with a smattering matured in port, sherry and rum casks. But Dair Ghaelach brings New Irish Oak into the mix. The blend draws on stocks of 15- to 22-year old pot-still stock before being finished in said native barrels and bottled at cask strength.
“We would expect bourbon drinkers to appreciate the vanilla sweet tones in Midleton Dair Ghaelach,” says Midleton Master of Maturation Kevin O’Gorman, “but in a new light that only a single pot still Irish whiskey can offer: full, complex flavors and a wonderful, creamy mouthfeel.”
Tullamore Dew Trilogy
Released last August, this 15-year old is the oldest whiskey yet from Tullamore Dew. The “trilogy” part for this blend of Irish malt and grain whiskeys refers to its three-wood origins, drawing on stocks aged in bourbon, sherry and rum barrels.
Bushmills Steamship Sherry Cask
Bushmills is known as the oldest distillery in Ireland. This release represents their first foray into the rarefied world of travel retail exclusives; it’s a no-age-statement single malt aged entirely in Oloroso sherry. As a travel retail whiskey, you can pick it up at the airport while passing through Dublin or London.
Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton
Midleton’s other single pot still brand is “The Spots,” a creation of Dublin wine merchants and whiskey bottlers Mitchell & Son. This expression takes the standard Green Spot, a 7- to 10-year old single pot-still drawn from ex-bourbon and sherry cask stocks, then finished for up to two extra years in wine barrels from France’s Chateau Leoville Barton. Released last year, it arrived in the U.S. in January.
Main image from Tullamore Dew
* 2018 UPDATE: A previous version of this article referenced the idea of “Protestant vs. Catholic” whiskey, which might have been used as a bar argument years ago but makes zero sense today. An article we linked to can be found here and is worth a read, if only for historical perspective. And to break up potential bar fights. None of it will change the whiskey in your hand.
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