Single malt scotch has long been the preferred tipple of the velvet smoking jacket set. But single malt Irish whiskey is harder to characterize. Though it has the same light honey hue as Scotch, Irish whiskey lacks the manly, campfire punch of peat. The term "single malt" refers to whiskey that's made from malted barley at a single distillery.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day--which is too often associated with crap booze like green beer and Baileys--we decided to class things up a bit. Here are three Irish whiskeys--two single malts and one a single pot still--that go down smoother than a pint of Guinness.
Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey, $39.95
Matured in bourbon and oloroso sherry casks for a minimum of 10 years, Bushmills' single malt is smooth and oh-so-drinkable. Sweetly mellow on the nose, this whiskey is equally easy on the palate, with no harsh bite and a sweet, honeyed hint of vanilla. "I could drink so much of this," sighed one taster.
The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey, $34.95
More pungent than Bushmills, Tyrconnell has a malty note of overripe bananas on the nose. Though this whiskey was the most aggressive of the three on the palate, it still went down remarkably smooth, with a hint of sweetness and a dry finish. "The Irish had it rough enough, they didn't need really challenging booze," mused another taster.
Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, $54.95
Named Irish Whiskey of the Year at the 2013 Irish Whiskey Awards, Redbreast is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley that's triple distilled in pot stills and aged 12 years in oak casks. Aging gives this whiskey a darker hue and complex floral notes of apple blossom and vanilla on the nose. The palate is equally complex, with sweetness and toasty wood shining through. Though there was some stiff competition, this was the tasting group's top choice.