The 12 Best Irish Whiskeys, Blind Tested and Ranked

The 12 Best Irish Whiskeys, Blind Tested and Ranked

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With spring just around the corner, it already feels like Irish whiskey season. A big part of that is St. Patrick’s Day coming up in a few weeks, but Irish whiskey has been booming recently, and any time is a great time to dive into a <a title=»» href=»http://” target=”_blank”>tipple from the Emerald Isle.

For this blind taste test, I collected 12 bottles of Irish whiskey to sample blind. I kept it classic with blends (most Irish whiskey is blended from barley and grain whiskeys), single pot stills (a blend of malted and unmalted barley whiskeys), and even a couple of single malts (made from malted barley only). The only whiskeys I didn’t grab were the peated Irish whiskeys.

Today’s Lineup:

  • Powers John’s Lane
  • Teeling Single Malt
  • Method & Madness Single Grain
  • Redbreast Lustau
  • Clonakilty Double Oak Single Batch
  • Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey
  • Red Spot
  • Waterford Cuvee
  • Proclamation Blended Irish Whiskey
  • Jameson Black Barrel
  • Bushmills Single Malt 10-Year

Let’s dive in and see how these Irish whiskeys rank!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

Part 1: The Tasting

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Taste 1

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Raw leather, soft vanilla, mild spice, and light milk chocolate greet you on the nose. The palate has a malty vanilla cake foundation with malty spice and fruity candy sweetness. Chocolate pudding arrives on the mid-palate and drives the back end of the taste towards wet grains, nutty fruit cake, and a hint of wintry spice.

Taste 2

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with savory fruit and toffee, counterpointed by a sharp lemon marmalade. The taste arrives subtly, with vanilla cream next to mulled wine spices, dried fruits, orange oils, and a woody/sweet figgy pudding. There’s a buttery maltiness towards the end with more of that spicy holiday cake vibe on the slow fade.

Taste 3

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This opens with dry pencil shavings leading towards dry pine boxes, potpourri, and a hint of grapefruit pith. The taste is driven by cinnamon bark and clove berries, with a pink eraser vibe next to soft vanilla beans. That vanilla moves the mid-palate towards a finish full of ripe figs, light spice, and sweet potting soil. What a wild and confusing ride.

Taste 4

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Cherry leather, black tea-soaked dates, figs, dry black soil, marzipan, and light eggnog spices lead the way on the nose. The palate opens up with sweet oak next to almonds, and rosewater with a hint of garam masala powder. That spice leads towards a cherry tobacco chewiness with a soft cedar box and silky savory fruit leather vibe on the end.

Taste 5

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Sweet fruits and spice lead the way on the nose, with green sweetgrass, soft leather, and spiced malts rounding out the experience. The palate perks up with slices of fresh ginger next to Tellicherry peppercorns, Nutella, and an apple candy mid-palate. That apple sweetness drives the finish towards drier sweetgrass and old porch wicker with a touch of moss growing between the canes.

Taste 6

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a thin caramel and vanilla vibe with a hint of almond shells. The palate is a mix of orange peels, honey, and Almond Joy (but almost just the wrapper). The mid-palate gets fruity with a slight nutty pastry feel, next to soft wood and a rushed end.

Taste 7

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Wildflowers and honey mingle with cedar, milk chocolate, and a clove/allspice vibe on the nose. The taste softly moves from spicy holiday cake towards dried fruits and green peppercorns. The mid-palate sweetens with a buttery toffee next to spicy stewed apples that feels like sticky apple tobacco before fading out.

Taste 8

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Apple pie and Amarena cherries with a bit of stem drive the nose with old leather and nutty Christmas cake. Those nuts and holiday vibes carry on through the taste as layers of apple peels, cherry bark, black pepper, and soft cedar planks settle into the finish. That finish fades slowly and gently through the dark spices, hints of dark cacao, cherry tobacco, and nuts.

Taste 9

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Red apple peels and rye crust open the nose before soft soil and green grass takes over. The palate is all about the butterscotch candies, with light florals, oat cookies, orange peels, and fresh mint acting as support. The mid-palate has a clove candy vibe that leads to white pepper, grapefruit peel, dark chocolate and cherry tobacco, and a final note of poppyseed cake.

Taste 10

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Sliced pears hidden in vanilla pudding opens the nose, with a slight woodiness that turns into a neutral vodka. There’s a slight espresso creme vibe on the palate, with hints of apple fritters, banana, and oak. The finish touches on oats and raisins but ends more like a listless vodka than anything else.

Taste 11

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla-laced toffee candies open the nose with dark chocolate, old leather, and raw sage. The palate is plummy, with plenty of holiday spice, almonds, cedar, and a thin layer of florals. The end is creamy vanilla pudding speckled with almonds and drizzled with caramel sauce with a soft landing that’s a little thin.

Taste 12

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Tasting Notes:

Apples and vanilla lead the way, with hints of chocolate malts, spiced dates, and mild leather on the nose. The palate leans into the apple with a lard-crust pie feel next to plenty of fresh honey, more of those chocolate malts, and fresh apple fritters. Those fritters drive the mid-palate towards a finish that subtly moves between apple candy, fresh and floral honey, and spicy chocolate tobacco.

Part 2: The Ranking

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

12. Proclamation Blended Irish Whiskey — Taste 10

Proclamation Blended Irish Whiskey
Proclamation Whiskey

ABV: 40.7%

Average Price: $36

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is a blend of Irish whiskeys sourced from distilleries all around Ireland. The whiskeys in the mix are mostly aged in ex-bourbon casks with a few barrels of sherry cask aged whiskey thrown in there too.

Bottom Line:

There really wasn’t a whole lot going on here. It feels like a rail whiskey for whiskey and Cokes. Which is fine but not all that exciting.

11. Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey — Taste 6

Grace O'Malley Blended Irish Whiskey
Grace O

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $38

The Whiskey:

This whiskey begins as barrels of three to 10-year-old whiskeys. Those whiskeys are then aged in a range of barrels from French oak wine casks to ex-bourbon to rum casks. The blend is built from those barrels and then proofed down to a very accessible 92 proof.

Bottom Line:

This is just fine. It’s a blended whiskey that’s best used for mixing. And that, again, is fine.

10. Method & Madness Single Grain Bourbon Cask Finish — Taste 3

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

This is Midleton Irish Distiller’s craft whiskey venture. The single grain spirit is matured in unused Spanish oak and old bourbon casks. That’s small-batched and proofed with that soft County Cork water and bottled in a throwback art-deco bottle.

Bottom Line:

This was whiplash in a glass. It was maybe too interesting to really know what to do with. I’m fine with the pencil shavings and eraser vibes but they didn’t feel like they were part of a cohesive whole.

9. Jameson Black Barrel — Taste 11

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $41

The Whiskey:

This is Jameson’s take on double barreling. The whiskey is first matured in old bourbon barrels. That juice is then transferred to another bourbon barrel that’s been doubly charred with a deep alligator skin char. Those barrels are batched and proofed all the way down to 80 proof.

Bottom Line:

This was a surprise ending up this low. I generally dig this a lot. But, admittedly, I’m usually using this for cocktails, not sipping. So here we are.

8. Teeling Single Malt — Taste 2

Teeling Single Malt
Teeling

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This single malt is a blend of whiskeys aged up to 23 years. The barrels involved are varied and vast and include sherry, port, Madeira, white Burgundy, and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels in the mix. Those whiskeys are blended perfectly and then proofed with local Dubliner water.

Bottom Line:

This is the bifurcation point. All the whiskeys next on this list were really good until we get to the top three, which all stood above. Still, this feels like a great on the rocks or mixing whiskey.

7. Powers John’s Lane — Taste 1

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $72

The Whiskey:

This is a classic Irish whiskey. The juice is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks for at least 12 years. Those barrels are then married based on their distinct flavor profiles to create this special whiskey.

Bottom Line:

This was another whiskey that hit well. It was tasty and distinct but didn’t quite wow today amongst this very long list of whiskeys.

6. Bushmills 10 Year Single Malt — Taste 12

Casa Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

The first expression in Bushmill’s single malt range is a winner. The juice is made from Irish barley and matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The best barrels are married, proofed with that soft Northern Irish spring water, and bottled.

Bottom Line:

This was tasty with a real Glen-y Scotch vibe. That said, it feels like there are a million Highland malts out there that are just as good, but maybe not for quite as good of a price. Still, I’d drink this on the rocks all day.

5. Busker Single Pot Still — Taste 7

Busker Single Pot
Busker

ABV: 44.3%

Average Price: $33

The Whiskey:

This barley-based whiskey is aged in a combo of ex-bourbon and sherry casks for an undisclosed amount of time. Those whiskeys are then blended and proofed down with local water.

Bottom Line:

I had no idea what to expect from Busker and this was a pleasant surprise, especially for this price. It wasn’t mind-blowing but it didn’t need to be. I can see using this in a highball or cocktail with ease.

4. Clonakilty Double Oak Single Batch — Taste 5

Clonakilty Double Oak
Clonakilty

ABV: 43.6%

Average Price: $51

The Whiskey:

This award-winning Irish blend is all about the aging and seaside vibes. The juice is built with whiskey aged in ex-bourbon casks which are finished in new American oak casks. That’s then blended with the same ex-bourbon cask aged whiskey finished in red wine casks from Bordeaux, which have been shaved and remade especially for this bottling.

Bottom Line:

I think this was the biggest surprise. This kind of ruled today but felt like a younger sibling of some bigger hitting Scotch whiskies from across the Irish Sea. So if you’re looking for something Irish for a Scotch lover, this is the play.

3. Waterford Cuvee — Taste 9

Waterford Cuvee
Waterford

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $85

The Whiskey:

Waterford is an interesting experiment in whiskey, in general. This expression utilizes the distillery’s many single-farm-origin whiskeys to create something heightened. The whiskey is a blend of those single farm whiskeys that highlight the terroir from all around Ireland, along with Waterford’s high-level skills.

Bottom Line:

This was that perfect balance of interesting/different and classic/great. It felt like an easy sipper that offered something new and distinct without being overwrought. This is a pour I want to go back to.

2. Redbreast Lustau — Taste 4

Irish Distillers

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $75

The Whiskey:

This dram really stands out amongst the line. The tripled distilled pot still juice is matured only in casks from Bodega Lustau in Spain. Their sherried oak brings about a dialed-in depth to the whiskey that really helps elevate the Irish juice.

Bottom Line:

This whiskey is pretty close to perfect. It’s a hell of a sipper, especially when you add a drop of water or a rock to really let it bloom.

1. Red Spot — Taste 8

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $154

The Whiskey:

This is a high-water mark of Irish whiskey distilling and blending. The whiskey is aged for 15 years in a combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-Marsala casks. The spirit is then married and proofed down to a very approachable 92 proof.

Bottom Line:

While the top three were tight, this pulled away for the win easily. It’s so nuanced and, well, nice. It’s easy to drink while offering serious depth. Plus, it’s a dream to drink neat but really blooms into something special with a few drops of water or a rock.

Part 3: Final Thoughts

Irish Whiskey Blind
Zach Johnston

Final thought after tasting these 12 whiskeys, “Wow, there are a lot of great Irish whiskeys I don’t drink enough of.” Truly, there were some really solid whiskeys on this list.

There was a lot of variation between most of them. Sure, a few of the bottom-ranked whiskeys are missable, but, I’d argue, the rest are worth seeking out, depending on what you’re looking for.

All of that said, the top three were miles ahead of the other nine. If you’re looking for a great one, that’s the Red Spot hands down. If you can’t find that, you will not be disappointed by the Redbreast or Waterford in any way. Sláinte!

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