Irish Whiskey: How and what to drink this St. Paddy’s Day

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It’s not quite confirmed what country owns the right to be called the birthplace of whiskey.

While most people now agree that the “water of life” was first produced in Ireland, there is always some contention.

The Scottish scream their peat-filled heads off that they are the rightful parents because it was in Scotland that the first documented transaction of whiskey occurred.

Whoever created it, thank you.

For our purposes and the purposes of the holiday on the horizon, we’re going to the focus on the drink that hails from The Emerald Isle.

What is Irish Whiskey?

Similar to drinks like tequila, champagne, and Kölsch beer, whiskey also has some regional stipulations. There is a reason why bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey all have distinct flavor profiles.

Stipulations with Irish whiskey abound, but the only one that really matters is that it is produced in Ireland. Sounds pretty simple, right?

A great Irish whiskey is also usually triple-distilled before going through a minimum aging period of three years, but not all are created equal. Some distilleries like Cooley only twice-distill and smoke their whiskey, similar to a Scotch. It’s still considered an Irish whiskey though.

What to try

We’ll skip the overwhelmingly popular choice of Jameson for this part. You know it, there’s no reason to detail the flavors.

West Cork Black Reserve

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We first discovered this Irish whiskey at the Central PA Whiskey Fest at the Zembo Shrine. West Cork is an Irish distillery in West Cork (thus the name) that has a full line of different whiskeys.

The Black Reserve version starts out in first-fill bourbon barrels and is then transferred over to double-charred casks to give it a dark color and depth of flavor.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Bourbon Cask Finish

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This is a perfect representation of how not all Irish whiskey is the same. Most Irish whiskeys are a blend of malted and unmalted barley, while Knappogue 12-year utilizes only a single malted barley.

Knappogue ages this whiskey in bourbon oak casks for 12 years to extract as much flavor as possible from the oak. The flavors of sweet caramel, spice, and a slight fruitiness make this whiskey easy to sip on the rocks.

Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition

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While we should skip over regular Jameson, we shouldn’t skip over this offering. Craft beer usually is aged in whiskey barrels, but Caskmates flips that concept by aging this whiskey in barrels that were used to barrel-age stouts from Franciscan Well’s Brewery.

The normal Jameson flavor is accompanied by notes of cocoa and coffee that are picked up while in the barrels.

How to drink your whiskey

Most of the whiskeys mentioned should be savored in a rocks glass with a large ice cube to release the flavors. No, adding ice does not dilute your drink that much.

NERD ALERT: Adding a small amount of water or ice to your glass helps separate the molecules in your whiskey to open up aroma and flavor. Try drinking a small amount with and without water to see the difference.

If you’re not into drinking whiskey straight, here are a few simple and traditional drinks that work with any Irish whiskey of your choice.

Irish Mule

  • 1.5 oz Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 8 oz ginger beer

This is a simple and easy drink to enjoy all day long. Keep it local by using ZerØday Ginger Beer (it’s the best out there, period).

Irish Coffee 

For a lot of people, St. Paddy’s Day starts early. Irish coffee is a go-to drink to get the day started or wipe away the hangover from the night before. No, just adding Jameson to your coffee doesn’t qualify as an Irish Coffee.

  • 1.5 oz Irish Coffee
  • 1 oz brown sugar syrup
  • Hot brewed coffee
  • Whipped cream

Make your brown sugar syrup by simply by adding brown sugar to water and heating until it is dissolved. Then, combine your whiskey of choice with the syrup into a coffee mug and top it off with hot coffee and whipped cream.


What are you drinking this St. Paddy’s Day?

James Werner
Author: James Werner

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