March is here. That means it’s time to talk about some great Irish whisky. While I love the tipple from the Emerald Isle year-round, there’s no getting around the fact that interest in whiskey from Ireland peaks this month. And with so many new Irish whiskey brands hitting the market — covering everything from fun Irish blends to cask strength heavy hitters — sitting alongside old-school classics, it’s high time to taste and rank some.
For this blind tasting, I’m going down and dirty. I’m tasting 20 Irish whiskeys from my shelf and ranking them on taste alone. That’s it. No gimmicks or long lists of parameters. This is just a good old-fashioned blind tasting and ranking. Our lineup features the following bottles today:
- Northcross Triple Wood Irish Whiskey
- Jameson Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey
- The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey
- Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey Shelby Edition
- The Busker Irish Whiskey Single Pot Still
- Gold Spot Single Pot Stull Irish Whiskey 135th Anniversary Limited Edition Aged 9 Years
- Method And Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey Matured in Bourbon Barrels Finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks
- Waterford Irish Single Malt Whisky Heritage Hunter
- Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Kentucky Oak Edition
- McConnell’s Irish Whisky Aged 5 Years
- Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Single Batch Double Oak Finish
- Writers’ Tears Red Head Irish Whiskey
- Triple Dog Irish Whiskey
- Teeling Whiskey Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
- Proclamation Blended Irish Whiskey
- Waterford Irish Single Malt Whisky Organic Gaia 2.1
- Jameson Black Barrel Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey
- Sláinte Irish Whiskey Smooth Blend
- The Gael Irish Whiskey
- Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Cask Finish Series Port Cask Finish
Let’s dive in!
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Part 1: The Whiskey Tasting
Nose: There’s a clear sense of grain-forward Irish whiskey on the nose with honey-dipped Graham Crackers next to light sweetgrass, mellow nuttiness, and a hint of summer flowers.
Palate: The palate leans into butterscotch with a hint of orange oils, buttery croissant, and creamy toffee with a light whisper of that malty honey from the nose.
Finish: The end has a marzipan lushness with a very light sense of dried cherries dipped in milk chocolate with a flutter of spiced malts.
This was fine. It was very much “Irish Whiskey” from top to bottom with a nice nuttiness and spicy choco malts. It felt a little more like a cocktail base than a fine sipper.
Nose: This does feel classic with notes of lemon citrus candy, soft malts, and mild spice on the nose with a faint touch of honey and almond.
Palate: The sip leans into that spice with a soft powderiness while layers of lush vanilla, dry nuts, and a hint of woodiness drive the palate.
Finish: The end is short and sweet with a minerality to it that’s more river rock than tap water.
Well, hello Jameson! That lemon candy vibe is unforgettable. Still, this is clearly a mixing whiskey from top to bottom.
Nose: The nose on this is all about the apple candy with a hint of pear in there alongside mild notes of cinnamon and maybe a little honey.
Palate: The palate is light and touches on chocolate chips and winter spice before going big with the apple candy again.
Finish: The end washes out a tad with the proofing water, leaving hints of dark spices, raisins, and more apple/pear candy.
This was pretty good all things considered. It had a nice balance and some real depth. Still, it was just “nice” and not much more.
Nose: Applewood leads to apple candies made with plenty of honey next to a hint of dried flowers, dry firewood, and a whisper of dry straw.
Palate: The palate amps up the apple to a spiced apple fritter with plenty of cinnamon, clove, and ginger next to a layer of creamy vanilla and more of that dry straw.
Finish: The end is full of honey and spice and fades out pretty fast.
This was pretty good. It’s not great and feels like a solid cocktail base.
Nose: Hardcore notes of wet grains open this with a hint of milk chocolate and a clove/allspice on the nose.
Palate: The taste leans into those sweet porridge grains toward dried fruits and green peppercorns.
Finish: The mid-palate sweetens with butterscotch next to spicy stewed apples that feel like sticky apple sauce before fading out pretty fast.
This was a grain bomb. There was some nuance there but it was buried deep under all that wet and sweet porridge.
Nose: The nose is super lush with hints of kiwi skins next to the woody core of a pineapple, soft vanilla oils, stewed apples, and a little bit of holiday spice mix.
Palate: The palate is creamy yet light with a sharp sense of cloves and allspice next to a tropical fruit salad with a touch of black pepper, more of that super soft vanilla, a smear of Nutella, and a twinge of sour sherry-soaked oak.
Finish: The end simmers all that tropical fruit down with the spices to create a sweet, tart, spicy, vanilla-laden jammy feel with a line of spiced malts lurking underneath it all.
This is on another level. It’s delicious, deep, and delightful. This blows every previous sip out of the water and is the sip to beat.
Nose: This opens with dry pencil shavings leading towards dry pine boxes, potpourri, and a hint of grapefruit pith.
Palate: The taste is driven by cinnamon bark and clove berries, with a pink eraser vibe next to soft vanilla beans.
Finish: That vanilla moves the mid-palate towards a finish full of ripe figs, light spice, and sweet potting soil.
This was odd but made a weird sort of sense by the end. I’m just not sure if I like all that oddity or am just trying to like it because it’s different.
Nose: There’s a sense of old black potting soil on the nose with a rush of freshly bailed hay, bushels of red apples, orange marmalade, and a whisper of fresh rain on slate roofs.
Palate: That orange turns into an orange upside-down cake with a cinnamon/clove caramel drizzle next to old prunes, oatmeal cut with raisins and brown sugar, salted butter, and a twinge of old cedar planks with singed edges and a faint echo of sage.
Finish: That sage leads to a green pepperiness and a hint more of savory green herbs with plenty of honey and dried fruits next to a final note of soft spice.
This is strange in all the right ways. The maltiness is deep and enriching while the overall vibe really does feel like you’re on a journey. It’s not amazing though. It’s more … fascinating.
Nose: There’s a clear sense of almost sweet cedar next to marzipan and old leather with a hint of sour cherry and tart apple skins rounding out the nose.
Palate: The palate starts with a foundational layer of vanilla sauce and builds layers of woody cinnamon, soft nutmeg, and sharp cloves toward dried figs and prunes with a brandy-soaked oak vibe and some stewed cherries.
Finish: The end is nice and buttery toffee with another note of vanilla before the woody spices lead to apple tobacco stuffed in an old cedar box on the slow finish.
Okay, this is amazing. This is a deep and moving whiskey that I immediately want to actually drink and not just taste. It also has some serious bourbon vibes with that mix of dark cherry, vanilla, and woody spice.
Nose: Irish oatcakes with vanilla wafers, orange rinds, and light peppery spice lead the way on the nose.
Palate: Orchard fruits confirm the Irishness of it all on the palate as butterscotch and vanilla pudding mingle with white pepper and a fleeting sense of old oak.
Finish: The orchard fruits peek on the finish with a chocolate oatmeal cookie vibe.
This was back to the “fine” column of this tasting. Nothing wrong at all here. It’s just average.
Nose: Sweet fruits and spice lead the way on the nose with slightly dry green sweetgrass, soft worn boot leather, and gently spiced malts with winter barks and berries next to a depth that just keeps going.
Palate: The palate perks up with slices of fresh ginger next to Tellicherry peppercorns, Nutella, and an apple candy mid-palate that leans into an earthiness that’s like a back porch on a sunny day.
Finish: That apple sweetness drives the finish towards drier sweetgrass and old porch wicker with a touch of moss growing between the canes, soft dark cherry, and a sense of sticky toffee pudding with a flake of salt and a pinch of orange peel.
Nose: Burnt orange and peach skins mingle with a hint of salted dried mango next to red berry tea leaves, plum jam cut with clove, and a mild sense of brandy butter and scones.
Palate: Nutella comes through on the palate with a sense of rum-raisin, old sherry-soaked oak staves, and creamy vanilla cake.
Finish: The end leans into the brandy butter and scones with a sense of sharp orange marmalade and fresh breakfast tea cut with cream and honey.
This is also really f*cking good whiskey. It’s not quite as engaging as the last sip, but I’m really splitting hairs saying that.
Nose: The nose is very mild with a light sense of leather and dark and spicy red fruit with a thin caramel sweetness.
Palate: Vanilla pudding and sweet oak mix with a minor note of orchard fruit and maltiness.
Finish: There’s a hint of orange zest on the end that’s accented by a thin sweetness and spice.
This is fine=. It’s clearly a mixing whiskey.
Nose: Hefty grains lead the way on the nose with a dry woodiness and a hint of old candle wax, white pepper, and maybe some vanilla cream.
Palate: The palate amps up that vanilla with a grainy vibe as winter spices make an appearance and lead to a whisper of floral honey.
Finish: The end fades pretty quickly, leaving you with sweet vanilla cream and woody spice, and a hint of dry straw.
This too was just “fine.” There was a decent balance between the crafty graininess and the rest of the profile that helped this stand out a bit.
Nose: Sliced pears hidden in vanilla pudding opens the nose, with a slight woodiness that turns into a neutral vodka.
Palate: There’s a slight nutty vibe on the palate, with hints of apple fritters, banana, and oak.
Finish: The finish touches on oats and raisins but ends more like a listless vodka than anything else.
This tastes more like vodka than whiskey. You can guess where this will end up on the ranking…
Nose: The nose draws you in with a sense of sharp orange marmalade on buttermilk biscuits with a sense of mocha lattes, wet brown sugar, red grapes, figs, and marshmallows fresh from the bag.
Palate: The taste leans into lemon zest and white pepper before drying out toward grapefruit pith, dark cacao powder, salted black licorice, and a hint of dry white toast.
Finish: There’s a sense of cinnamon bark and clove berries with that black licorice on the finish that leads back to the dark orange and a sweet sense of stewed peaches.
This is very fascinating and deep. I feel like I could find more and more if I went back to the nose and taste again and again. This is fun, but not a “wow” pour of whiskey.
Nose: That oated sweet grainy nose of a good Irish whiskey mingles with dark chocolate cut with creamy vanilla sits next to a rich buttery toffee with a note of orange on the nose.
Palate: The palate amps up that vanilla with a dusting of Christmas spices and fatty nuts that lead to a minced meat pie feel with a dark orange/chocolate underbelly.
Finish: The end has a hint of tannic oak with a creamy vanilla lushness that’s spiked with dark wintry woody spices.
This is deep and tasty. It’s not mind-blowing but it’s really good. That feels like enough.
Nose: Minor notes of black pepper and soft lemon oils mixed with vanilla and a hint of banana bread on the nose.
Palate: The palate leans into a light brioche with thin orange marmalade, almonds, and vanilla next to a hint of oak.
Finish: The end is light and quick with a sense of dried honey wafers next to a final touch of that black pepper from the nose.
This is pretty thin overall.
Nose: This has a malty nose with a ginger and honey cookie vibe with a ton of raisin, apple, pear, and maybe even a hint of orange.
Palate: The palate has a svelte buttercream feel that leads to a malted milkshake, a hint of cinnamon, and plenty of dates and figs.
Finish: The end amps up the spice towards a woody feel with apple skins and pear cores leading to a hint of rum-raisin and honey.
This was classic, straightforward, and distinct. Every note hit true and clear. This is a pretty nice whiskey that’s not overdone.
Nose: The nose opens with bright fruit — orange, lime, and lemon zest next to peach skins and juicy apricots — next to light notes of brown spices, raisins, and lightly sweetened oak staves with a hint of must.
Palate: The palate leans into the stone fruit with a stewed vibe next to dried red chili flakes, cinnamon, cardamom, and a hint of orange chocolate with whispers of lemon-lime soda.
Finish: The end leans into the dark spices on the finish with a plummy vibe, a hint more of that soft oak, and a final dash of peppercorn.
This is enticing and very good whiskey.
Part 2: The Whiskey Ranking
20. Proclamation Blended Irish Whiskey — Taste 15
Average Price: $29
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.
This is just too listless and thin. Pass.
19. Sláinte Irish Whiskey Smooth Blend — Taste 18
Average Price: $37
The new Slainte Irish Whiskey Smooth Blend starts off with classic barrels of grain whiskey aged in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Those barrels are batched and then the whiskey is re-barreled into new ex-bourbon casks for a final maturation before vatting, proofing, and bottling.
I’d also pass on this too. It’s too thin-bodied and has nothing really to draw your attention.
18. The Busker Irish Whiskey Single Pot Still — Taste 5
Average Price: $37
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.
This is a crafty grain bomb. You really have to search to get past that. I’d pass.
17. Triple Dog Irish Whiskey — Taste 13
Average Price: $39
This new Irish whiskey is billed as having a “Modern taste profile.” The whiskey in the bottle is a standard sourced triple-distilled Irish whiskey blend that’s a minimum of four years old and rested in French oak barrels.
This is pretty thin too — I know, that’s a trend here in these lower-ranked drams… Alas, I’d pass.
16. Teeling Whiskey Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey — Taste 14
Average Price: $57
Teeling is known for sourcing a lot of its whiskey. This is made entirely in-house at their Dublin facility in the Liberties. The whiskey is a classic triple distilled single pot still Irish whiskey made with 50% malted barley and 50% unmalted barley. The whiskey is then aged in ex-bourbon, new oak, and ex-sherry barrels before blending and proofing.
This is interesting in that it balances the grainy crafty sweet porridge vibe with a well-aged whiskey with real nuance and flavor notes. That all said, I’d probably use this for making citrus-forward cocktails.
15. Method And Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey Matured in Bourbon Barrels Finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks — Taste 7
Average Price: $69
This is Midleton’s craft whiskey venture — they built a stand-alone craft distillery in the middle of the campus for this whiskey. The single-grain spirit is matured in unused Spanish oak and old bourbon casks. That’s then small-batched and proofed with that soft County Cork water and bottled in a throwback art-deco bottle.
This is a true oddball. That’s not a slight. This whiskey is built to be an oddball and there’s real depth. You just really have to be in the mood for something different to enjoy this one.
14. McConnell’s Irish Whisky Aged 5 Years — Taste 10
Average Price: $32
This Irish whiskey is batched from sweet bourbon barrels. The blend is a mix of malt and grain Irish whiskeys that spent at least five years resting in old bourbon casks before blending, proofing, and bottling.
This is a pretty standard mixing whiskey. It’ll work nicely with Coke or ginger ale.
13. Jameson Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey — Taste 2
Average Price: $29
The whiskey is a blend of single pot still (made from malted and unmalted barley) and grain whiskeys. Those whiskeys age in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks until they hit that classic sweet spot that makes Jameson Jameson. Those barrels are then blended, proofed, and bottled.
This really is a mixing whiskey for highballs (it’s literally built for that). Add some ginger ale and a twist of lime and you’ll be set.
12. Northcross Triple Wood Irish Whiskey — Taste 1
Average Price: $24
This brand-new whiskey from Great Northern Distillery in Ireland and is a classic blend that leans into the oak. The whiskey is built from triple-distilled Irish whiskey that’s mellowed in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry Oloroso, and new American oak casks. Those casks were then blended, proofed, and bottled.
This whiskey is a step up from the mixers above. I’d use this for whiskey-forward cocktails. There’s enough in the flavor profile to really build a nice drink with this. That said, there are better cocktail base whiskeys on this list.
11. The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey — Taste 3
Average Price: $44
This whiskey is made from Irish barley that’s mashed and then triple distilled. The hot juice is then filled in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks for a long maturation (no age is given). Those barrels and then blended and the whiskey is proofed down for bottling.
This is a nice and deep whiskey that I could see sipping over some rocks or folding into a solid cocktail. If you’re looking for something that’s purely classic and versatile, this is worth trying.
10. Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey Shelby Edition — Taste 4
Average Price: $23
This new release from Bushmills celebrates the sixth and final season of Peaky Blinders. The whiskey in the bottle is a classic Irish whiskey blend of ex-bourbon casks (aged three to five years) bottled without chill-filtration, hence its higher proof.
This is one of the better cocktail whiskeys on this list. It works with any application from bitter to sweet to citrus. It’s not terrible over a few rocks either. And if you’re a fan of Peaky Blinders, then this is an obvious buy.
9. Waterford Irish Single Malt Whisky Heritage Hunter — Taste 8
Average Price: $129
This new release from whiskey-nerd-beloved Waterford out in Ireland is named after pioneering plant breeder Dr. Herbert Hunter. The initial grow for the barley for this whiskey was started with a 50-gram bag of Hunter barley. Over several seasons, they produced enough barley to fill 50 barrels of whiskey with the help of two other almost extinct heritage barley varieties, Goldthorpe and Old Irish. Finally, the whiskey in the bottles ended up being a blend of 45% first-fill ex-bourbon, 19% new American oak, 21% French oak, and 15% Vin Doux Naturel barrels (a Southern French sweet wine).
This is the whisky you buy when you want to expand your palate and learn. There’s a bit of a “Am I sitting in a classroom?” vibe to the wildness and newness of this one, but it’s worth it to expand your knowledge of Irish whiskey.
8. Waterford Irish Single Malt Whisky Organic Gaia 2.1 — Taste 16
Average Price: $95
This new release from The Arcadian Series is comprised of alt-barley (old-school barley strains) that were harvested back in 2016. The barley was grown by organic farmers specifically for this mash bill. The whiskey was then triple distilled and aged by Waterford to highlight the malted barley in the recipe.
I blindly ranked these and these two ended up basically tied. The same goes for this Waterford as the one above. This is a learning whiskey where you enrich your palate while also trying something completely new and fresh from the region. If you’re not down for that journey, then find something a little more straightforward on this list.
7. Jameson Black Barrel Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey — Taste 17
Average Price: $45
This masterfully crafted whiskey leans more towards the single pot still whiskeys than grain whiskey. Those whiskeys are aged in a combination of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon for anywhere from eight to 16 years. Then, the whiskey is finished in an extra-charred ex-bourbon barrel, bringing about the “Black Barrel” moniker, before blending and proofing.
Speaking of “straightforward,” this whiskey is that with a serious depth that sings on the senses. This is also the best cocktail base on the list. If you’re looking to make Irish whiskey cocktails all month, this is the one whiskey to have on hand.
6. The Gael Irish Whiskey — Taste 19
Average Price: $93
The latest batch from J.J. Corey leans into the oldest barrels in their inventory. The juice is made from a 60/40 malt and grain whiskey split. The barrels range in age from seven to well over 25 years old — they’re all sourced. Those barrels are masterfully blended and then released in small, limited-edition batches of only a few thousand bottles.
This is where we get into the serious whiskeys. This is a nice sipper with great nuances. It doesn’t quite have the same wow factor or depth as the next five entries but that’s really splitting hairs at this point.
5. Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Cask Finish Series Port Cask Finish — Taste 20
Average Price: $53
This fan-favorite whiskey just released its latest batch. The whiskey in this one is a nine-year-old Irish grain whiskey blended with a classic Irish single malt. The whiskey was then proofed down slightly and re-loaded into Port casks from the famed Douro Valley. Those barrels were stored next to the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland until they were just right.
This has a slight cellar funk to it that I love. I can see that being offputting to some palates though. That said, this is a fun whiskey that balances its port finish very well with a really deep overall profile. If you’re looking for something a little different but still damn good, this is the play.
4. Writers’ Tears Red Head Irish Whiskey — Taste 12
Average Price: $199
This is classic Irish single malt that’s triple distilled before a long aging process. The hot juice rests in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts until it’s just right. Those barrels are batched and proofed before bottling otherwise as-is.
This was delicious. It was a sliver lighter than the next three when it came to the complexity of the flavor profile. But I wouldn’t turn this pour down at all. It’s really good whiskey that delivers.
3. Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Kentucky Oak Edition — Taste 9
Average Price: $199
This is classic Redbreast tripled distiller single pot still whiskey (made with a mash of malted and unmalted barley). The juice settles for several years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before it’s vatted and then re-filled into brand new air-dried American oak barrels from the Taylor Farm in Kentucky. After four months, the whiskey is blended and barely proofed before bottling as-is.
This felt like the perfect bridge between bourbon and Irish whiskey. It’s really tasty and so well-balanced. It also just keeps going and meandering through delicious flavor notes. So if you want to get your bourbon fiend friends hooked on Irish whiskey, this is the bottle to pour for them. This also makes an extraordinary Manhattan.
2. Gold Spot Single Pot Stull Irish Whiskey 135th Anniversary Limited Edition Aged 9 Years — Taste 6
Average Price: $115
The latest release from Mitchell & Son’s beloved “Spot” line of whiskeys is a nine-year-old blend of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The whiskey is finished in Port casks and Bordeaux wine casks for the final blend/maturation.
This might as well be a tie for first place. This is a brilliant pour of whiskey with zero faults.
1. Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Single Batch Double Oak Finish — Taste 11
Average Price: $43
This award-winning Irish blend is all about the aging and seaside vibes. The blend is built with whiskeys 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.
No notes. Get this one. It’s delicious, deep, and just wonderful.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
There was a huge difference in the quality of whiskeys between the top and bottom of this ranking. If you want, you can straight-up skip the bottom five altogether. The middle is all fine for mixing, depending on what you’re looking for. But I’d even say skip that and just get the Jameson Black Barrel if you want a solid cocktail base.
Then there are the top six. All of those whiskeys are worth seeking out and giving a try, especially the top three. Go back and check the tasting notes. Find which one piques your interest. Then hit that price link to try it yourself. You won’t be disappointed.