The Best Irish Whiskey for Every Type of Drinker

3 bottles of whiskey on a designed background
Images Courtesy of Total Wine and More

Although Irish whiskey had nearly been wiped from existence in the 1970s, when only a mere three distilleries remained, Ireland’s signature whiskey has recently been on the upswing.

Many new distilleries have popped up in recent years, and lots of excellent bottles have been making their way to the U.S. While we still have a soft spot for Jameson, which popularized Irish whiskey around the globe, it’s far from the only great Irish bottle on the bar.

What Is Irish Whiskey?

Just as Scotch is from Scotland and bourbon is made in the U.S., Irish whiskey is any whiskey that’s made in Ireland. (And yes, in Ireland, whiskey is spelled with an “e.”) That said, Ireland’s namesake spirit is made in a wide variety of styles. Some are lighter-bodied, while others are more robust; others add flavor via peat-smoking or finishing in casks that previously held other spirits, wine or beer. But as long as it’s distilled and aged in the country, it can be labeled as Irish whiskey.

What Is the Appeal of Irish Whiskey?

In general, Irish whiskey is considered particularly versatile and mixable.

While the flavor profiles can vary quite widely, many of Ireland’s best whiskeys are light and approachable, with fresh, fruity or grassy notes. (Again: this isn’t universal. These days, there are plenty of bottlings that display peat, dark fruit or sherry, or tannic, oaky notes, too.)

Many Irish whiskeys are triple-distilled (by comparison, Scotch is distilled twice), which encourages a lighter-bodied spirit—however, not all Irish whiskeys are distilled three times.

Additionally, Irish whiskey tends to be competitively priced compared to its Scotch or American whiskey counterparts.

What Are Some Irish Whiskey Terms I Should Know?

Grain whiskey. This means that the whiskey can include a mashbill of different grains, often wheat but sometimes corn, plus barley. Grain whiskey is made in a large column still, which gives a lighter character.

Malt whiskey. Just as in Scotch whisky, Irish malt whiskey is made with 100% malted barley and cooked in a pot still, which can impart a more robust character. Note: This is different from an Irish single malt, which means it’s made at a single distillery. The “single malt” term is more common to Scotch (and recently, American whiskey, too); in Irish whiskey it’s more of a marketing term meant to draw in Scotch drinkers.

Pot still whiskey. This is a combination of malted barley, unmalted “raw” barley and other grains (but no more than 5% of other grains). It’s also referred to as “single pot still” whiskey.

Blended whiskey. This is a mixture of grain whiskey and either malt whiskey or pot still whiskey—or both. (Note: This is different from Scotch, where a blended whiskey means the liquid is sourced from more than one distillery, or American whiskey, where the term might signal a blend of various barrels or whiskey styles.)

Poitin. Essentially, Irish moonshine. Historically, this was an illicit, usually unaged whiskey made from barley. It often incorporated other ingredients, too, ranging from potatoes to sugar beets. Some commercial versions are now sold in the U.S. Read more about poitin here.

How Do I Drink Irish Whiskey?

A good bottle of Irish whiskey is a pleasure to sip neat or over ice. However, it’s a spirit that’s particularly embraced for mixing into cocktails, including the iconic Irish coffee and classics like the Tipperary. It’s also the go-to spirit for the pickleback: a shot of Irish whiskey chased with pickle juice, beloved in American dive bars. (It’s not to be confused, however, with the pickle shot.)

While there’s no definitive “best” Irish whiskey for the Irish coffee and other mixed drinks, in general, bartenders recommend using bottlings with a traditional flavor profile (read: fresh and approachable) rather than a peated or extra-aged version.

What’s the Best Glass for Irish Whiskey?

There’s no specific glass for enjoying Irish whiskey, per se, but a rocks glass or another tumbler-style glass (like Wine Enthusiast’s Personalized Rocks Glasses with Frosted Etched Bottoms) to sip whiskey (Irish or otherwise) neat or on the rocks always works.

Some experts prefer a curved Glencairn glass to help maximize aromas while minimizing alcohol fumes (or alternatively, here’s a curved whiskey glass I helped develop with Wine Enthusiast’s catalog team). But the only glassware that’s specific to Irish whiskey cocktails? The footed Irish coffee mug, of course.

Top-Rated Irish Whiskeys


The Best Irish Whiskey for Beginners

Bushmills Original

90 Points Wine Enthusiast

Light and easy-sipping, this light-gold whiskey has a grassy, slightly vegetal aroma, with a hint of Granny Smith apple. Look for vanilla and honey flavors, with a bit of cinnamon sizzle on the finish. — Kara Newman

$23.06 The Whisky Exchange

Jameson Irish Whiskey

88 Points Wine Enthusiast

This golden whiskey has a dried apricot aroma and vanilla-forward palate with hints of smoke and clove on the exhale, plus palpable alcohol heat. Recommended to mix.— K.N.

$25.99 Drizly

Tullamore D.E.W.

87 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bright yellow-gold, with a light vanilla aroma and flavor and soft, light feel. This blended whiskey is malleable and versatile, and best with some dilution and sweetness added, such as in a cocktail with a splash of vermouth or built tall with ginger ale. — K.N.

$24.52 The Whisky Exchange

The Best Affordable Irish Whiskey (Under $50)

Bushmills Black Bush

96 Points Wine Enthusiast

This elegant, super-soft sipper is a blend of grain whiskey and malt whiskey that was finished in oloroso Sherry casks—the emphasis on the latter. The Sherry influence shows in the baked apple and dried apricot flavors that round into caramel and butterscotch tones on the finish. — K.N.

$27.63 The Whisky Exchange

Kilbeggan Single Pot Still

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Fresh cut apple and a hint of smoke lead the nose. The robust, flavorful palate offers a surprising plummy note, finishing long and drying with cayenne and clove heat. Altogether, the pleasing effect is like spice cake doused in whiskey. — K.N.

$41.99 Flaviar

2 Gingers

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

A newcomer to the marketplace, this velvety, blended Irish whiskey offers sweet, malty flavors that incorporate baked apple, honey and warm butterscotch. — K.N.

$20.99 Drizly

The Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

Golden in the glass, the scent evokes fresh-cut apples and pears. The soft palate leads with an alcohol kick, then gives over to fresh fruit mingled with cinnamon and a mild puff of smoke. Finished in first-fill Bourbon barrels. — K.N.

$39.99 Caskers

The Busker

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Billed as a triple cask whiskey, the liquid was finished in barrels that previously held Sherry, Bourbon and Marsala. The result is a cinnamon and faint floral aroma, and a palate that sizzles with baking spice. It eventually mellows into flavors of vanilla wafer, cocoa and dried fig, finishing with gingery zing. — K.N.

$28.99 Total Wine & More

The Best Irish Whiskey Under $100

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still:

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Richly spiced aromas lead into a smooth, luxurious palate that sinks into flavors of vanilla, dried apricot and dried date. Adding water unlocks more vanilla and sweet spices like clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. This is a big, mouthfilling whiskey to sip with a cube of ice or consider as a dessert pairing. — K.N.

$64.99 Caskers

Teeling Blackpitts Peated Single Malt:

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This is a peated single-malt Irish whisky, matured in Bourbon and Sauternes casks. Mild peat and tropical fruit intertwine on nose and palate, giving an impression of pineapple playing hide-and-seek through the smoke. Torched rosemary, smoked sage, lemon verbena and white pepper wind into the finish. — K.N.

$48.50 The Whisky Exchange

Green Spot Single Pot Still:

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

The bold, fruit aroma suggests fresh-cut apples and honeysuckle, while the silky palate offers deep, bold flavor. Look for dark honey and clove, edging into tea, oak and cocoa midpalate. Apple freshness brightens the dry finish. An ice cube is the only adornment needed for this well-structured, tasty sipper. — K.N.

$55.99 Drizly

Powers Three Swallow

95 Points Wine Enthusiast

Look for a burnished gold hue and mild scent that hints at vanilla. The silky palate opens with fresh fruit sprinkled with cinnamon, fading into an exceedingly long, rich vanilla finish. Finished in -ex-Bourbon casks. — K.N.

$50.99 Caskers

The Best Irish Single Malts

Tipperary Watershed Single Malt Irish Whiskey

94 Points Wine Enthusiast

Bright and bracing, this straw-tinted whiskey is light on its feet. Green apple slices and honeysuckle perfume the nose, while the palate reflects green apple tartness, brisk lemony acidity, white flowers and ginger. A wisp of smoke marks the elegant fade. — K.N.

$53.99 Caskers

Lambay Whiskey Single Malt Irish Whiskey

93 Points Wine Enthusiast

This Irish whiskey is finished in Cognac casks, which are placed on Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin. While the result doesn’t exactly sing of the salty sea, it’s a pleasing sipper nonetheless, with a dark honey hue, bold, fruity aroma and drying palate mixing cedar with big, red apple bite and a long, robust vanilla-and-clove exit. — K.N.

$52.99 Drizly

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

We Recommend:


Popular posts from this blog

‘Scientific Investigation and Discovery Ensures the Wine Industry Can Continue to Produce High Quality Wines,’ says Elizabeth Tomasino, Innovator of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards

DoorDash Reintroduces: Merchant Suite to Help Restaurants Unlock New Potentials for Growth

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Reese’s Fudge

The House Is ‘Intrinsically Tied to Provence,’ says Cyprien Roy of Domaines Ott, European Winery of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards

‘We’re Trying to Create a Legacy Region,’ Says Austin Hope, Winemaker and President of Hope Family Wines, American Winery of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards

‘In Wine, the Most Important Decisions are Long-Term Decisions,’ says Sebastian Zuccardi, Director of Winemaking of Zuccardi Valle de Uco, New World Winery of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards

A Simple Scotch and Soda Is a Refreshing Classic

Cocktail Competitions Promise Opportunity. But Who Really Wins?

‘We Need to Stay Rooted to the Ground,’ Says Pat Rigney, Founder of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, Spirit Brand of the Year | Wine Enthusiast’s 2022 Wine Star Awards