The Best Irish Whiskeys Of 2023

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One of Europe's oldest distilled liquors, Irish whiskey is said to date back to the 13th century. At that time, it was allegedly produced by monks who learned about the distillation process during their sojourns in the Mediterranean (via Wachusett Liquors). Meanwhile, the first written record of the Irish spirit appeared in 1405 — some 90 years before whiskey was first documented in neighboring Scotland (via Scotch Whisky Association). 

The liquor seriously took off over the centuries. By 1890, it was so popular that the relatively small landmass of Ireland was home to more than 30 whiskey distilleries. This boom was not to last, however. World wars and the Prohibition Era in America took their toll and in the 1960s only three distilleries remained in the country: Jameson, Powers, and Cork Distilling. The trio eventually joined forces to form the Irish Distillers group.

Today, Irish whiskey is a global hit — and not just on St. Patrick's Day. The amber-colored spirit has won the hearts of both newbies and connoisseur quaffers around the world. As such, it should come as little surprise that the number of whiskey distilleries in Ireland has been on the rise, jumping from just four in 2010 to 38 in 2020 (via Ibec). But which of these distilleries produces the best spirit for you? From famous whiskey brands to the boutique offerings of smaller distilleries, today the market abounds with high-quality Irish whiskeys guaranteed to knock your socks off. Here are some of the best.

How we selected products

Irish whiskey — and it is indeed "whiskey," as opposed to "whisky," according to Britannica — needs to meet certain requirements to classify as, well, Irish whiskey. Without going into too much detail, the drop needs to be produced in Ireland, distilled to no more than 94.8% ABV, and wood-aged for at least three years (via Vinepair). While these criteria provide certain guidelines, there is still plenty of room for differentiation between makers. Many distilleries are using the leg room to create Irish whiskeys that are both innovative and competitive on the international arena while still adhering to those core guidelines.

While you would be hard-pressed to find a sub-par bottle of Irish whiskey, they are definitely not all created equal. Firstly, there are different types of Irish whiskey, each with a specific flavor profile. For example, single malt whiskey made using only malted barley tastes different from single pot whiskey that contains at least 30% malted barley and 30% unmalted barley (via Men's Journal). All of this means that a bottle of Irish whiskey that tickles your taste buds may leave others underwhelmed. With this in mind, we have scoured the internet for community and expert reviews to help you find the best Irish whiskey to fit your specific mood, palate, and budget.

Best Irish whiskey overall

Redbreast is the world's biggest seller of single pot still whiskey, a liquor made from both malted and unmalted barley that's unique to Ireland (via Whisky Exchange). And the Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey is one of the distillery's most coveted single pot still offerings. Triple distilled and matured in first-fill and refill oak casks for at least 15 years, the drop is characterized by a rich and complex flavor.

Not as fruity as its 21-year-old sister and not as bold as its 12-year counterpart, the Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey combines hints of fresh fruit, spices, and toasted wood. Some reviewers have also detected the notes of toffee and caramel in the mix (via Whiskey Jug). Exuding a rich aroma of berries, the whiskey culminates in a long and sophisticated finish.

The Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey has met with an overwhelmingly positive reception. Richard Davie from BBC Good Food states that the copper liquor adds "complexity and heft" to its 12-year counterpart. He also recommends drinking the whiskey with a dash of water to give the flavors of the whiskey room to spread out and really shine when you taste the final product.

Purchase the Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey from The Whisky Exchange starting at £89.75.

Best value Irish whiskey

Billing itself as the best-selling Irish single malt whiskey in the U.S., the Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey will set you back around $30. And there's little doubt that at this price, this gem is an absolute bargain. Crafted using unpeated Irish malted barley and triple distilled in copper pot stills, this whiskey is aged for four years in casks that have previously housed Oloroso sherry, a fortified wine produced in Andalusia, Spain. Plus, it comes in a distinctive and aesthetically pleasing hexagonal bottle with a convenient black and copper pourer.

Despite its youthful status, the Sexton Single Malt is characterized by a surprisingly decent body. Josh Peters from The Whiskey Jug describes it sweeter than its 80-proof standing would suggest. On the nose, the dark copper spirit carries aromas of malt, cocoa, apples, citrus, and, of course, sherry. There're also some acetone and metallic notes thrown into the mix, which may or may not be acceptable to your palate. The taste is characterized by a range of flavors including  sherry, as well as malt, toffee, cocoa, cinnamon, nuts, dried apricots, and strawberry jam. Meanwhile, the long finish is citrusy and malty with hints of sherry and apricot.

Purchase the Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey from The Whisky Exchange starting at £31.95.

Best Irish whiskey under $50

High-quality whiskey needn't cost a fortune. At around $40, the Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey is one such mid-range offering. Though the price may make you uncertain, the truth is that this honey-colored sipper is surprisingly smooth and flavorful for its high 92 proof status. According to The Whiskey Jug, this amps up the "traditional" Irish Whiskey aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, the whiskey comes with a nose that hints at malt, dried fruit, toffee, and banana, as well as brown sugar, grain, and apricot. On the palate, it exudes flavors of malt, caramel, dried fruit, banana, and honey with hints of spice, vanilla taffy, and dark sweets.

While the Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey doesn't come with an age statement, it's made with whiskeys that are under six years old. It also features a high malt to grain ratio. However, what really makes this stand out from the whiskey pack is its six-month rum barrel finish, which adds to the complexity of its flavor profile (via BBC Good Food). Ideal for drinking on ice and a perfect addition to cocktails due to its notes of dark sugar and high proof, the Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey makes a nice addition to any liquor cabinet without breaking the bank.

Purchase the Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey from Amazon starting at £36.91.

Best Irish whiskey for a splurge

Building on the original Tyrconnell, the Tyrconnell 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey is a high-quality Irish whiskey for those happy to fork out around $100 for a bottle of the stuff. Aged in bourbon barrels for 16 years, this particular whiskey is a limited release in a series of bottles with a special appellation. It's named after a chestnut colt that won the National Produce Stakes horse race way back in 1876.

Produced at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth, the whiskey in this bottle is double — rather than triple — distilled in uniquely shaped pot stills. The small stills feature long necks, a unique construction meant to ensure that the whiskey gets plenty of contact with the copper — a production element that results in a more layered flavor profile. Bottled at 92 proof, the pour is matured in American oak bourbon barrels (via Whisky Rant).

So what about the aroma and taste? Tyrconnell 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey's nose is rich with citrus and hints of oak. The palate features a light taste of green fruits. Meanwhile, the lingering and subtly sweet finish comes with unmistakable notes of oak. All in all, while this whiskey is no bargain, you get what you pay for in this case. It's definitely worthy of its price tag.

Purchase the Tyrconnell 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Drizly starting at $100.

Best single malt Irish whiskey

Aged for at least 14 years in bourbon barrels, the Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey then spends a minimum of two years in Oloroso sherry casks. This is the reason for its characteristic nutty sherry notes. Produced at only one distillery — that would be Bushmills — this single malt whiskey is malty and fruity on the nose and features a rich palate packed with sherry maltiness and hints of fruit and sweetness. Last but not least, the finish of the whiskey comes with a lingering sweetness, which Whiskey Base puts down to the distillery's use of bourbon casks.

And if you're wondering about the name, yes, a castle is involved. The Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey indeed derives its name from a 15th-century Irish castle, which was purchased and restored by Mark Edwin Andrews in the 1960s. Andrews is also the name behind Knappogue Castle 1951, one of the oldest and most scarce commercially available Irish whiskeys today (via Knappogue Whiskey).

Purchase the Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Drizly starting at $94.99.

Best Irish whiskey for sipping neat

Drinking whiskey neat isn't always a pleasant experience, at least if you're a newbie. As such, many lackluster types of whiskey can leave you reaching for your favorite mixer to cut the harshness. This, however, definitely won't be the case when it comes to the Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey. This whiskey is ideal for serving at room temperature, even without mixers or ice. In fact, drinking the sipper neat is one of the best ways to fully appreciate its aroma and flavor.

Connemara 12 Year Old Whiskey is the only commercially-available single malt peated Irish whiskey today. The peat fire used to dry the malted barley during the production process is precisely what gives the final product its subtle smoky aroma and flavor (via Connemara Whiskey). According to The Spruce Eats, Connemara is peated at approximately half the phenol amount of Islay (a region of Scotland) malt. In the end, this gives the Irish whiskey in question a lovely, mild flavor that can easily be enjoyed neat. The whiskey is also only 80 proof, which also makes it highly drinkable straight.

This golden-colored whiskey comes with a distinct smoky aroma and an underlying toffee-like sweetness. The whiskey's flavor, meanwhile, hints at a forest fire and features a slightly medicinal note balanced by hints of soft caramels. The lingering finish is peaty with hints of chocolate.

Purchase the Connemara 12 Year Old Whiskey from The Whisky Exchange starting at £37.95.

Best Irish whiskey for sipping on ice

The Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey harkens back to the time when a liquor merchant, Mitchell & Sons, kept track of its whiskey's age statements by marking the casks with a little paint — blue for seven years, green for 10, yellow for 12, and red for 15 (via BBC Good Food). Nowadays, while Green Spot Single Pot Still doesn't come with an age statement, according to Spot Whiskey, the sipper is aged between seven and 10 years in sherry casks, as well as new and refill bourbon casks.

According to Wine Enthusiast Spirits Editor Kara Newman, this whiskey is best enjoyed on its own with no input from mixers. Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is rich in hints of spices, aromatic oils, fruit, barley, and toasted wood (via BBC Good Food). Plus, it has a spicy body with notes of cloves, green apples, and toasted oak.

And why would we want to pour this amber elixir over ice? According to The Whiskey Wash, it's all to do with a process called "retronasal olfaction." When whiskey is chilled on ice, warming it in the mouth releases aromatic molecules that elevate the sipping experience to the next level.

Purchase the Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey from the brand's site starting at €64.

Best Irish whiskey not aged in oak

"It's not often we stray from the traditional oak, but one sip suggests it was well worth the deviation," proclaim the brains behind the Midleton Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (via Method and Madness Whiskey). Made from malted and unmalted barley, this whiskey is matured in Oloroso sherry and bourbon barrels before it is transferred to chestnut — rather than the more traditional oak — casks from the Isére region of France. While this would practically never fly in Scotland, where whiskey has to be aged for at least three years in oak barrels, Ireland's distillers aren't quite as restrictive as their neighbor to the east (via Whiskey Review).

The Midleton Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey evokes the aromas of red licorice, rosemary, mint, and ginger. Meanwhile, the palate is full of the flavors of sweet fruit and spices, cinnamon toast, and ripe banana. The finish is more evocative of green tea, wood, and fruit and spice. Significantly, the BBC Good Food has called the hint of chestnut that can be found among this sipper's flavors "delightful."

Purchase the Midleton Method and Madness Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey from The Whisky Exchange starting at £69.95.

Best Irish whiskey for beginners

One of the world's most recognizable whiskeys, Jameson Irish Whiskey is also one of the best whiskeys to introduce beginners to the spirit. Ideal served in either cocktails or on the rocks, Jameson is a triple distilled malt whiskey that's been aged in oak for a minimum of four years. It's then blended with grain whiskey, resulting in a light flavor and texture that's just about perfect for those new to the spirit (via Whiskey Jug).

Smooth and easy to drink, Jameson comes with a subtle floral aroma with notes of sweetness and spicy wood. On the palate, the light-tasting whiskey is characterized by the flavors of malt, vanilla, and unripe citrus, as well as hints of cocoa, fruit, and caramel. The finish, meanwhile, is malty with a hint of oak and earth (via Whiskey Jug).

Jameson Distillery was founded way back in 1780 though it actually debuted as the Steins Family Bow Street Distillery. The distillery gained its current name after John Jameson took it over in 1805. By the 19th century, Jameson was one of the biggest distillers of whiskey in the world. It wasn't all smooth sailing, however. The company started to struggle after Ireland declared its independence from Britain, finally merging with John Powers and Cork Distillers to form the Irish Distillers Group in 1966 (via Do Dublin).

Purchase the Jameson Irish Whiskey from Total Wine starting at $22.99.

Best blended Irish whiskey

Made with malt and grain, the Slane Triple Casked Irish Whiskey is a "triple casked whiskey," which simply means that it has been aged in three different types of casks. In this case, those casks in question are made of virgin oak, seasoned bourbon, and ones that had previously housed Oloroso sherry. While the whiskey has no age statement, according to HTFW, it has been aged in first-fill bourbon casks for 20 months, virgin oak casks for 20 months, and Oloroso Sherry butts for 24 months.

A product of a distillery located in County Meath near the historic Slane Castle, the Slane Triple Casked Irish Whiskey is peppered with subtle aromas and layers of flavor, including fruit, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and toasted oak. The palate is rich with spice that's sweetened with hints of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, and dried fruit. Last but not least, the finish evokes notes of caramelized wood sugar and dry fruit (via Slane Irish Whiskey).

Purchase the Slane Triple Casked Irish Whiskey from The Whisky Exchange starting at £27.45.