Irish whiskey is said to have been the world’s most popular spirit in the 19th century, back when scotch was almost unknown outside Scotland itself (the word “whiskey” actually has Irish-language roots, coming from “uisce beatha,” meaning “water of life”). In the early 20th century, however, the temperance movement (including Prohibition in America) and both trade wars and literally armed conflicts with Britain, among other factors, blunted sales, and the majority of the country’s distilleries shut down. (Can you solve these real life “Jeopardy!” clues about Irish culture?)
New distilleries began appearing in the 1980s, happily, and the variety and quality of Irish whiskey increased as exports grew. Today, Irish whiskey is a hot commodity – especially in America. Led by the now-ubiquitous Jameson brand (owned by massive Pernod-Ricard) and energized by numerous smaller artisanal producers, sales rose 16.3% in 2021 in the U.S. alone to hit $1.3 billion, and some analysts predict that it will outsell scotch in this country by 2030. (If you’re more of a scotch drinker, these are the 32 best single-malt scotches for 2022.)
it’s easy to see why it’s so well-liked. Most Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, rendering it smooth and easy-drinking (scotch is generally distilled only twice), and while scotch is made only from malted barley, Irish whiskey can incorporate barley, corn, and/or wheat, which some feel lends it added complexity.
There are a few terms relating to Irish whiskey that are worth knowing: “Single malt” – a term more commonly used for scotch – means that the whiskey is made from malted barley and comes from a single distillery. “Single pot still” Irish whiskey is made in a single distillery from a mix of malted and unmalted barley, and distilled in a pot still. And “single grain” means that grains other than barley, such as corn or wheat, are used and again that the whisky comes from a single distillery. Blended whiskeys combine various other types from more than one distillery.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the 32 best Irish whiskeys for 2022 by reviewing the results of the 2021 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a weeks-long multi-part event covering a wide range of spirits, judged by panels including spirits writers, bartenders, consultants, and other experts in the field. Our list includes all the Irish whiskeys rated 92 points or higher by the judges in the 2021 tasting. Within each scoring group, whiskeys were ranked according to price, with the less expensive ones placing higher. Prices were suggested retail prices as of mid-2021. Note that both 700 ml and 750 ml bottles are included (size is indicated), and that prices may have changed since the judging and may vary from state to state and in some cases from store to store.
Click here to see the best Irish whiskeys for 2022
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