The Real Difference Between Kirkland's Two Irish Creams

When lining up the best house brand spirits to pick up on your next Costco run, Kirkland Signature Irish Country Cream Liqueur proves to be a must buy. A Taste of Home preferred the generic Irish cream to the industry standard, not only for its wallet-friendly price point, but also its notes of chocolate, caramel, and hazelnuts combined with all of the warmth of Irish whiskey.

When the liqueur debuted back in March, MSN noted that there were more than a few folks who would trade their bottles of Baileys for Kirkland Signature Irish Country Cream Liqueur. They noted that a 1.5 liter bottle of Kirkland's Irish cream goes for just under $10, while Baileys sells for twice that.

Praise aside, the detectives over on Reddit uncovered an interesting anomaly with the liqueur. User u/and_eazy posted a photo picturing two bottles side by side, with a few minute differences that could easily be used in one of those spot-the-difference games. As it turns out, the bottles were purchased in two different states and had slightly different names, alcohol by volume, and size of packaging.

A tale of two names

The bottled labeled Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur was purchased in Sacramento, California, and had a 17 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) for a 1.75 liter bottle. The second bottle, purchased in Kalispell, Montana, featured the same picturesque scene of an Irish countryside, but the name was a little off — Kirkland Signature Irish Country Cream. The bottle was 1.5 liters and the ABV came in at 13.9 percent. In fine print, the label reads, "product of the USA, dessert wine with dairy cream, natural and artificial flavors and caramel color." Notice the lack of Irish whiskey on the ingredients list? That's key to understanding the difference between the two.

In some states, like California, Washington and Illinois, Costco is able to sell a full range of beer, wine, and spirits to their clientele (via Market Watch). In those states, selling bottles of whiskey-based Kirkland Signature Irish Cream Liqueur with a 17 percent ABV isn't an issue.

Using this rationale, the states that are only able to sell beer and wine in their Costco locations, like Montana, have to mind the formulas of what they are selling. Using a wine base to make the Kirkland Signature Irish Country Cream cuts down on the alcohol content and is a workaround for the fact that selling a whiskey-based spirit in a grocery outlet is a no-go. Given the glowing reviews the product has received, it doesn't seem like Costco customers are feeling the difference between the two.