Irish whiskey is steeped in history, with the first record of the spirit dating back to around 1405 – 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. Both Prohibition and The Irish War of Independence had a negative impact on the Irish whiskey industry, causing it to fall into collapse in the mid 1900s, to the point where only two distilleries survived (Bushmills and Midleton).
Now, the industry is back booming and there are more than 30 sites making whiskey in Ireland, with another 20 in the pipeline. New independent distilleries are making some of the best whiskies on the market, in fact, with Dublin’s Teeling factory, the first distillery to open in the city in over 125 years, 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, for example the regional knowledge requirements for Scotch drinking, so it makes a great whiskey for beginners and is usually more affordable than other styles.
In particular, Teeling Whiskey’s 30 YO Single Malt Irish Whiskey impressed judges at this year’s IWSC with its vast and beautifully integrated flavour profile, boasting ‘notes of spice, orange, burnt wood, and old leather,’ and scoring 98 points. Another top-scoring whiskey was Redbreast 27 YO Irish Whiskey, which judges praised for its ‘expressive aromatics of red fruits, mango, guava, and Christmas cake baking spices,’ and also scored 98 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 ‘lovely, honeyed palate, smooth with oat and sweet candy fruit.’
All the Irish whiskeys in this list were judged blind by a panel of industry experts, including co-founder of The North London Whisky Club Matt Chambers, co-founder and head distiller at Cooper King Distillery Dr Abbie Neilson and European Brand Manager at Samaroli 1968 Daniele Liberati.
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.
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