- On March 18, 2016
We’re sure you played it cool last night; it WAS a school night after all! Just in case you’re feeling out of sorts today though, let’s have a little hair of the dog.
Irish whiskey is one of two original forms of whiskey distillation practiced. Even the name is an Anglicization of the Gaelic “uisce beatha”. Irish whiskey has long been enjoyed for its cleaner, smoother flavors. It is usually distilled three times versus the common double distillation (when on a pot still), and is not necessarily 100% malt. This inherently creates a lighter, drier spirit. There are many riffs on the style after that, and deeper differentiations, but that is the bones they are built on. Whether it is Single Pot Still, Single Grain or even the friendly blended, Irish whiskey has an immense gulpability. We’ll take a look at three of our favorites that exemplify the diversity of all things Irish whiskey.
Knappogue Castle 12 Year is a very classic styled Irish spirit. Though it is produced by an NDP and has been sourced from different distilleries in the past, it has had a consistent structure and flavor direction guiding it. It is an Irish Single Malt, so its mash bill is 100% malted barley in contrast to including non-malted barley or other types of grain. This essentially makes it a subcategory for the Single Pot Still style that is an Irish signature. It is aged entirely in ex-bourbon barrels, which represents a creation process pretty much identical to a Scotch Single Malt. The main difference between the two would be a total lack of peating to this whiskey. The color of the spirit is a beautiful pale gold, and the nose has a big cereal and honey note. There is a hint of spice on the tongue, with some fruitiness and a bit of astringency on the finish. Great, classic Irish whiskey! (Knappogue Castle 12 $36.99, on sale for $33.29)
When we think of a blended Irish, typically the big names come to mind. Jameson, Bushmills, 2 Gingers, etc. Blends are what the Irish are mostly known for. However, every once in a while there is a new blend that goes in its own direction and totally throws us for a loop. Teeling Small Batch is one such whiskey. Teeling traces its roots back to Cooley, the last independent Irish Distillery, which was acquired by Beam-Suntory a few years back. Jack Teeling, the son of the last Teeling to own Cooley, started producing this sourced and finished blend while construction was underway on their new Dublin distillery site. The blend is relatively high in malt content versus grain whiskey, and is finished for several months in ex-rum casks. The rum helps highlight the very light whiskey, bringing in a great spicy nose, and candied fruit to the palate. Stone fruit, and floral flourishes round out the taste, all delivered with a great, creamy body. Innovative and interesting and clearly shows promise for what is to come. (Teeling Small Batch $39.99, on sale for $29.99)
While much of the Irish whiskey consumed is done in shot format, there are some that are just too damn good to toss back so lightly. Redbreast 12 Year is a Single Pot Still produced by New Midleton Distillery for Irish Distillers (owned by drinks giant Pernod-Ricard) which also makes such powerhouse names as Jameson, Powers and Paddy’s. The key differences of this whiskey from the Knappogue Castle are the inclusion of “green barley” in the mash and its partial maturation in sherry casks. Sherry casks bring a fruity, nutty flavor into play. Redbreast has a particularly creamy, rich body for an Irish whiskey despite its triple distillation. The nose is rich and toasty, with a lot of the sherry cask coming through. The mouth delivers the characteristic nuttiness as well as a marzipan and dried fruit peel flavor. The finish is long and lingering, with the spice coming through and a hint of lemon custard. (Redbreast 12 $59.99, on sale for $53.99)