Most Irish whiskeys are blends, but the phenomenal popularity of single-malt Scotches has led to the introduction of a few single malts from Ireland. Some of the best are those from Knappogue Castle. This is not a distillery but a brand, created in the 1950s by American Mark Edwin Andrews. Andrews selected aged single-malt casks from various distillers and bottled them under the Knappogue Castle label, named after the magnificent castle he owned in Ireland.
The whiskeys were bottled with the date of distillation. There are limited quantities of the 1951 Knappogue Castle still around for those with $650 in disposable income, but Andrews' son has continued the line with more recent (and more affordable) vintages, including this 1992. The label proudly displays a sketch of the original castle standing tall in County Clare, Ireland. The pale gold color leads to a smooth, mellow, and extremely elegant spirit tinged with vanilla and sweet oak.
BUSHMILLS BLACK BUSH ($35)
County Antrim, on the far northern tip of Ireland, is full of Irish mist and legend. Here, in the small village of Bushmills, is the world's oldest licensed distillery, Old Bushmills. Whiskey has been made legally in this location since the original license was issued to Sir Thomas Phillips in 1608, and very likely illegally before that. The Irish are notoriously independent and resisted the efforts of the Excise Administration to tax their spirits. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, illicit distilling became ramp-ant and the taxmen, called gaugers, needed private armies for safety. Things are a little calmer these days.
Like almost all Irish producers, Bushmills dries its malts in closed, heat-fired kilns, without the peat-smoke process associated with Scotch. This is what gives the Irish product its more accessible taste. Black Bush is an 80-proof blend of malt whiskeys with an age of up to 11 years. It’s heady and full-bodied, with nutty flavors picked up from the sherry-laced aging casks.
Photo Credit: Copyright Dick Patrick Studios
MIDLETON VERY RARE, $125
Refined and masterful, a wonderful after-dinner libation.
KNAPPOGUE CASTLE 1992 SINGLE MALT, $35
Smooth and elegant, perfect for sipping over ice.
BUSHMILLS BLACK BUSH, $35
Heady and nutty, makes a killer Irish coffee.