Irish whiskey is steeped in history: the first record of the spirit dates back to around 1405. That’s ninety years before the drink’s existence was recorded in Scotland. For centuries, Irish whiskey experienced huge growth in popularity, with the first licensed distillery, Bushmills (who have a top-scoring whiskey featured on this list) opening in Northern Ireland in 1608, and the US export market booming up until the beginning of the 20th century. However, both The Irish War of Independence and Prohibition had a negative impact on the industry. It fell into collapse in the mid 1900s, to the point where only two distilleries survived (Bushmills and Midleton).
Now, Irish whisky is back booming. There are more than 30 sites making whiskey in Ireland, with another 20 in the pipeline – and new independent distilleries are making some of the best whiskies on the market, with Dublin’s Teeling factory, the first distillery to open in the city in over 125 years and appearing on our list of top-scoring Irish whiskeys with its 30 YO Single Malt.
These whiskeys are typically lighter in style, without heavier smokey notes or the headiness of vanilla, so Irish whiskey is known as being incredibly drinkable and more accessible than other types of the spirit. There’s also less geekery surrounding Irish whiskey, so it makes a great whiskey for beginners and is usually more affordable than other styles.
In particular, Redbreast 27 YO Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey impressed judges at this year’s IWSC with its vast and beautifully integrated flavour profile, boasting flavours of ‘caramelised pineapple, apricot jam, milk and dark chocolate, and gingerbread,’ and scoring 99 points.
For fans of rye style whiskies, there’s Method And Madness Rye And Malt Whiskey, which was awarded 94 points and impressed judges with its ‘notes of stone fruits and pear with a hint of nut.’
All the Irish whiskeys in this list were judged blind by a panel of industry experts, including spirits writer and founder of the Our Whisky Foundation Becky Paskin, esteemed bartender Maxim Schulte and Michael Vachon, the founder of spirits distributor Maverick Drinks.
HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE SPIRITS?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous spirits tasting process. That means that each spirit sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC spirit judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the drinks industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
HOW DO WE SCORE THESE SPIRITS?
Only the best spirits sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, spirits have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
MORE FROM CLUB OENOLOGIQUE
Club O is a premium lifestyle publication for curious and discerning wine and spirits lovers. Renowned for inspiring stories and trusted expertise, we connect people to the joys of the world, through the lens of wine, spirits and other interesting drinks. Based in London, our team of expert writers seek out thoughtful stories that introduce our readers to new people, places, drinking discoveries and insights, as well as exploring fresh perspectives on familiar themes. Membership to The Collection offers exclusive access to leading critics’ tasting reports, scores, tastings and events, especially tailored to collectors and investors. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors.