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Top 13 Best Irish Whiskey Brands to Try

Irish whiskey is most often distilled from barley and is produced in Ireland. The distilling process in Ireland traces back to King James in the 1600s when the crown first issued permission for distilleries to operate.

Irish Whiskey barrels

Since then, the popularity of Irish whiskey has ebbed and flowed with time. Irish whiskeys have experienced a resurgence in popular culture in the last five years. Distilleries are scattered across the island from Cork to Dublin to Letterkenny. 

When first sampling Irish whiskey, especially if you are usually a bourbon drinker, the taste, smell, and mouthfeel might be subtly different, but Irish whiskey is a delicious spirit for drinking straight, on the rocks, or neat.

Notably, the aging process can enhance the spirit’s flavor, so we tried 12-, 15-, and 16-year single malts for this project! We sampled many whiskeys from various distilleries to compile this list of the best Irish whiskeys. 

Best Irish Whiskeys

What Is Irish Whiskey? 

Irish whiskey is a particular style of spirit. Most Irish whiskeys are triple-distilled from a blend of barley. Distilleries are located throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland, and each region has a slightly different take on how to craft the most delicious Irish spirit. 

However, all agree that an Irish whiskey should be aged for a minimum of about three years before bottling and that oaky and fruity notes should be apparent on the nose and the palate.

The most common variations are blended or single malt, but others like pot still and single grain are also available in the Irish whiskey market.

What makes Irish whiskey different from other whiskeys?

Irish whiskey is distilled using a blend of malted and unmalted barley; variations in the mixture influence taste and make the different Irish whiskey brands unique. 

Another key characteristic of Irish whiskey is that it is made using a pot still, which is usually copper. A pot still looks like an upside-down funnel with a flat bottom and a thick neck which encourages the evaporation process in distilling. 

For instance, an American whiskey would use a blend of primary corn instead of barley, and most Canadian whiskeys are known for being blended. Another whiskey growing in popularity is from Japan, where rice is the primary source for distilling. 

How do you drink Irish whiskey?

People can drink Irish whiskey neat, on the rocks, in mixed drinks, or stand-alone shots. Generally, if the whiskey is a small batch or a distillery’s specialty—like aged in a triple charred cask—you should probably try the whiskey neat or on the rocks first to taste the subtle flavors of the blend. 

However, for a straightforward Irish whiskey like Jameson, taking a shot chased by a sip of Guinness is a great option. A classic cocktail to make using an Irish single malt whiskey is mixing whiskey, ginger beer, and lime to create a version of a refreshing mule. 

Another popular use for whiskey from the emerald isle is Irish coffee! While it’s not what you typically think when you look for mixed drinks, add some whiskey to your coffee and top it with cream.

Ireland is known for making complex and tasty whiskeys, and what’s great for us is that there is a resurgence of popular Irish blends. From the first iterations of permissible distilling in the 1600s to today’s triple charred barrel delectable experiments, it is worth expanding your palate to include Irish whiskies. 

Whiskeys come in all sorts of varieties, and the location of distilling plays a key role. If you are interested in learning more about various types of whiskey, read The 8 Different Types of Whiskey Explained.

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  1. Some good whiskeys on the list! Partial to Jameson 3YO and Black Barrel.
    You are missing the Whistler. Their honey, Oloroso Sherry cask finish and Stout cask are fantastic!

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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