The Top 10 Irish Whiskeys of All Time

The Top 10 Irish Whiskeys of All Time

For years Irish whiskey has been the fastest-growing spirits category in the world, and with the explosion of new distilleries in the country, it’s a trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

With that in mind, we polled the Drinkhacker staff to suss out the 10 best (permanently available) Irish whiskeys on the market. Of critical note, we are not including discontinued or luxe special releases in this roundup. We love Redbreast’s Dream Cask releases and 33-year-old Teeling as much as the next guy… but with this list we wanted to count down the best permanent release Irish whiskeys that you might actually be able to get your hands on.

Agree? Disagree? Wondering where Jameson is? Sound off in the comments!

Slainte!

10. Bushmills 21 Years Old – Let’s start with a cracker: Bushmills, a 400-year-old distillery, at its best. This is the oldest whiskey in Bushmills’ standard lineup, spending 19 years in sherry and ex-bourbon casks before being vatted and then finished for two more years in Madeira wine casks. The intense color cues you from the start: This is a rich, deep whiskey redolent with notes of dark berries, buttered toffee, and vanilla bean, finishing on powerful notes of oak and raisin. Shop around for deals. They’re out there. 80 proof. $250 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

9. The Irishman 17 Years Old – The lower end of the Irishman line doesn’t get much love, but this 17 year old, made from 100% Irish barley and matured in a first fill oloroso sherry butt, is a magical, very high-proof bottling that many may not know about. Wildly different from the rest of the Irishman line, it’s loaded with notes of raisin, treacle, black tea, and old furniture. Old furniture that you can drink. Nutty and chocolaty on the finish, with a touch of syrupy cocktail cherry to seal the deal. 112 proof. $160

8. Knappogue Castle Twin Wood 16 Years Old – Knappogue Castle used to be unique for its release of vintage-dated whiskeys, though that changed somewhere around 2010 — probably due to the incredible mass of different whiskeys it found itself having to juggle — and the operation moved to traditional age statemented products. This 16 year old is arguably its best product, with 14 years of bourbon and 2 years of oloroso sherry to provide its backbone of nuts, oily wood, nougat, and orange peel — a well-rounded and soulful experience that drinks like a best-of compilation of everything great about Irish whiskey. 80 proof. $95 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

7. Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix – Tullamore D.E.W. is an Irish brand that gets little attention against the Jamesons and Bushmillses of the world, but you’d be wise to give it a fresh look — particularly its best release, Phoenix. This blend of pure pot still, malt whiskey, and grain whiskey is finished in oloroso sherry casks, and the combination helps it take on a dessert-like quality that melds juicy orange notes with baking spices and lots of chocolate-coated almonds with nougat. Decadent and rewarding — and one of the best values on this list. 110 proof. $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

6. Powers John’s Lane – Powers is the top-selling brand of whiskey in Ireland (or at least it used to be), and this single pot still bottling is at the top of the hill. At 12 years old, the whiskey is aged in bourbon barrels of various usage levels and then blended with a small amount of 100% sherry-aged stock — a shift on finishing the entire batch in sherry barrels. It works: The finished product is rich and warming, full of notes of honey and cinnamon, followed by deeper vanilla and caramel elements. Nutty, deep, and soulful — it’s got a lot more power than the typical Irish has on offer. Nothing to do with the name, of course. 92 proof. $65 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

5. Writers’ Tears – Once hard to come by in the U.S., Writers’ Tears has made enormous strides over the last few years with both general distribution and a series of special releases. Really, you can’t go wrong with the OG, which is now widely available and represents a gentler but iconic side of Ireland, a light mix of honey, cinnamon, and lemon that ventures into a little light malt and almond as the finish builds. Simple, classic, and just about perfectly crafted; this is the easy pick for a 5 o’clock shot — or the base for an Irish highball. 80 proof. $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]

4. Teeling Blackpitts – What are Blackpitts? Blackpitts is a section of Dublin that just happens to be near where Teeling’s distillery is located, and the name tells you everything you need to know about this unique and winning whiskey. The twist involves peat: Blackpitts is one of just a handful of Irish whiskeys that uses the smoky stuff and it’s easily the one that does it best. If that’s not enough, the finished distillate is aged not just in ex-bourbon casks but also Sauternes barrels. The finished product melds notes of tea, almonds, brown butter, and sea salt with a palate that is never smoky but is rather richly savory and maritime at points. The peat influence is extremely mild and restrained: Even drinkers who say they hate the stuff owe it to themselves to give it a whirl. 92 proof. $70 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

3. Green Spot – Midleton’s “Spot” series of whiskeys were once impossible to find stateside, but that has changed, much to our benefit. Green Spot sits at the entry level of the lineup, though it’s got plenty of street cred as a single pot still whiskey aged for 7 to 10 years in bourbon and sherry casks. Balanced and lively and filled with classic but restrained Irish sweetness, the whiskey leads with caramel and toasted marshmallows and eventually makes its way to chocolate malt balls in the end. While it’s certainly sweet, a drying, anise-touched finish provides some counterbalance and a cleansing effect that forces the drinker back into the glass for another sip. And another. The series of wine barrel-finished Green Spot releases are worthwhile, too. 80 proof. $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

2. Redbreast Cask Strength 12 Years Old – Irish whiskey snobs (no offense intended) can gush on Redbreast for days at a time. They aren’t wrong, the stuff is legit, but the real deal is Redbreast at cask strength. Rounded and full, the bourbon and sherry-aged spirit features plenty of sweet buttercream, fruity banana, and tart lemon notes, finishing on a cake-lake swirl of honey, cinnamon, and marzipan notes. After 12 years of age, it is hitting its stride perfectly — but the ultra-aged versions of Redbreast in the form of “dream cask” releases are even more of a delight. 112.6 proof (varies by batch). $100 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

1. Yellow Spot – It is to be sure a funny name for a whiskey, but if we could only call one Irish whiskey for the rest of our lives, this would be it. Yellow Spot, a brand from the late 1800s reintroduced in 2012, is a 12 year old (age-stated) whiskey that is aged in a unique combination of American bourbon, Spanish sherry, and Spanish Malaga casks. The resulting whiskey is bold with fresh and dried fruits, racy pepper, and lots of delightful, sweetened cereal notes. The nutty finish seals the deal while leaving room for a light salinity. It’s as good as Irish gets. 92 proof. $100 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

4 Comments

  1. Dave on June 21, 2024 at 7:53 am

    Love to sit down with a dram of Jamishay.
    Not sure why y’all are insisting on using AI “art” for some of your headers, but, aside from everything else, it’s offensively terrible looking.

    • Christopher Null on June 21, 2024 at 8:26 am

      Well, we had a leprechaun on the first draft.



  2. AK on June 25, 2024 at 4:33 pm

    Long time reader and very appreciative of all the expertise you bring to the table. Using AI “art” is incredibly off-putting and makes the whole thing look like an SEO clickbait article.

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