Irish Toast

Toast St. Patrick's Day the right way with these 5 Irish whiskies

Toast St. Patrick's Day the right way with these 5 Irish whiskies

Irish Whiskey 2 gingers jameson
Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with these whiskey cocktails. Photo by Matt McGinnis

St. Patrick’s Day has become an outlandish celebration of anything remotely Irish, as well as an excuse to get blindingly drunk. But it doesn’t have to be that way on March 17.

To get into the traditional mood, sip a proper Irish whiskey this St. Pat’s Day. Whether you head to one of the enormous St. Patrick’s Day parties at a bar, or just celebrate at home, here are five Irish whiskies to try.

Tullamore D.E.W.: Friendly or fiery
Tullamore D.E.W. is named for the town of Tullamore, set in the heart of Ireland, and from the initials of young entrepreneur Daniel E. Williams, who worked at the distillery at the age of 14, became head distiller at age 25 and eventually bought the the place.

The distillery was founded in 1829 in "the country that invented whiskey," according to Tim Herlihy, Tullamore D.E.W. ambassador. "We invented whiskey 500 years before the Scots. The first written evidence of whiskey production was found in Scotland, but it’s widely accepted that distilling started in Ireland.

"The Irish invented the kilt, bagpipes and how to make whiskey. We just forgot to tell the Scots the first two were jokes."

Irish whiskey sales are booming worldwide, but there are only seven distilleries currently operating in Ireland, only four of which have whiskey aged enough to sell (compared to 108 distilleries in Scotland). Tullamore D.E.W. is currently made with a blend of whiskey from the Midleton and Bushmills distilleries. It is building a new distillery in heart of town that should be up and running by August.

Irish whiskey is known for its approachable style, and Tullamore D.E.W. is particularly known as a friendly spirit. Originally, Tullamore was just a pot still whiskey, but the recipe was altered after Williams’ grandson visited the U.S. in 1900s. Pot still whiskey was too robust for the U.S. palate, and the distillation process was adjusted to meet the taste preference.

It’s now made with a blend of grain, including malted for spice, creaminess and un-malted barley for citrus and fruit flavors, and corn for delicate sweetness; a triple distillation makes it smooth. The combination of all three flavor components makes it silky and complex. 

Herlihy recommends enjoying Tullamore D.E.W. neat, with ice or with a splash of ginger ale to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day.   

Ginger D.E.W.

  • 2 ounces Tullamore D.E.W. over ice in a glass
  • 2 parts ginger ale
  • Garnish with a twist of lemon

If you are looking for a more hearty style of whiskey, try the new Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix. This triple-distilled whiskey is a stout 110 proof. It’s made in homage to town of Tullamore surviving the world’s first aviation disaster in 1785, when a hot air balloon crashed and engulfed a third of the town in flames.

"The town overcame the tragedy and rebuilt better than ever before," said Herlihy. "The Phoenix rising from the ashes has been adopted as the town crest. Our Phoenix whiskey celebrates the strength and courage of the Tullamore people. We gave the whiskey fiery strength to tie in to the great fire story."

Phoenix is aged in sherry casks to give it a big red wine influence to soften the high proof. It sells for about $55 a bottle.

Jameson: Shot-and-beer whiskey
"Jameson Irish Whiskey was founded by hardworking people two centuries ago, and we are still made for hardworking people today," says brand ambassador Stephen Mahony. "Jameson is real whiskey for real people. It’s for people who want to make friends over a drink."

Arguably one of the oldest and most recognizable Irish whiskies around, Jameson is essentially the same whiskey as the original stuff made in 1780. It’s a triple-distilled, blended whiskey made using water from the Dungourney River next to the distillery, plus malted barley for spice and biscuit flavor and corn for sweetness.  

By regulation, Irish whiskey must be aged a minimum of three years in barrels. Jameson ages its whiskey in a mix of sherry, port and bourbon barrels for a minimum of five to seven years to give it sweet and creamy flavor.  

"Jameson isn’t a fancy whiskey," Mahony says. "It’s not made for swirling and sniffing. Nah, this is your shot-and-a-beer whiskey. It’s also just fine on the rocks or in a cocktail."

Jameson Tipperary Cocktail

  • 1 part Jameson
  • 1 part green Chartreuse liqueur
  • 1 part vermouth

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Jameson Black Barrel is a small-batch grain whiskey distilled in copper pot stills only one day per year. It is aged in extra charred bourbon barrels and toasted sherry casks to add spice to the satiny sweet, tropical fruit flavors. It sells for about $45 and is delightful on the rocks and stands up well in cocktails.

Irish Wolfhound

  • 2 ounces Jameson Black Barrel
  • 2 ounces ginger beer
  • 2 dashes grapefruit juice
  • A dash of smoked salt

2 Gingers: Good in any weather
The origin of the 2 Gingers might not sound particularly traditional, but it is Irish at the core. After a stint selling Irish dairy products in Saudi Arabia, Irishman Kieran Folliard moved to Minnesota and decided to start a pub.

Like any traditional Irish pub, whiskey was a big seller, but Folliard noticed that it wasn’t selling all the time to everybody. He wondered why whiskey wasn’t as popular in the summer as in the winter and why women ordered it less.

"What would have to happen to have a season-less and gender-less whiskey? I wanted a whiskey to appeal to men and women who drink beer and vodka," he says. "I wanted a whiskey cocktail that people want to drink on the patio in the summer."

That curiosity was essential to the birth of 2 Gingers. He set out to make an Irish whiskey that reflects the spirit of the pub and can be enjoyed all year. He had a loose relationship with a distillery owner in Ireland and contacted him to explore the idea of creating his own brand of whiskey with his own recipe.

Recently, Beam Inc. bought the 2 Gingers brand, but it hasn’t changed where or how the whiskey is made. It has allowed the brand to expand its footprint, and it’s now sold in all 50 states.

As the founder of 2 Gingers Whiskey, Beam has retained Folliard as CEO and much of the original team to take this Minnesota-born whiskey across the country. "This is a perfect product for Texas," Folliard says. "Its smooth taste is good in the hot weather."

Made with malted barley and distilled twice at Kilbeggan Distillery in Ireland, 2 Gingers is aged four years in bourbon barrels. Master distiller Noel Sweeney favors the double distillation, which gives it viscosity and bold flavor to stand up in cocktails, to remove the burn on the end, and to give it the smoothness that makes it appealing year-round. 

2 Gingers is made to be approachable, says Folliard. "Some people don’t want to wait for a fancy cocktail or pay $12 for it. They want cocktails that reflect the character of a pub and that they can get as quick as a beer at the same price." Currently, 2 Gingers sells for about $20 a bottle.

Big Ginger            

  • Fill a collins glass with ice
  • 2 parts 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey
  • Top with ginger ale

Garnish with both lemon and lime wedges.