If you call yourself a fan of Irish whiskey (Ireland is the only other country along with the U.S. that uses the ‘e’ in whiskey), but you only drink Jameson, it’s time to branch out. There are countless noteworthy, award-winning, nuanced Irish whiskeys on the market. Many come from the likes of Redbreast, Tullamore D.E.W., Connemara, Bushmills, and Teeling. But also, some amazing expressions are being produced by smaller, up-and-coming whiskey makers.
The best way to find these whiskey-saturated diamonds in the rough you can ask an employee at your local liquor store, read an article like this, peruse online reviews, or check out which brands have won prestigious awards. While all are great options, we believe the latter is the best choice, especially if the award in question is the “Best Irish Whiskey of The Year” at The Irish Whiskey Awards. Who could be better to judge the value of Irish whiskey than Irish whiskey experts?
This year’s Irish Whiskey Awards took place on November 29th at the Jameson Bow Street Distiller in Dublin. Before the awards were announced, all who attended were given a tour of the iconic distillery and enjoyed drinks at a welcome reception hosted by Irish Distillers.
While the awards were announced in late November, the judging took place at the beginning of August. This was when Celtic Whiskey of Celtic Whiskey Shop Dawson Street held a handful of blind tastings at Flowing Tide Pub in Dublin. These weren’t the only blind tastings that led to the final awards. Members of the Irish Whiskey Society and various clubs throughout the country held blind tastings. On top of that, a group of international experts were also tasked with judging.
Expressions like Red Spot 15 Year Old, Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Pinot Noir Cask, Jack Ryan Whiskey 5 Year Old Oloroso Finish Cask Strength, and Tullamore DEW 14 Year Old all took top honors, but there was only one overall winner. Lesser-known Connacht Distillery took home the “Best Irish Whiskey” honor with its Connacht Cask Strength Single Malt Irish Whiskey.
Connacht might not have the name recognition as some of the other brands listed above and that’s because this distillery, situated on the banks of the Rober Moy in Ballina, County Mayo only opened its doors in 2016. But, clearly, in the short time the distillery has been open, it’s been doing great things.
Its newly-awarded single malt Irish whiskey is a potent 47% ABV. It was aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in casks from Jerez, Spain, that formerly held sherry. It’s known for its nose of clover honey, dried fruits, chocolate, brown sugar, almond cookies, and gentle wintry spices. The palate is a symphony of caramel candy, vanilla cookies, raisins, nutty spices, and light spices.
It’s sweet, warming, lightly spicy, and absolutely an Irish whiskey to check out. Just be aware. If it’s anything like any of the other lesser-known whiskeys to recent global acclaim overnight, you better act fast to get your hands on a bottle. The price is sure to skyrocket on the secondary market.
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