Some of you out there will be drinking stout tomorrow. Some of you will be knocking back cocktails. But for those of you who like your whiskey straight, may we humbly present a field guide to some of the finer (and nastier) Irish Brain Tonics you’ll likely find behind the bar tomorrow. Sláinte mhaith.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
‘The Opinion: The standard by which all other Irish whiskies are (rightly) judged: a smooth, almost spicy malted barley whiskey with a slightly sweet and buttery aftertaste. The only reason not to choose Jameson as your straight liquor of choice this St. Patty’s Day is if, for some reason, our expert judges have already been to your local bar and drunk it all. In that case, go for the Redbreast.
Redbreast 12 year
The Opinion: An excellent Irish sipping whiskey—slightly smoky and scotch-y, but just enough to give it character, and with a good burn that lets you know you’ve been drinking. Redbreast is notable for being one of the only pure pot-still whiskeys available on the market, and with the exception of Jameson, this was the favorite among our judges.
Slane Castle Irish Whiskey
The Opinion: Though this wasn’t roundly hated by everyone lifting a glass with us, the wiser (and handsomer) judges felt that knocking back an ounce of Slane Castle was a lot like drinking paint thinner—and not in a good way. Some points were given for the comforting smell of the stuff (general consensus was that it smelled like everyone’s drunken grandpa), but that couldn’t overcome the rawness and blended- chemical burn of the aftertaste.
Clontarf Irish Whiskey
The Opinion: Irish bum whiskey, characterless and dull. Two nips of this made me want to punch someone, even though I was surrounded by friends. If there are angry drunks wandering the streets of Dublin with brown-paper-bag-wrapped bottles clutched in their balled fists, Clontarf is probably what’s in there.
Kellan Irish Whiskey
The Opinion: A newcomer to both PA and the States in general, Kellan is a smooth, surprisingly balanced blended whiskey, matured in old bourbon barrels and hitting the glass with just a vague hint of smoke and sting. Frankly, this one shocked almost everyone at the table with its drinkability. While excellent as a mixer, this stuff actually holds its own when drunk neat.
Tullamore Dew 10-Year-Old Reserve
The Opinion: You know what 10 years in the cask does for a belt of ol’ Tully? Just gives it a decade to get meaner and more harsh. This stuff is what serious whiskey drinkers use to strip paint off their boats. I once drank regularly at a bar where the bartender, a Tully girl, made me pay for my Jameson, but would give me Tullamore Dew for free. I paid for the Jameson anyway.
John Powers Irish Whiskey
The Opinion: Not just drinkable, but after the first shot, the first grimace and the first head-shaking moment of wonderment, asking yourself why, god, why do I put this poison into my body, John Powers comes off as one of the best long-haul whiskies out there. If you just know you’re going to be putting a good-sized dent in a bottle of something Irish, Powers is the best friend of the working man–a 70/30 blended whiskey with a mean bite that mellows after the first glass (or with the inclusion of some ice) and flavor smoother than you remember. What’s more, if you drink your Powers like a good fella, you’ll be doing so with some historically good company. I leave it to the immortal Hunter S. Thompson to finish off this post:
Too many people in this gutless world have come under the impression that writers are a race of finks, queers and candy asses to be bilked, cheated and mocked as a form of commercial sport. It should be noted, therefore, in the public interest, that some writers possess .44 Magnums and can puncture beer cans with 240-grain slugs from that weapon at a distance of 150 yards. Other writers, it is said, tend to enjoy violence for its own sake, and feel that a good fight, with the inevitable destruction of all nearby equipment and furniture, is nearly as fine for the nerves as a quart of John Powers Irish ~HST