St. Patrick’s Day bars typically bring out two kinds of whiskeys: The kind you kick back amongst your friends in a loud establishment, where you may or may not get into a fight, and stumble home wondering why your left arm is covered in cursive Sharpie black; then, there’s the sipping kind that you enjoy in a quiet place and discuss its merits. There’s no wrong choice here, just try not to drink an Irishman or woman under the table. You’ll never win. Unless you’re Irish.
Michael Collins, 80 proof Sydney Frank, $22
With recent litigation surfacing, this might be one of the last St. Patrick’s Days for Michael Collins whiskey if you believe Sydney Frank’s claims. Michael Collins may not be my go to whiskey on any day, but with respect to its possible demise, maybe a sip of Michael Collins is not such a bad idea.
Knappogue Castle Twin Wood 17 Years, 80 proof, Single Malt, Castle Brands, $100
This is a limited edition whiskey that is aged in two types of wood, bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Medium gold in color with a nose of honey, sherry, apricots, peach, wintergreen and hints of almond and dark cherry. An elegant palate styling notes of vanilla, toasted almonds, dried apricots and hints of tobacco and oak. Beautiful, somewhat short, finish of dried fruits. This whiskey is too good to forget, so don’t drink it after you filled your gut with cheap beer.
Readbreast 12-year-old Irish Whiskey, 80 proof, Pernod Ricard, $50
This whiskey is a single, unblended, pure pot still production, triple distilled and aged in Sherry and Bourbon oak casks for not less than 12 years. It’s beautiful gold color meets a gorgeous nose of chocolate, marshmallow, vanilla, hints of smoke and citrus. The complex palate finds many of the same notes, with pronunciation of lemon curd, sweet malt and a soft finish. This is one of my favorite whiskeys period; and, I prefer it over its 15-year-old extension.
Irish Whiskey: Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16-year-old – Diageo (parent company), $69
This nose jumps out of the glass with complexities found only in whiskies aged in Oloroso sherry casks. The Bushmills 16-year-old Single Malt was aged in three types of oak: American bourbon barrels, Oloroso sherry casks and finished in old Port wine Pipes. The harmonious nose brings notes from each of these barrels. The bourbon barrel adds the vanilla and caramel. The sherry cask brings layers upon layers of creaminess, chocolate, nutty, floral and dried apricot notes, while the Port wine Pipes add just a little cherry juice and dried fruit. On the palate, Bushmills 16-year-old creates one of the longest finishes in Irish whiskey. Bushmills makes several other premium whiskies, including the 1608 blend and a 21-year-old whiskey, but the 16-year-old is quite simply my favorite.
Powers Gold Label, 12-years-old, Pernod Ricard, 80 proof, $40
Rich straw color, the whiskey sends smells of licorice, vanilla extract and hints of canned fruit, but the smooth taste delivers caramel and burnt marshmallow. This whiskey is very nice, but I’d like a little more backbone to it and prefer the Powers’ brand relative, Jameson.
Jameson Black Barrel, 80 proof, Pernod Ricard, $40
If you were to have one whiskey from this list, I’d recommend Jameson’s Black Barrel, a limited edition blend of malted and unmalted barley distilled in pot stills and in sherry casks. It’s blended with other whiskey aged in former Wild Turkey barrels. The whiskey’s creation comes through in the nose, offering you sherry-like notes of apricots and raisons as well as bourbon notes of caramel and vanilla. Once on the tongue, balance wins me over, offering a sweet, nutty whiskey that just falls down into the jaw so smoothly you barely even notice the alcohol. This whiskey is meant to be enjoyed. I’d recommend a nice quiet place. It’s best not to waste Jameson Black Barrel in a drunken Irish brawl.