For years, single malt scotch has been synonymous with luxury liquid. Scottish producers like The Macallan, Bowmore and Balvenie command thousands of dollars per bottle of exclusive expressions, and as a result, the top shelf of the bar has historically been reserved primarily for whisky from that part of the world. But it wasn’t always this way. “Until the 1920s, when you spoke of high-end whiskey you meant Irish whiskey,” Jay Bradley, founder of the Craft Irish Whiskey Company (the Irish, like Americans, spell the liquid with an ‘e’) told Observer. “We’re determined to restore that legacy.”
American consumers, for their part, seem committed to helping. The Irish whiskey category has been on fire in the United States as of late, and the lion’s share of that growth is driven by a desire to trade up from everyday bottles into the super-premium segment. Since 2003, the sale of Irish whiskey priced at over $30 per unit has climbed by a staggering 2,769 percent, according to the latest data from the Distilled Spirits Council, the leading industry trade group.
At its best, Irish whiskey can be more approachable and rounder than its Scottish counterparts. It can be more versatile, too: in addition to the single malts and blends inherent to both countries, the Irish also specialize in an earthier style of spirit known as Pot Still whiskey, which is unique to the Emerald Isle.
All this is to say, it’s time to reorganize that top shelf—that is, if you haven’t already. We’re here to help, with a list of five of the best high-end Irish whiskeys on the market today. Cheers to that. Or, as they say in Ireland: sláinte.
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Craft Irish Whiskey Company The Taoscán
Arriving on American shores this year, The Taoscán is already a hit with connoisseurs in Europe, where it enjoys a wider placement in more Michelin star restaurants than any other Irish whiskey. It’s also the world’s first whiskey finished in a combination of port and chestnut barrels. Uncork a bottle and you’ll detect allspice in the nose, a toasted nuttiness upon the palate and a beautiful blast of s’mores in the finish. It’s endearingly approachable, even at an assertive strength of 48.53 percent alcohol by volume. Pronounced “TISH-cun,” the name comes from the Gaelic word for a small measure of whiskey. Like dram, only Irish.
Bushmills 25 Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Earlier in 2023, this legendary Irish distillery cut the ribbon on a state-of-the-art production facility, more than doubling its capacity. Bushmills celebrated the occasion by unveiling two of its oldest releases yet, including this 25-year-old stunner. Initially, the liquid matured in a combination of bourbon barrels and sherry butts. Then, that combination of robust malt entered first-fill ruby port pipes for a 21-year slumber, resulting in decadent dark fruit and candied plums. There’s also a sugary, almost almond-like note to ponder in the finish—marzipan and orgeat fade into the distance as the 92-proof whiskey slowly recedes.
Redbreast 27 Year Old Single Pot Still
Redbreast changed the game for Single Pot Still Irish whiskey. For far too long, this unique style was derided as ‘lesser than’ because it relies on a combination of malted and unmalted barley to build its complex flavor profile. When done well, it’s nothing short of brilliant, and Redbreast is as good as it gets. The 27 Year Old release is the oldest permanent part of the brand’s portfolio. It’s triple distilled and aged in a trifecta of barrels—ones that formerly held bourbon, sherry and port. When blended together, the combination is a tropical revelation; look for mangoes and papaya to play a concerto upon the palate. The burgundy-hued liquid sits in a sleek, sandblasted decanter, bottled at 53.5 percent ABV.
Teeling 30 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
When the Dublin-based craft distillery first released this single malt in limited quantities, it was set to retail at $2,200 a bottle. A little over a year later, it’s hard to find it at twice that price. It’s just that good, and there just isn’t enough of it to go around. If you’re lucky enough to land one of the 4,000 decanters that were distributed globally, look forward to uncorking a whiskey bustling with the bouquet of fresh stone fruit. Then there’s the mellifluous mouthfeel: velvety—coating the tongue with a taste of toasted cashews. If you’re noticing an allusion to dessert wine in the finish, there’s good reason why: the whiskey spent its last nine years of aging sequestered in Sauternes barrels, sourced straight from the south of France.
Glendalough 25 Year Single Malt Irish Oak Finish
This extremely limited offering is all about florality. If you fancy the scent of fresh lavender, uncap a bottle and prepare a portal to Provence in the spring. It’s not immediately clear where that nose comes from, considering that the whiskey was produced in Ireland and aged in a battery of barrels also coming from the Emerald Isle, along with Oloroso Sherry casks from Spain and ex-bourbon oak out of the United States. Nevertheless, there is so much going on in a single sip. From the flower fields you fall into notes of toffee and even balsamic reduction before it all goes down. It’s a joyous journey from start to finish, and at $550 a bottle, an exceptional value as well. Good luck finding a comparably aged scotch of similar quality at anywhere near this price point.