Irish whiskey has never disappointed in its ability to impress and surprise. Whether it's a single grain Irish whiskey, a peated style or blended mix, Irish whiskey offers enthusiasts a whole universe of discovery.
But what are the best brands of 2023 and what are their single best creations? With our wide drinks knowledge, we'll give you some amazing whiskey recommendations for you to enjoy this year.
So, without further delay, let's get into this Irish whiskey brands list...
1. West Cork
Kicking off the list is an Irish whiskey brand hailing from the south-west side of the island, in Cork. Established in 2003, its initial set-up and team had humble beginnings, working from one of the founders' houses. The childhood friends now operate out of a huge 12.5 acre distillery site in Skibbereen, selling their whiskey and passion all across the world.
One of their most notable creations is the 7 Year-Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey. The grain used is locally grown in Ireland and is matured in two types of casks. First in Bodega Oloroso sherry casks from Spain for four years, and then finished off in ex-Bourbon barrels for a further three years. This process fills the single malt with notes of spice, red fruits and marzipan, great for sipping on.
Year established: 2003
Notable whiskeys: 7 Year Single Malt, Black Reserve, Bourbon Cask
“With one eye on the past, but looking to the future, we’re the new generation of Dublin distillers", claims whiskey pioneer, Stephen Teeling, who, with his brother, are the latest Teelings to make whiskey.
Since 1782, the Teeling family have been working their magic in the centre of Dublin. However, recently the brand had a little makeover. In 2015, the two brothers decided to move to a new distilling site, a stone's throw away from the original. With a fresh, new look, it was the first new distillery to open in Dublin for over 125 years.
Their best work, undoubtedly, is the Small Batch Irish whiskey. It's an unconventional blended Irish whiskey, using both corn and grain. During the ageing period, the whiskey then sits in former Bourbon and rum casks, absorbing all those hidden notes. If you're lucky enough to taste this wonderful whiskey, you'll experience tastes of roasted caramel, vanilla, oak and a little bit of rum. Unconventional really is the best way to describe it.
Year established: 1782
Notable whiskeys: Small Batch, Single Pot Still, Peated Single Malt
Bushmills is one of, if not the biggest, Irish whiskey brands out there. The company was given its license to distil over 400 years ago in the early 1600s and doesn't look to be stopping any time soon. They use water from the River Bush to make their Irish whiskeys, which is where their name derives from! All thanks to the large number of mills sitting alongside the river's length.
As far as their products are concerned, Bushmills is very well-respected. We like the 10 Year-Old Single Malt Irish whiskey that comes with very crisp hints of citrus zest, ripe fruit and toasted wood to tickle your tongue. The Bourbon barrels and sherry butts used for maturation are hand-picked to ensure the best quality whiskey is produced every time.
Year established: 1608
Notable whiskeys: 10 Year Old Single Malt, 21 Year Old Single Malt, Sherry Cask Reserve
Whilst not being one of the most well-known brands out there, it's certainly one of the most expensive Irish whiskey brands on offer.
Redbreast pride themselves on bottling the true Irish spirit in every whiskey produced. They're the largest sellers of Single Pot Still Irish whiskey in the world, despite starting out as a wine company. So, it's safe to say they made the right choice by switching to spirit production...
Just as with the Bushmills' whiskey, it's a single malt that comes out on top again. The Redbreast 12 Year-Old Single Malt Irish whiskey is an excellent choice. Due to the ageing process, you'll pick up strong sherry notes whilst noticing just how light it is to drink. It's an excellent whiskey for sipping neat, as well as sampling with food. Take a look at what food goes with whiskey to see how to best enjoy this great whiskey.
Year established: 1903
Notable whiskeys: 12 Year Old Single Malt, 15 Year Old Single Still, 27 Year Old Single Pot Still
5. Knappogue Castle
Of all the Irish whiskeys on this list, Knappogue Castle Whiskey is the most niche. Not only is it made in an actual castle that stands today after restoration in 1966, but it's also home to one of the rarest whiskeys in the world. Founder, Mark Edwin Andrews, purchased the castle to restore it, and started buying casks of whiskey from top Irish distillers, to store in the cellar. He began to age them for longer and longer, then bottle them under the Knappogue Castle label. But one bottle in particular really went down a storm.
The 1951 Vintage is one of the rarest bottles of whiskey available on the market. Aged in sherry casks for 36 years, it boasts a wide range of profiles to discover. Barley, oats and honey are just some of the unique, well-developed flavours you'll be able to taste with this impressive whiskey. If you're a huge whiskey enthusiast and have some money to burn, then this is the bottle for you.
Year established: 1966
Notable whiskeys: 1951 Vintage, 16 Year Old Single Malt, 12 Year Barolo Cask
Founded in 1780, the Jameson brand is another whiskey veteran on our best Irish whiskey brands list. After moving to Ireland from Scotland, John Jameson looked to create a whiskey with a triple distillation process. And over 200 years later, Jameson has become famous for its unique distilling procedures. Mix this with the excellent local barley and the river water that literally flows through the distillery, and you've got yourself an iconic Irish whiskey.
Keeping on the triple theme, one of their signature pieces of work is the 'Triple Triple' whiskey. This is a whiskey triple-distilled and triple cask-matured in former Bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Initially you'll be hit with fruity notes to later taste the sweet berry flavours that hide themselves in the spirit.
Year established: 1780
Notable whiskeys: Triple Triple, Triple Distilled, =Black Barrel Proof
Connemara is something of a special whiskey brand, as it's the only Irish Peated Single Malt Whiskey commonly available today.
Peated whiskey is a very unique style and possesses an equally unique flavour. To achieve this iconic flavour, malted barley is exposed to the peat, which is burned to create smoke. Over a period of time, the barley picks up the flavour from the smoke and becomes infused with a peaty flavour. Not many brands commit to peated whiskey, and it's almost solely exclusive to Irish and Scottish blends.
Connemara's Original Peated Single Malt whiskey is a top pick for any whiskey lover. It's a straightforward peated whiskey, which is exactly what you want for fans of a peaty flavour. This original blend will hit you with not only peaty smoke but also 'kippers and well-baked apple crumble', according to Connemara themselves. If you love a twist to your drink and its flavour, then this will be the best whiskey to drink neat.
Year established: 1987
Notable whiskeys: Original, Cask Strength, 2 Year
8. Spot Whiskeys
Many in the industry label this brand as the hidden gem of the Emerald Isle. Spot Whiskeys are considered a real catch in the world of whiskey, due to the fact they purposely limit their production, unlike some of the other brands mentioned here. They only produce a few different types of whiskey, but all of them are single pot still Irish whiskeys. Each whiskey is differentiated by length of maturing or type of barrels used for ageing, giving each Spot Whiskey a different palate of flavours.
The Green Spot whiskey is a blend of single pot still whiskeys, which are aged in both used sherry and Bourbon casks. It's a refreshing, light drink with subtle hints of apples and other orchard fruits. Add a little ice, and it only enhances these crisp, palate-cleansing notes. Drinkers will experience a spicy element alongside this, with some barley notes too, making it a true delight for the tastebuds!
Year established: 1920
Notable whiskeys: Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Red Spot
9. Tullamore D.E.W
I think it's fitting to finish with one of the best brands of Irish whiskey. The iconic Tullamore D.E.W brand has been around since the early 1800s and like many Irish whiskey brands, it's a blended distillery. In fact, Tullamore D.E.W is the original triple blend Irish whiskey and rightfully holds a place among the best whiskeys of the world.
While trying to narrow down a particularly notable whiskey, we thought we'd go with something a little different; the Tullamore D.E.W Honey. This is a sweet, silky whiskey with bold honey notes and vanilla undertones, complementing the honey flavour. Fans of the Honey say that there's a unique warm finish to the whiskey after swallowing - a mixture between whiskey's natural heat and honey's warm, soothing flavour. Delicious.
Year established: 1829
Notable whiskeys: Honey, Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, Triple Distilled
Irish whiskey FAQs
What is the best Irish Whiskey?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Everyone has their preferences on what notes they best like to taste. Plus, it's also a question of how the whiskey will be consumed. Will the whiskey be taken neat, with ice, without ice, with a little water or even in a cocktail?
With this said, we're answering this question as if the whiskey will be taken neat without ice. Also, we'll choose a general style of whiskey. No peated, honey or cinnamon infused styles will be considered.
The best Irish whiskey is the Redbreast 12 Year-Old Single Malt. It's a refreshing, light whiskey with notes of fresh orchard fruits and underlying hints of spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Drinking this neat without ice gives you the opportunity to fully embrace all of the flavours on offer here, whilst not feeling overwhelmed.
What is the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch?
The main difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey is where it's produced. Scotch can only be produced in Scotland, whereas Irish whiskey is only produced in Ireland. However, there are some other aspects that differentiate the two.
What is Scotch? Scotch is a whisky made primarily of malted barley and water. Irish whiskey is often a mash of cereal grains like barely, corn and wheat. Moreover, Scotch is often only distilled twice, whereas Irish whiskey can be distilled up to three times. This isn't always the case in the 'Scotch vs Irish whiskey debate' but these are certainly some distinct differences alongside the geography of production.
Interested to learn more about Scotch whisky? Look into our Scotch whisky expedition for an incredible journey across the tartan nation, discovering everything there is to know about Scotch.
What is Irish Whiskey made from?
Most often, Irish whiskey is made from a blend of malted and unmalted barley. This is not always the case, but it's common for Irish whiskeys to choose this grain makeup.
Discover what is whiskey and learn everything there is know about the water of life. Types, styles, history and flavours, it's all there for you to become fully competent in everything whiskey...
How to drink Irish whiskey
Irish whiskey is best served in a lowball glass at room temperature as a 60ml serving (two ounces). According to whiskey experts, by drinking it at room temperature you're better placed to taste the full flavour profile of the whiskey.
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