I love a smoky Scotch on a cold winter’s night and dream of summer afternoons with an icy tumbler of sweet American bourbon. When springtime rolls around, however, my brown liquor of choice is Irish. Triple distilled using unpeated malt, Irish whiskey occupies a seductive middle ground between hearty austerity and frivolous fire, making it a spirit of rebirth perfectly suited to the most hopeful season. Here are a few upscale options that will keep you happy while you watch the great, green world awaken in front of you.
With roots that go back to the establishment of the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin in 1780, Jameson Gold Reserve ($61) is a delicious, medium-bodied whiskey with an intoxicating aroma, a crisp spearmint note at the front, and flavors of caramel and honey. The recently-released Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve ($35), meanwhile, uses deep-charred bourbon barrels to impart smooth vanilla and butterscotch flavors that melt into your tongue. Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey ($45) is reminiscent of a very strong cider, with subtle orange and tangerine flavors and just a hint of Atomic FireBall candy.
In the north lies Bushmills, the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world—its first license to distill was issued in 1608—which has given it plenty of time to refine its craft. Bushmills 16 Year Old Malt ($60) has a well balanced mix of port wine, almond, and sandalwood flavors. It’s a glassful of harmony. The rare Bushmills 21 Year Old Malt ($90) is special indeed, aged for a minimum of 19 years in Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks before being finished in Madeira casks. Its dark chocolate, toffee, and spice notes and exceptional finish make it a worthy splurge.
There’s something about Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Special Reserve ($40) that brings out the best of the casks it matures in, making it smooth and mellow with caramel notes and the smallest hint of spice. And the delightful Tullamore Dew 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey ($45) is aged to perfection in four different casks, with a gorgeous amber color, an intense fruity aroma, and flavors of toasted wood, vanilla, and sherry that leave a sourness in the cheeks before imparting a faint chocolate note.
Finally, Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey ($135), which is produced in the East Cork town of the same name, seems to encompass everything good about Ireland. It’s smooth, bittersweet, and a little spicy, with flavors of dark chocolate, almonds, oak, and vanilla: an ideal dram to toast the vernal equinox.
[Related Story: Jon Glaser Raises a Few Glasses to Toast St. Patrick’s Day]