New and Noteworthy Irish Whiskeys To Toast This St. Patrick’s Day
What a time to be an Irish whiskey fan.
Between 2002 and 2017, the Irish whiskey category grew by leap and bounds. Last year, Irish whiskey imports to the U.S. notched a record $897 million in revenues, according to the Distilled Spirits of Council of America. By comparison, Irish whiskey imports in 2003 leveled off at $74 million in 2003. (Last year’s numbers represent a 1113.2% increase in sales between 2003 – 2017.)
“If you look at what’s happening in Irish whiskey, it’s a Renaissance period,” Tim Herlihy, Tullamore D.E.W. brand ambassador says. “It’s one of the fastest growing categories on the planet.”
“In the next 5 years, there will be 30 distilleries in Ireland,” he notes. “As recently as 2008 there would have been five. If you go back to 1978, you would have only had 2 distilleries.”
Within the last year, and as recently as last month, brands released a new slate of notable expressions to turn any spirits enthusiast’s head. Here’s six new Irish whiskeys to toast with on St. Patrick’s Day.
Tullamore D.E.W. Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, $29
More brands, across the full range of spirits, are experimenting with different finishes for their liquids. Tullamore’s newest expression, released in Feb., finishes the liquid in casks previously used to age Demerara rum. The resulting liquid has the silky vanilla notes and a touch of oak associated with Irish whiskey, with hints of tropical fruit and warm spices that linger on the back palate.
Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, $43
Newly available as of last month, and timed to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the award-winning Dead Rabbit bar, the Dead Rabbit Irish whiskey is the newest project from the bar’s co-owners and their partners, The Dublin Liberties Distillery. (The spirit is only available in New York and New Jersey, with a larger roll out planned soon.)
In a nod to the Dead Rabbit’s origin story, the liquid begins as something fully Irish which is finished with American influences. This means that a blend of malt and grain whiskey distilled in Dublin rests for five years in reused bourbon barrels, then is finished for eight weeks in smaller virgin American oak casks. The spirit features a touch of caramel sweetness floating over a wave of spice and pepper.
Green Spot Chateau Montelena, $99
Experimentation with casks that aren’t traditionally used in whiskey is leading to a whole new set of spirits that borrow the best influences from other categories to enhance themselves.
Green Spot Chateau Montelena, for example, is a single pot still Irish whiskey finished in French oak Zinfandel casks. You’ll find a liquid with structure and a nose redolent of fresh vanilla, white chocolate and toasted caramel. Look for a long finish with spices softened by the wine influences.
Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition,$35
Jameson began experimenting with cross-category finishing in 2013, when it swapped barrels with Franciscan Well Brewery. The result was the Caskmates Stout edition.
The newest Caskmates edition, released last fall, showcases what happens when whiskey meets Irish Pale Ale-seasoned barrels. The signature Jameson’s flavor is accented with fresh citrus, crisp hops and spikes of black pepper.
Slane Irish Whiskey, $30
Slane, a new whiskey with a great family backstory, hit the States just last summer. Like its cohorts, it is triple-distilled but the Slane take is to also use triple casks, which are then blended. Slane’s unique recipe includes blending whiskies that have individually aged in heavily toasted virgin oak, reused American whiskey barrels, and oloroso sherry casks.
As for that backstory, Slane Castle, where the distillery is located, hosted U2 while they recorded “Unforgettable Fire.” Music fans know it as the site of the Slane Concert Series, where acts such as U2, Bruce Springsteen and Guns N Roses have headlined.
Prizefight Irish Whiskey, $45
Prizefight is another new whiskey to play up the Irish-American connections.
Newly launched in New York and Boston this month, the spirit’s label features an illustration of a boxing match between Yankee Sullivan and John Morrissey, the infamous leader of the Dead Rabbit Gang (he is also the same inspiration for the Dead Rabbit’s bar and whiskey, and is Daniel Day Lewis’s character in “Gangs of New York”).
Prizefight is a blend of ten-year-old malt and four-year-old grain whiskies aged in Ireland, then given a six-month finish in American rye casks. Those rye notes are evident in the finish, lending the spirit a distinctive hybrid flavor that rests between the American and Irish styles.