Irish Whiskey Worth Drinking on St. Patrick’s Day
Celebrating Luck of the Irish
CategoryFood & Drink
Written byCarole Dixon
AboveSlane Castle in Ireland
The old emerald isle is giving us more imbibing reasons to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year. According to IWSR trend forecasters, Irish whiskey is exploding as one of the fastest-growing spirits categories especially in the U.S. Since 2010, distilleries in Ireland producing Irish whiskey have increased from 10 to 30 percent.
Whether you prefer to sip this ‘water of life,’ as it’s known in Gaelic, with a wee dram in the evening at a historic castle or with a large pot of hot Irish coffee at home to jump-start your day, we are shining a light on a few new options, amid an old favorite, for your St. Paddy’s Day toast including single malts, single pot still, single grain and blends.
Storming the Castle
Slane Irish Whiskey might have launched in the U.S. in the Summer of 2017, but the Brown-Forman creators and entrepreneurial Conyngham family of Slane, have roots in the Irish village dating back more than three centuries to 1870.
Located about 30 miles outside of Dublin, Slane is globally renowned for the famed Slane Castle concerts located next to the distillery that have drawn 80,000 fans annually. Launched by Co-Founder Alex Conyngham’s father, Henry in 1981, performers have included Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, Bon Jovi and U2.
Growing up at the castle, a young Alex has fond memories, “[I remember] falling asleep as a kid with the sounds of U2 coming up through the floorboards as they recorded their album “The Unforgettable Fire” in our dining room of the castle.”
Apart from the mega-rock-star concerts and album recordings, Slane Distillery is located on the 1,500-acre estate’s resorted 18th-century horse stables and courtyards. The buildings were designed by the renowned English landscape architect, Capability Brown, so it’s worth visiting for architecture buffs as well.
ABOVE: Copper Pot Stills at Slane Distillery
The state-of-the-art distillery includes three hand-beaten copper pot stills and six-column stills crafted by McMillan of Scotland and offers visitors an immersion in a working distillery. You’ll be able to view the malting, fermentation and distillation process. The site tours end with an interactive room showcasing the history of the location and most importantly, two tasting rooms for sampling the whiskey and a bar lounge for cocktails.
“Taking on the design of a distillery wasn’t easy, particularly as it’s located within buildings next to Slane Castle, all of which are highly protected historical structures, and we also source our water from the River Boyne which is within a special conservation area,” said Conyngham. “I knew that we had one chance to get the design right and remember being hugely nervous about presenting our plans to the local community. The first and only question I got was ‘When are you going to open?’ and the local support has been solid ever since.”
The warm welcome could also be part of the end product which uses a signature triple casked method with virgin oak, seasoned oak and sherry casks and is triple distilled for a rich yet smooth taste from barley grown on the surrounding estate and the River Boyne provides a water source. Conyngham has spearheaded their commitment to sustainability at the distillery with measures such as a fish ladder to assist salmon migrating up the Boyne River, an anaerobic digester, water treatment program, rainwater harvesting, heat recovery and feeding grain to the estate’s own cattle herd.
ABOVE: Tack Room at Slane Distillery
Slane Village is also emerging as a travel destination known for its history as arguably the cradle of Irish Civilization, where Neolithic tombs older than the Great Pyramids dot the landscape. Today, the village is part of Ireland’s thriving artisanal food and beverage movement, as well as a local music scene. Rock Farm Slane is an eco-tourism, organic farming and glamping destination run by Carina Conyngham, Alex’s wife.
Conynghams’ favorite way to enjoy the fruits of the family labor includes, “Casually sipping a Slane on the rocks with friends where both the whiskey and the conversation flows. I do also love live music and so I’m looking forward to enjoying a Slane & Ginger Ale with a twist of orange at a festival when we can safely do that again.”
ABOVE: Slane Co-Founder Alex Conyngham
Newer to the Whiskey Market
Launched in the fall of 2020, The Busker line of Irish whiskeys has the distinction of being the only distillery to produce all four types (single grain, single pot still, single malt and blend) under one roof at Royal Oak Distillery. The Busker uses different casks during the maturation process including bourbon casks, sherry casks and marsala casks, which raises the flavor profile ranging from vanilla and oak, to rich spicy notes.
With so many different variations, we asked Royal Oak Distillery ambassador, Woody Kane his top tips for sipping whiskey like a pro. “I have experience training bar staff all over the world. The main top tip for me is always to know the product. Some people want to know everything about the whiskey while others are happy to trust an informed bartender’s choice,” he said. “By experiencing the brand and what it offers, it gives you the confidence to stand behind the whiskey. To complement this, I would learn a little about the Irish whiskey background and how the distillation process works, and you will be perfectly fine in any barstool conversation.”
ABOVE: Royal Oak Distillery in Ireland
Another newer whiskey to hit the market, Grace O’Malley blended Irish whiskey was created by globally recognized Master Blender, Paul Caris. For this blend, they are combining multiple batches of whiskey of varying ages from three to 10 years old, and with a 46% malt content, it’s a unique blend. Each batch of whiskey is matured in a range of barrel types, including French oak. Casks are hand-selected according to each whiskey’s characteristics, including grain whiskey aged in ex-bourbon casks and malt whiskey aged in ex-rum barrels.
ABOVE: Proper No. Twelve Founder Conor McGregor
Whiskey that Gives Back
Founded by Mixed Martial Arts Champion Conor McGregor, you might recognize the Proper No. Twelve bottle which is reportedly one of the fastest-growing Irish whiskey brands selling over 10,000 cases. The brand also has the added distinction of having the highest social media following of any wine, spirit or champagne brand. What makes it a stand-out? This isn’t your typical grain-only Irish whiskey but a blend of golden grain and single malt resulting in a smooth taste with hints of vanilla, honey and toasted wood. At $24.99 per bottle, it’s also accessible and they are sharing the wealth, as well. For each case sold, $5 is donated to First Responder organizations worldwide, up to $1 million annually. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which was founded in honor of the firefighters who risked their lives on September 11, 2001, became the first $1 million donation recipient in 2020.