By Richard Thomas
Paddy is another example of a whiskey that is well-known in Ireland, but uncommon just about anywhere else. Just as with Powers, whenever I enter an Irish pub and see a bottle of Paddy Old Irish Whiskey on the shelf, I know I’m in a place that takes its Irishness more seriously than as just a matter of decor and having a Guinness tap.
Paddy Old Irish started life as a generic whiskey from the Cork Distilleries Company, which traces its roots back to 1779. More than a century later, that company hired one Patrick J. O’Flaherty as a traveling salesman, who was so good that his name became synonymous with the wares he peddled. Depending on which version of the story you believe, the distillery either honored their top salesman or bowed to marketing reality by renaming their signature whiskey “Paddy” in 1912.
Being from Cork, Paddy is part of the Catholic wing of the Irish whiskey family, although such distinctions mean little in the modern era of drinks conglomerates. The whiskey business is increasingly both consolidated and international in nature, and at one point, every distillery both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was owned by the same company, Pernod Ricard.
How Paddy is made makes it distinctive from the mainstream of Irish whiskey. While Paddy is triple distilled just like all other Hibernian whiskey, Paddy’s blend uses an unusually high proportion of malt whiskey. Irish whiskey-makers favor an emphasis on pot still whiskey, and only a few examples of mostly-malt or all-malt Irish whiskeys are on the market today.
I’ve always felt that Paddy’s bottling makes the whiskey look like a cheaper product than it actually is, because the labeling style is outmoded without looking old fashioned. Don’t let that deceive you, however, since Paddy Old Irish Whiskey is thoroughly middle of the road stuff. The whiskey has a pale straw-gold coloring, and is bottled at 40 % alcohol. The whiskey is aged for up to seven years, although it comes with no aging statement.
By Irish whiskey standards, Paddy has a light and smooth character. The whiskey is very easy going, and while a whiskey aficionado might find it unsophisticated, its simple virtues make it very approachable for casual drinkers and enjoyable for just about anyone. The nose is grainy in a honey-nut style, and has an oily, aromatic quality that make this aspect of the whiskey just about the heaviest thing about it. On the palate, it is a mellow, soft whiskey, distinctively malty and with hints of toffee and vanilla. The finish continues that flavor, running to soft and sweet before ending on a decidedly woody, dry note.
Paddy Old Irish did not enter regular distribution in the United States until 2012, so it is still a relatively rare bird there. Even so, it is very reasonably priced, so expect it to cost between $25 and $32 a bottle. That price tag is actually (and surprisingly) somewhat cheaper than what it costs in Europe, after you convert the currency. In the UK, Paddy goes for about £20, and on the Continent about 24 or 25 euros is the norm.