Though St. Patrick’s Day is officially March 17, revelers are starting earlier each year.
Whether you’re a bawdy pub crawler or more tranquil celebrant just hanging out in your local, you will find that an increasing number of bars and retailers have recently stepped up their Irish Whiskey offerings.
It can be a bit daunting to stray away from your favorite Irish tipples, but we’re here to lead you on the journey. So while the verdant masses stagger, sway and belt out countless rounds of “Danny Boy,” here are a few ways to do St. Pat proud on any budget. Hey, the guy banished snakes. It’s the least you can do to honor him. (Note, pricing is averaged from an assortment of U.S. retailers).
Photo courtesy mnem via Flickr/CC
Kilbeggan Blended Whiskey, $20: From Cooley distillery comes a blend of both malt and grain whiskies (most are one or the other), creating a subtle combination of flavors. The toasty cereal essence gives way to honey, bittersweet chocolate and coffee notes that are sure to make you a convert. This can be sipped neat or mixed with soda, cocktails or Irish coffee.
John L. Sullivan, $24: Another great one from Cooley, this is named for the 19th century bare-knuckle world heavyweight boxing champ. While the man was tough as steel cannonballs, this whiskey is smooth and effortless. The grain and malt whiskies are aged for four to ten years in used Bourbon barrels prior to blending to give rounded textures of vanilla, citrus, warm spice, honey and floral notes.
Concannon, $25: This new blend is likewise matured in used Bourbon barrels, but is given an extra finish in Concannon Petite Sirah wine barrels. This is a clean and vibrant style, with influence from the wine cask lending fruity and raisin flavors to the malty honey. A fun way to drink your whiskey and have your wine too.
Knappogue Castle 12 Yr, $45: This single malt is triple-distilled in copper pot stills, then aged for 12 years in used Bourbon casks. This has the typical malt flavors with a kind of toasty breakfast cereal-with-marshmallows sweetness (yes, a bit like Lucky Charms), tropical fruit, marzipan and spice. Very balanced and satisfying.
Redbreast “Single Pot Still” 12-Year-Old Cask Strength, $52: While you might have tasted Redbreast before, this new version is released at full strength and non-chill filtered. What this translates to is fuller, truer flavors of dried fruits, sweet apples, bananas, vanilla, citrus and pine cone with a butterscotch finish. A noticeable improvement on the beloved treat.
Connemara Cask Strength Peated Single Malt, $66: The majority of Irish whiskies released after the 20th century are unpeated, but this one revives the old custom of drying the barley over peat smoke. The smokiness is very sweet and meaty, with notes of vanilla, honeysuckle, toasted cereal and creamy milk chocolate.
Bushmills 21 Yr Rare Malt, $99: Only a limited number of bottles of this precious whiskey are released each year. It’s aged in Bourbon and Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks for 21 (or more) years, then vatted and given a quick finish in Madeira barrels. The different casks give it a rich, nutty spiciness that joins together beautifully on the palate.
Midleton Very Rare, $135: This one comes with a snazzy wooden box presentation, with each bottle dated, numbered and signed by the master distiller. Is it all just packaging? Aficionados stand by new releases year after year. This velvety whiskey has a distinctive vanilla and burnt sugar flavor, like cream soda, with roasted nuts, golden fruits, toffee, cedary spice and just a whisper of smoke in the lengthy finish.