The time of year when clothes and beer turn green and nearly everyone claims an Irish ancestor is upon us. Yet St. Patrick’s Day 2017 in particular happens to correspond with an Irish whiskey boom, one complete with a micro-distillery explosion taking place in parallel with that of the United States, as well as the full-fledged revival of single pot still whiskey.
Since so many became acquainted with whiskey in the first place through the college bar institution of a shot of Jameson and a mug of lager, the best thing you could do with your St. Patrick’s Day imbibing is to turn away from cheap green beer and explore Ireland’s vibrant whiskey scene. Here are some of the latest releases to look out for in liquor stores and bar shelves.
$60 to $90
If you are the type seeking the very latest and most uncommon in things, for Irish whiskey that would be the Method and Madness line. This newest batch of releases from Irish Distillers, the same people who make Jameson and Redbreast, is based on the theme of New Midleton Distillery’s apprentices being brought to the fore to work hand-in-glove with the masters. At present, the Method and Madness line includes a single grain finished in new Spanish oak; a single malt finished in new French oak; and a single pot still finished in new French chestnut. Officially it’s available only in Europe, but some American online retailers told me they were making a point of importing a small supply in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Also, most European whiskey shops who have it will send it to the United States, if you are willing to pay the shipping fees.
Much more easily had is The Dubliner 10-Year-Old, launched last month and widely available in major U.S. cities. It’s a straight forward Irish single malt, aged in ex-bourbon barrels to a nice point of maturity, and can be had for the fairly reasonable price. If you’re looking to step outside of the common bottle of Jameson, but don’t want anything to risky, The Dubliner is a solid choice.
The same folks who released The Dubliner 10-Year-Old in February, Quintessential Brands, also put out Dublin Liberties Copper Alley less than six months ago. Basically, this takes the same 10-year-old single malt stock as the Dubliner and finishes it in some incredibly well-seasoned old Sherry casks (casks that were in use for three decades), making it very attractive to folks who like their sherried whiskey. The drawback here is that if you want it, nobody in the U.S. imported it, so you will need to order it from a shop in Europe and have it shipped over.
Late last year saw the release of a new batch of what many view as the original super premium Irish whiskey of modern times, Midleton Very Rare. Introduced back in 1984, Midleton Very Rare represents an annual selection of some of the best ex-bourbon barrel stock in New Midleton’s warehouses by the Master Distiller, Brian Nation. Always excellent and sometimes outstanding, Midleton Very Rare is, as the name implies, not easy to get. However, it is routinely imported into the U.S. and might even be available on the top shelf of some of your more specialized whiskey bars.
Going from the very rare to the extraordinarily so, late last year also saw the release of this new, ultra-aged expression by Teeling Whiskey Company. This whiskey was vatted from a mix of peated and unpeated Irish single malts aged in ex-bourbon barrels, and then finished in Sauternes wine casks. Only 1,000 bottles were made, but its rarity and price guaranteed that plenty of it made its way over to the U.S., where it occupies a place of pride on store shelves and waits for someone to splurge on it.
West Cork Distillers was one of the earliest new entrants in the Irish whiskey revival, having opened their doors in 2008, but this batch of 12-Year-Old single malts comes from sourced stock. The series consists of Sherry Cask, Port Cask and Rum Cask releases. The source whiskey is a 12-Year-Old, ex-bourbon barrel aged single malt, with each version representing a six to 12-month finish in the respective second barrel. Some 7,500 bottles in total were imported into the U.S.