Best Irish Whiskey

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Tullamore Dew

Tullamore Dew,
Our Choice for the Best Irish Whiskey
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The whiskey trade is surging, and no sector of it more so than Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey sales have grown by 17.5% in the United States, and recent reports have Jameson alone up by 25%.

Hibernian hootch is more popular than ever, and partly because of that, labels unfamiliar to any but Irish eyes are beginning to appear in bars around the world. If you want to try something new, how do you choose what whiskey to go with your beer and a shot?

Top 5 Irish Whiskeys*
1.  Tullamore DewThe No. 2 whiskey in Ireland takes the No. 1 slot on our list. While some Jameson fans might cry “foul,” Tullamore Dew was the top choice for roughly half of our contributing writers and the outside experts we inquired with, as well as the clear favorite among our readers. It’s light, fruity flavor sets it apart from most of the other Irish whiskeys considered for this article, and is a big part of why the whiskey has such a devoted following.

Tullamore Dew’s status vis-a-vis Jameson is not really so surprising for those who know the whiskey business. Tullamore Dew was bought out by New Midleton decades ago, and Midleton’s main product is none other than Jameson. After many years of second-tier status in its company, it shouldn’t be surprising that Tullamore is No. 2 in sales, but that doesn’t make it No. 2 on our list.

2. Jameson:  Those sales statistics might not be everything, but they also don’t lie. Among our writers and experts, Jameson was the top choice about half the time, and the second choice in many instances. The whiskey is ubiquitous, and drinkers are thirsty for it around the world. One whiskey in Ireland might be a little better, but not two.

3. Bushmills BlackThe “protestant” entry in our Top 5 Irish whiskeys, Bushmills Black beats out both other whiskeys and Bushmills Original. If you want those earthy, caramel, and toffee-like qualities that define so much of what Bushmills is about, then this is the whiskey for you. While opinions were divided about what the best Irish whiskey was, most of our experts and writers agreed on Bushmills Black as their third choice.

4. Powers: Powers might have only a small following, but that following is devoted. When I spoke to The Whiskey Reviewer’s circle of writers, friends and contacts about basic Irish whiskeys, only a few picked something other than Tullamore Dew and Jameson, but those few all picked Powers, and picked it enthusastically. Our reader poll turned up only a few supporters for Powers as well, but those supporters e-mailed us. Powers might not be the very best of the entry-level Irish whiskeys, but it has that special something that provokes passionate feelings from those who love it.

5. ClontarfA relative newcomer to Irish whiskey, Clontarf is on this list at No. 5 due in large part to its fan following, who like it for its lighter, crisper character. It has the butterscotch-like character that defines so many Irish whiskeys, but without the earthy, scotch-like heaviness that turns some drinkers off.

Considered, but not ranked: Paddy, Bushmills Original

*This article deals strictly with entry-level, no aging statement Irish whiskey. Older Irish whiskeys and malt Irish whiskeys will be dealt with in future articles.
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4 comments

  1. Hey! Thanks for this Whiskey Site! I just have a question. Is this listing for best Irish Whiskeys under $30.00. The reason I ask is I am an avid Whiskey Collector and all of these seem to be value Irish Whiskey bottles. My Top 5 is the following:

    1. Middleton Very Rare
    2. Bushmills 21
    3. Bushmills 16
    4. Jameson 18
    5. Connemara Single Cask

  2. Chad – you guessed almost right. If you look at the asterisked footnote, you’ll see this is about entry-level, basic, no-aging statement Irish whiskey, and all of those do indeed go for less than $30 a bottle.

    We will do an old Irish whiskey Top 5 sometime in the future, and that’s where Midleton Very Rare and Jameson 18 will be contenders.

  3. In your future article, consider Knappogue Castle 14 yo single malt twin cask with Oloroso sherry aging – non chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV. For a Scotch drinker, this does not disappoint. I can get it here in NH but not sure how available it is elsewhere. It sells here for 50 bucks. This tops my Irish list.

  4. Not only does it say at the foot of the article:

    “*This article deals strictly with entry-level, no aging statement Irish whiskey. Older Irish whiskeys and malt Irish whiskeys will be dealt with in future articles.”

    But the blog owner actually came in here and commented it was basic stuff. Can’t people READ?

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