Best Irish Whiskey: 5 Brands That Are Worth Trying

Best Irish Whiskey: 5 Brands That Are Worth Trying

Best Irish Whiskey: 5 Brands That Are Worth Trying

When it comes to enjoying a smooth, golden drop that brings warmth to your soul and a smile to your face, Irish whiskey stands in a league of its own. This spirit, hailing from the Emerald Isle, boasts a uniquely rich and surprisingly light character.

Irish whiskey is deeply rooted in history, hailing from the original whiskey-makers of medieval times. It’s also a spirit with exceptional versatility — as comfortable to sip neat as it is to mix into a perfectly balanced cocktail.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into everything you need to know about this delightful spirit. We’ll cover the basics, such as what makes Irish whiskey unique and how to choose the perfect bottle for your taste. We’ll also give you a rundown of the top five Irish whiskey brands worth trying.

What You Need to Know About Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey boasts a rich heritage dating back centuries and is renowned for its smooth, approachable flavor profile. Let’s explore the key aspects of this legendary liquor, including its history and unique production process.

Irish Whiskey: An Overview

Irish whiskey has a storied past that dates back to the 12th century when Irish monks are believed to have distilled the first batch. By the 19th century, it had become the most popular spirit in the world, cherished for its unique smoothness and rich flavors.

Although the industry faced significant challenges in the 20th century due to wars, economic downturns, and Prohibition, a resurgence began in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This brought Irish whiskey back to its former glory.

The hallmark of Irish whiskey is its simplicity and quality of ingredients. Unlike its smoky cousin — Scotch whisky — Irish whiskey is typically made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, water, and yeast. This gives it a lighter, smoother character compared to Scotch.

The traditional production process involves triple distillation in copper pot stills. This filters out heavier compounds, resulting in a spirit with a soft, creamy mouthfeel and easy drinkability.

After distillation, whiskey is aged in wooden casks (typically bourbon barrels or sherry casks) for at least three years. However, many premium brands opt for longer aging periods to develop deeper flavors. These casks impart a touch of vanilla, honey, or spice to the whiskey, depending on their previous use.

Irish whiskey’s appearance ranges from pale gold to rich amber, depending on its age and the type of cask used for maturation. As for taste, you might detect notes of vanilla, honey, caramel, and fruit alongside a gentle hint of spice. While single malts showcase more robust flavors, blended Irish whiskeys are prized for their mellow approachability.

Unlike the smoky character often found in Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey has a cleaner, more delicate taste. It’s usually perceived as a classic and sophisticated drink, yet it’s also approachable and versatile. It appeals to a wider audience as it can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, and in various cocktails.

How to Choose the Best Irish Whiskey

The first step in choosing the best Irish whiskey is understanding your flavor preferences. Do you enjoy a lighter, smoother taste or a richer, more complex profile? Irish whiskeys can range from sweet and fruity to spicy and robust.

Here are some additional tips to help you make an informed decision:

  • Look for “Irish Whiskey” on the Label: For an authentic Irish whiskey, look for those two words clearly stated on the label. It must be distilled and aged for at least three years in Ireland to be called an “Irish whiskey.”
  • Opt for Blends or Single Malts: Irish whiskeys generally fall into two categories: blends and single malts. Blended whiskeys tend to be lighter and more approachable, while single malts are known for their richer, more robust flavors.
  • Consider Age and Maturation: The age of an Irish whiskey can significantly impact its flavor. Younger whiskeys (around 3-5 years) tend to be lighter and more straightforward, while older whiskeys (10 years and up) offer deeper, more complex flavors.
  • Read Reviews and Ratings: Take advantage of reviews and ratings from whiskey enthusiasts and experts. Online forums, tasting events, and whiskey magazines can provide valuable insights into different brands’ quality and flavor profiles.
  • Try Before You Buy: If possible, sample a few different whiskeys before purchasing. Tasting before buying lets you directly compare flavors and find the one that best suits your preferences.
  • Define a Budget: Irish whiskey is available at a wide range of prices, from affordable options to high-end luxury bottles. Set a budget that works for you and explore whiskeys within that range.

While these tips can help you get started, the most foolproof approach is to develop your preference by tasting different brands and varieties. With diligent exploration, you’ll find an Irish whiskey that suits your palate perfectly.

What Does Irish Whiskey Cost?

Irish whiskey can range significantly in cost depending on age, distillery, and whether it’s a single malt or blended variety.

For those new to Irish whiskey or seeking a budget-friendly option, entry-level bottles typically range from $30 to $50. These whiskeys are often blended and offer a smooth and approachable taste, making them great for everyday sipping or mixing in cocktails.

You’ll find a wider variety of single malts and premium blends in the mid-range category, priced between $50 and $100. These whiskeys often have more depth and character, with richer flavors and longer finishes. They might also include older age statements or unique cask finishes.

As you move up the price ladder — say a few hundred dollars and upward for a 700ml bottle — you can find excellent blended Irish whiskeys aged for extended periods. These bottles often feature older age statements (10 years, 20 years, or even more), limited editions, and special cask finishes that contribute to their exceptional taste and exclusivity.

Finally, at the pinnacle of Irish whiskey pricing are the ultra-premium and collectible bottles, which can cost thousands of dollars. These rare expressions are often produced in limited quantities and feature extensive aging, unique cask influences, and sometimes even historical significance.

Where Can You Buy Irish Whiskey?

Finding the perfect bottle of Irish whiskey is easier than ever, thanks to a variety of purchasing options both in-store and online.

Your local liquor store is a great starting point. Browse the shelves and inquire about their Irish whiskey selection. Many stores offer a variety, including popular brands like Keeper’s Heart, Jameson, Bushmills, and Teeling. Some stores even have dedicated sections for Irish whiskey, making your search even easier.

If you enjoy sampling whiskey before purchasing, visiting bars and restaurants is an excellent option. Many establishments feature a selection of Irish whiskeys on their menu, allowing you to taste different varieties in a social setting. Look for whiskey bars or pubs with extensive spirits menus — they often have rare and premium options.

The internet also offers a vast selection of Irish whiskeys, including rare finds you might not encounter in brick-and-mortar stores. Online retailers like Speakeasy Co. specialize in premium spirits and often carry limited editions and single-cask bottlings. These platforms also offer the convenience of home delivery, making them an attractive option for busy individuals.

The Best Irish Whiskeys

It’s important to remember that the concept of “best” is subjective, influenced by individual taste preferences, budget constraints, and desired drinking experiences. With that in mind, here are some standout Irish whiskeys that have earned widespread acclaim and recognition within the whiskey community:

Keeper’s Heart 10-Year Single Malt

MSRP: $104.99
Proof: 43% ABV (86 Proof)
Tasting Notes: Honey, Fruity Essence, Malt Cereal, Toasted Oak, Apricots.
Our Rating: 5/5

Made from malted barley, the Keeper’s Heart 10-year single malt whiskey was voted “World’s Best Irish Whiskey” at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

This is a quintessential single malt showcasing Irish whiskey’s refined elegance. Aged for a decade in bourbon casks, it delivers layered notes of malt cereal, honey, and fruity zest with a lingering oaky finish. The finishing touch comes from Malaga wine casks, which impart notes of stone fruits and marzipan, harmonizing beautifully with the malty character.


  • Rich and complex flavor profile.
  • Award-winning quality and recognition.
  • Unique finishing in Malaga wine casks adds depth.
  • Beautifully balanced, perfect for sipping neat.


  • It’s slightly pricier than some other single malts.
  • Limited availability due to its prestigious status.

Knappogue Castle 12-Year Single Malt

MSRP: $50.00 – $70.00
Proof: 43% ABV (86 Proof)
Tasting Notes: Fruits, Mild Spice, Black Pepper, Vanilla, Malt.
Our Rating: 4.75/5

Knappogue Castle bottle
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Knappogue Castle 12-Year Single Malt is known for its exceptional balance and smoothness. Made exclusively from malted barley, this whiskey is triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills and aged for twelve years in bourbon oak casks. Its approachable flavor profile makes it a good option for whiskey newcomers and seasoned enthusiasts.

The gentle distillation process, along with the damp and mild Irish weather, creates a refreshing and well-balanced whiskey with lively, fruity, and subtle spicy flavors.


  • Well-balanced and smooth.
  • Refreshing with bright fruitiness.
  • Mild spice flavors with a clean, smooth finish.
  • Inexpensive for its quality.


  • Fruity notes can become overwhelming.
  • Limited availability in certain regions.

Keeper’s Heart Irish + Bourbon

MSRP: $41.99
Proof: 46% ABV (92 Proof)
Tasting Notes: Caramel, Pepper, Herbs, Vanilla, Malt, Cocoa.
Our Rating: 4.5/5

Keeper’s Heart Irish + Bourbon masterfully blends the best of both worlds—the characteristic sweetness of bourbon and the earthy spices of single Irish pot still whiskey. The interplay of freshly charred virgin oak with the butterscotch sweetness of Irish grain whiskey creates a unique and harmonious tasting experience.

At 92 proof, this whiskey delivers robust flavors with a smooth finish. It’s versatile and can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.


  • Unique combination of whiskey styles.
  • Reasonable price range.
  • Smooth mouthfeel and well-balanced taste.
  • It’s versatile and a good choice for different drinking preferences.


  • Some may find it lacking a long finish.
  • The blended nature might not appeal to all.

Keeper’s Heart Irish + American

MSRP: $73.99
Proof: 55% ABV (110 Proof)
Tasting Notes: Dried Fruits, Toasted Nuts, Caramel, Raisins, Oak, Vanilla, Figs.
Our Rating: 4/5

Keeper’s Heart Irish + American is a high-proof expression (55% ABV) that delivers a symphony of flavors. This whiskey results from blending Irish whiskey with American Rye whiskey, combining the unique qualities for a distinctive profile.

Each sip reveals the gentle warmth of oak and hints of vanilla, creating a remarkable drinking experience. It’s a solid choice for adventurous whiskey drinkers who appreciate innovation and a blend of styles.


  • Unique flavor profile.
  • Smooth and balanced taste.
  • Enjoyable neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.
  • It falls within a reasonable price range.


  • The blended taste might not appeal to purists.
  • The sweetness or spice can be a bit too prominent for some palates.

Green Spot Irish Whiskey

Green Spot Irish Whiskey bottle
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MSRP: $40.00 – $70.00
Proof: 40% ABV (80 Proof)
Tasting Notes: Green Apples, Spices, Barley, Cloves, Toasted Wood.
Our Rating: 4/5

Green Spot’s origins trace back to Mitchell & Son, a Dublin wine and grocery establishment founded in 1805. Unlike some Irish whiskeys known for their pronounced smoothness, Green Spot Irish Whiskey offers more complexity without sacrificing drinkability. Its low alcohol content allows for a full-bodied experience that beautifully balances sweet and spicy notes.

This whiskey is matured in a combination of new bourbon, refill bourbon, and sherry casks, resulting in a flavorful and versatile profile. It has garnered numerous accolades, including from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and the International Spirits Challenge, highlighting its quality and appeal.


  • Unique flavor and creamy texture.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • The light, fruity tone makes it easy to drink neat.
  • Clean finish with an oaky undertone.


  • Lower ABV compared to other Irish whiskeys.
  • The lighter taste may not appeal to those who prefer complex flavor profiles.

Irish Whiskey: Elegance in Every Sip

bottle and a glass of whiskey

Irish whiskey is distinguished by an unmistakable elegance and refinement. Each sip is a luxurious experience steeped in tradition and craft. From its velvety notes to the depth of its flavors — Irish whiskey stands tall as a timeless spirit that can elevate any occasion into a moment of indulgent elegance.
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