Skip to main content

The Irish Whiskey Awards named this the best Irish whiskey of the year (and they should know)

Who doesn't love a good Irish whiskey?

Timothy James/Unsplash

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?

Connacht Whiskey
Connacht Whiskey

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
10 amazing gifts for the wine enthusiast in your life
What do you get someone who loves wine? (Besides wine, of course)
Estelle champagne coups

Most of us have a wine lover on our Christmas list this year. And if not, maybe that person is you, in which case welcome to the club. Enjoy it, and read on for some fabulous ways to treat yourself this season. Either way, finding the best gifts for wine lovers that don't include tacky "it's wine o'clock" wall art or tired wine gift baskets can be a daunting task. That's why we've decided to save you the headache and compile a list of our very favorite wine gifts for your very favorite wine enthusiast.

Hoopes Vineyard bundle
Hoopes Vineyard is a Napa Valley treasure that just gets everything right. Their exquisite wine is only matched by the beauty of their gorgeous vineyard and the loving passion that is so obviously poured into their winemaking process. This bundle is for every wine-lover on your list and includes a bottle of 2018 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle of Oasis Shrubs (flavored apple cider vinegar for drinking or cooking), a Hoopes embroidered apron, a jar of Hoopes Vineyard tomato sauce, and a candle made from recycled wine bottles.

Read more
It’s time to pay attention to Hawaiian rum — why this liquor should be on your bar cart
Hawaii grows a lot more than just pineapples
A Kuleana Rum Works sugarcane field.

While craft beer and whiskey tend to get the headlines, there’s another homegrown beverage gaining a much-deserved following. It goes by Hawaiian rum, and if you haven’t started paying serious attention to the fine liquor, now’s the time.

Kuleana Rum Works is a great example, one of several shining stars emerging from the Hawaiian spirits scene. Granted, Hawaii has a bit of an advantage for rum, with its tropical climate ideal for growing sugarcane (Louisiana and a few other states are trying their hand, too), but you still have to make the stuff. And the results are as complex and exciting as anything coming out of the Caribbean. In fact, these sip-worthy rums deserve to be in the same conversation as single malt whiskies or coveted Scotches.

Read more
Gin gift guide: Everything your favorite drink enthusiast needs to craft the perfect cocktail

When it comes to refreshing cocktails, it’s difficult to beat the timeless appeal of a well-made gin & tonic. We all know that it really shines on a warm summer night. But it’s the kind of drink that’s so fresh and loaded with herbal, botanical, and citrus flavors that even drinking it during the colder months seems to transport you to the hazy days of summer, if only for a moment.

And while we can thank the tonic and lime for that, it’s really the gin that does most of the heavy lifting. If you have a great gin, your gin & tonic is likely to be crisp, refreshing, and memorable. This is because the juniper and other botanicals included pair with the other ingredients to create a perfect, thirst-quenching, balanced drink.

Read more