Premium Irish Whiskeys for St. Patrick’s Day

by Matt Chambers
at Whisky for Everyone

A spotlight on Irish whiskeys

OK, so this is a Scotch whisky blog. And Whisky 1901 specialises solely on the finest casks distilled and filled in Scotland. But one time of year sees the focus of the whisky world shift to the Emerald Isle and Irish whiskeys. That time is St. Patrick’s Day.


A brief history

The Irish whiskey industry is enjoying a renaissance and is more popular than it has been for a century. But it has battled through tough times to get here. A combination of American Prohibition (1920-1933) and two World Wars saw a catastrophic collapse of distilling and sales. This resulted in the loss of many distilleries and brands in Ireland.

By the late 1960s there were just two distilleries remaining – Bushmills up north in Co. Antrim and Midleton down south in Co. Cork. This had fallen from over 100 at the turn of the 20th century. It is only in the last decade or so that numbers have begun to swell again. Thanks largely to the craft distilling movement. There are now just over 40 distilleries.

The result of this scenario is simple. It has led to a stark shortage of anything truly old sitting in Irish whiskey warehouses. And when they finally get released, they are in a very different league in terms of both price and quality.

Here are some of the best rare Irish whiskeys that are currently on the market.

The £500 Bottle | Redbreast 27 years old

This single pot still whiskey sits atop the fabulous Redbreast range. It has won a hatful of awards around the world since its release in 2020. The Redbreast 27 years old has been matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks for much of its life, before being transferred to sumptuous ex-Port barrels for a final finishing period.

This twist enriches an already stunning flavour profile and pushes the whiskey in a luxurious direction. It is packed with luscious fruity aromas and flavours. Notes of cherry, prune and peach marry superbly with tropical pineapple, mango, and blood orange. Background spice, cocoa and gingerbread add even further depth and complexity. Simply stunning.

The £1,000 Bottle | Teeling 30 years old

The Teeling family are legends in Irish whiskey circles. Not only did they kickstart the Irish whiskey revival by founding the Cooley distillery in the late 1980s, but they brought whiskey distilling back to the centre of Dublin by opening the Teeling distillery in 2015. It was the first new whiskey distillery in Dublin for 125 years. Now there are several.

The 30 years old was distilled and filled to ex-bourbon barrels in 1991 at Cooley, before being transferred by the Teelings for a finishing period in ex-Sauternes dessert wine casks from France. Expect a velvety, soft whiskey with lush tropical fruit, peach and apricot compote. All mingled with honey, golden syrup, and a hint of grapefruit peel. Old Irish whiskey at its very best.

The £1,500 Bottle | The Taoscán

The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is making a name for itself by releasing some of the rarest and oldest whiskeys in the category. And The Taoscán (named after an Irish measure of whiskey, like a dram in Scotland) is no different. This super premium whiskey is from an undisclosed distillery but features a unique twist.

The whiskeys included had their initial maturation in American oak ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts before being split in two. Some going to ex-Tawny Port barrels and some to virgin chestnut casks. This innovative combination is a first for Irish whiskey. Expect decadent notes of vanilla, dark chocolate and golden syrup. All combined with dark dried fruits, caramel and warming woody spices. Fabulous.

The £5,000 Bottle | Bushmills 36 years old Hill Street Edition

Bushmills in Northern Ireland holds the world’s oldest license to distil, which dates to 1608. Being one of just two to survive the near-terminal collapse of the industry, it now has some of the most highly aged and rare Irish whiskeys maturing in its warehouses. This bottling represents the oldest ever whisky released by the brand in Europe.

The 36 years old is bottled exclusively for the legendary Irish whiskey retailer, The Friend at Hand in Belfast. This is in Hill Street in the Cathedral Quarter of the city. Four French oak ex-sherry casks, filled in November 1986, were condensed to a single ex-Oloroso sherry hogshead in 2001. The result is a luxurious whiskey with notes of fresh honeycomb, ripe tropical fruits, toffee, hazelnut praline, ginger cake and mocha.

The £20,000 Bottle | Midleton Very Rare 40th Anniversary Ruby Edition

It is now four decades since Midleton Very Rare’s inaugural release in 1984 and it has been released annually ever since. It has long been regarded as the pinnacle of Irish whiskey. To celebrate its 40th birthday the brand released this commemorative limited edition, featuring whiskeys distilled by all three Master Blenders of the Very Rare.

The Ruby Edition (ruby is the gemstone associated with a 40th anniversary) consists of just three casks, each holding a complex blend. Some date back 40 years. These were married together in ex-ruby Port casks for a nine-month finishing period. The whiskey is highly aromatic and floral with notes of red berries and perfumed spices combining with vanilla pod, green apple, and an evolving tropical fruitiness. A subliminal whiskey.


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