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From the Gaelic phrase meaning "water of life" (the Irish are clearly better than you at naming stuff), Irish whiskey is one of the oldest and most popular types of whiskey. Since 1990, the liquor has been the fastest growing spirit in the world. Made from kiln-dried instead of peat-dried barley and distilled three times, this whiskey has a smoother finish than Scotch. It won't necessarily turn you into a smooth-talking specimen, but if you knock back a couple neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail, you may think this to be true.
What Are the Best Irish Whiskeys?
Irish whiskey was the most-consumed spirit in the world until the late 19th century, when tastes changed, causing a decline in the industry. Around the turn of the 20th century, there were only three distilleries operating in the Emerald Isle. However, a resurgence in popularity resurrected the industry, and today there are 16 distilleries. That means you have a fine choice of Irish whiskeys to enjoy during a conversation or to pair with some delicious corned beef and cabbage. If that isn't your thing, you need to embrace Irish culture a bit more.
- Jameson: Established in 1810 in Dublin, Jameson is the benchmark of Irish whiskey. Over the past 200 years, the distillery has perfected the distilling process, producing a variety of smooth, crisp Irish whiskeys. Perfect in coffee or with a single ice cube, Jameson comes in different ages and labels that are sure to relax you after a long day at the office or on the links.
- Tullamore Dew: Sold since 1829, Tullamore Dew is the second-largest Irish whiskey producer in the country. While a silver medal seems like a negative thing, Tullamore Dew excels in its role. It produces a similar-tasting whiskey to Jameson, but it produces small batches that are as breathtaking as the Cliffs of Moher.
- Bushmills: This is the oldest producer of Irish whiskey, with history dating back as far as 1608. An English invasion, a potato famine and even a fire couldn't stop Bushmills from producing some of the best Irish whiskey in the world. If you don't have that type of perseverance, a rocks glass of Bushmills may give you some inspiration.
- Redbreast: Founded in the mid-1800s on famed O'Connell Street in Dublin, Redbreast is another one of Ireland's best whiskeys. It's the most famous of the single pot still whiskeys, which are brewed in large copper vats. It comes in five different variants, including two 12-year varieties, a special Lustau edition, a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old. The best part is sipping each one to figure out which age is tantamount to pure bliss.
- Connemara: If there's a true counterculture in Irish whiskey manufacturing, it would be the Connemara. Call it beatnik, grunge or hippie, but the Connemara is the only one of the bunch that actually has its barley peat-dried. This makes it similar to Scotch whisky, and its double distillation is an interesting break from traditional Irish whiskey. It comes in single cask, cask-strength, 12-year and the heavily peated Turf Mor.
How to Drink It:
It's great neat or on the rocks. Club soda and ginger ale are also excellent mixers. And you can never go wrong adding a little Jameson Irish Whiskey to your coffee. We certainly won't judge you.