Irish whiskey has been one of the biggest success stories of the current whiskey and wider spirits boom. That means that there are more expressions than ever coming out of the Emerald Isle, which, in turn, means more great Irish whiskey on the shelves at your local liquor store.
To that end, I thought it was high time for a blind tasting of a mix of new and classic Irish whiskeys.
For this blind tasting, I’m pulling some very new bottles that just came out last month or at least this year and putting them up against bottles that came out last year or are just gold standards by now. I’ve also left out the big-hitting bottles. Putting seven bottles up against, say, a Teeling 30-year-old at $2,000 a bottle is unfair to the rest of the lineup, in my opinion. That said, I did leave the rage pretty wide — the prices below range from $30 to $300. That’s the core price range of bottles that you can actually get fairly easily at good liquor stores or whiskey bars without getting into the super cheap stuff on the bottom end or the $2,000+ bottles on the top end.
Our lineup today is:
- Gold Spot Aged 9 Years Limited Edition (new)
- RedBreast PX Edition (new)
- Midleton Very Rare 2021
- Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Peaky Blinders Shelby Edition (new)
- Egan’s Conviction Aged Ten Years (new)
- Teeling Small Batch
- Jameson Black
- Red Spot Aged 15 Years
Let’s dive in and see where these bottles rank!
Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Irish Whiskey Posts of the Last Six Months
- The 100 Best Whiskeys Our Head Drinks Writer Tasted In 2021
- We Blind Tasted A Dozen Irish Whiskeys And Crowned A Winner
- Jameson Vs. Bushmills: The Results Of Our St. Patrick’s Day Blind Tasting
- All The Brands From The Jameson ‘Family’ Of Irish Whiskeys, Ranked
- International Single Malt Whiskies, Blind Tasted And Ranked
Part 1: The Tasting
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. 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. 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 was fantastic. Right out of the gate, this is the pour to beat.
Christmas treats come to mind on the nose with shelled nuts, dark brandy-soaked fruits, old leather, rum-raisin mince meat pies, and a twist of orange zest. The palate has a waxy dark cacao nib vibe that leads to marzipan with vanilla cookies and a hint of salt. The maltiness stays subdued as most and spicy Christmas cake full of nuts, candied fruits, and plenty of dark spice gets rummy and topped with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream.
Again, this is delicious. I had to go back to taste one and try these first two side by side again. They’re both stellar.
Soft grain notes lead to a hint of apple candy dissolving into freshly fried apple fritters with a thin line of lemon pepper and wet lawn grass. The palate adds floral honey to the mix that pairs well with the apple and spice that leads to a savory hint of pear stewed in saffron with a bit of that wet grass mingling with grape skins. The end leans into a subtler fruit with a kiwi skin vibe next to more grape must, a hint of wet cinnamon stick, and a whisper of honey-soaked oak.
F*ck off! This is another killer. There’s no way that these first three aren’t the top three. They’re all delicious.
This opens with a mix of light apple candy with a honeyed sweetness next to a line of dry wood with some floral vibes and maybe a little straw. The palate largely delivers on those notes while adding a nice layer of spice — allspice, cinnamon, clove, some ginger — alongside a hint of vanilla cream and more of that dry straw. The end is short-ish while delivering more apple and honey alongside a warm/spiced maltiness.
This was pretty good. It was certainly in a different league than the first three, but perfectly nice.
This opens with a nice mix of old leather, dried almonds, dried apricot, and floral honey on the nose. The palate moves from that toward rich marzipan touched with orange oil, vanilla sauce, a light wet graininess, and a mix of ginger and lemon zest. The end builds on those sharper notes and lets the spiciness of the ginger peak before fading through more honey and apricot on a lush end.
Damn, this is pretty freakin’ good too. It’s not as refined as the first three but it’s pretty damn close. Maybe I just really like Irish whiskey.
It takes a minute to find the nose on this one but there is a hint of rum-raising, vanilla, and spiced malts in there. The palate has a slight mustiness to it with a thin line of vanilla tobacco that leads to a potting soil echo. The end is a bit warm on those malts and spice with a little bit of earthiness.
This was fine but felt like a mixing whiskey, not a sipping one.
There’s a sense of vanilla and toffee on the nose with a hint of dark chocolate powder, old leather, and maybe some fresh mint. The palate has a hint of plum next to holiday spices, a touch of almond paste, and a hint of floral honey. The end is creamy with a vanilla backbone next to caramel-covered almonds just hit with a flake of salt.
This, again, was nice. But, again, it felt like the perfect cocktail foundation to build a great drink on the back of.
Leathery notes meet Amarena cherries with a hint of apple pie and mince meat pies all mingling on the nose. The palate is full of nutty holiday cake with dark spices next to cherry bark, apple cores, soft cedar, and a hint of black pepper. The end comes around with a sweet spiciness akin to eggnog with a creamy sense of dark chocolate mixed with cherry tobacco and crushed almonds.
This was so distinct and tasty. We have another winner.
Part 2: The Ranking
8. Teeling Small Batch — Taste 6
Average Price: $40
Teeling was the first distillery to reopen in Dublin after nearly a century of tough times for Irish whiskey. The craft distillery ages its juice in bourbon barrels before transferring that whiskey to Central American rum casks. Those barrels are then batched, proofed, and bottled in Teeling’s big, dark bottle.
This was so clearly a mixing whiskey from the nose to the finish that it’s hard to rank it amongst these pours. It’s fine but not even the best cocktail base whiskey on this list.
7. Jameson Black — Taste 7
Average Price: $41
This is Jameson’s take on double barreling. The whiskey is first matured in old bourbon barrels. That juice is then transferred to another bourbon barrel that’s been doubly charred with a deep alligator skin char. Those barrels are batched and proofed all the way down to 80 proof.
This was squarely in the “that’s nice” column. That said, I was left thinking about the Manhattan I wanted to make with this and not going back in for another neat sip.
6. Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Peaky Blinders Shelby Edition — Taste 4
Average Price: $32
This new release from Bushmills celebrates the sixth and final season of Peaky Blinders. The juice 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 was good and really leaned into the classic vibe of apple/honey Irish whiskey, Bushmills specifically. Though, this did feel like a cocktail base more than a sipper, especially on this list of whiskeys.
5. Egan’s Conviction Aged Ten Years — Taste 5
Average Price: $70
Egan’s Conviction is a new ten-year release from the fan-favorite bottler. The whiskey in that black bottle is a blend of ten-year-old single malt and single grain whiskeys. Those barrels and vatted and re-filled into XO Cognac casks for a final rest before bottling without chill filtration.
This was pretty damn nice. I think this is where we squarely get into the “sippers” on this list. I can see enjoying this over a rock or two without hesitation. It’s not as complex as the next entries, but it’s good. And, sometimes, that’s enough.
4. Red Spot Aged 15 Years — Taste 8
Average Price: $154
This is a high-water mark of Irish whiskey distilling and blending. The whiskey is aged for 15 years in a combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-Marsala casks. The spirit is then married and proofed down to a very approachable 92 proof.
I was shocked this wasn’t number one. But its sibling was, so I guess it all came out in the wash. Anyway, this was among the “well, this is great. Now, I how the hell do I rank this” part of the tasting.
All of that aside, this is a great bottle to have on your home bar cart. It’s spectacular.
3. Midleton Very Rare 2021 — Taste 3
Average Price: $298
The 38th Very Rare release from Midleton is a marrying of single pot still and grain whiskeys that spent 15 to 36 years aging in ex-bourbon barrels. The barrels were specifically chosen for their very light char. Those whiskeys were masterfully vatted and then proofed down with that iconic Cork County springwater to a very accessible 80 proof.
This was light and playful. Honestly, these top three all could have been number one depending on the day, time of year, and my mood. This is delicious but wasn’t quite as lush as the next two. But that’s me really reaching/splitting hairs trying to rank these.
2. RedBreast PX Edition — Taste 2
Average Price: $133
This is the latest installment of The Redbreast Iberian Series, which aims to highlight barrels from Portugal and Spain in the Irish whiskey. The juice is finished in Pedro Ximenéz casks after spending years in both ex-bourbon and ex-Olorosso sherry casks.
This was just stellar. It was a little Christmas-y and it’s about 90 degrees in my apartment right now. Had it been a little lighter, this might have been in first place. But today, in the middle of summer, this Christmas-in-a-glass whiskey was delicious but just not what I wanted right now.
1. Gold Spot Aged 9 Years Limited Edition — Taste 1
Average Price: $125
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 juice is finished in Port casks and Bordeaux wine casks for the final blend/maturation.
This was the first sip and nothing really beat it. It’s a luxurious sipping experience that I immediately wanted to take part in again.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
I’m still shocked that Red Spot landed at four. That’s one of my “go-to” Irish whiskeys that I rave about. I guess that’s the point of these blind taste tests — what you think you know can be turned on its head pretty easily.
In the end, the top four whiskeys on this list were all killers. I’d even say numbers five, six, and seven are worth your while for sipping and mixing. The only whiskey I didn’t care for was the Teeling Small Batch. It just felt out of place on this list (which is on me since I chose these bottles).
Still, if you’re looking for a great bottle of Irish whiskey, hit up those top four. You will not be disappointed.