TASTING THE IRISH
Our expert panel points you in the right direction this St. Patrick’s Day for ideal Irish whiskies to have on hand.
the first time I went to Ireland to look into its whiskeys, back in the 1990s, there were only two distilleries left—Bushmills in the north and Midleton in the south. The most famous whiskeys, including Jameson, Powers and Paddy, were all made at Midleton by master distiller Barry Crockett, who preserved their distinctive identities by blending different proportions of pot-still and continuous-still spirits and by judicious barrelageing. I learned to love Irish whiskeys on that trip, but I feared for their future…
Twenty years later, how things have changed! A great surge of enthusiasm and determination has revived the industry. Defunct distilleries have reopened and new ones have been built (there were 16 in operation the last time I counted). Extinct styles of whiskey have been revived and experiments with different kinds of barrels are going on everywhere. These new spirits come and go through the LCBO’s Whisky Shop (lcbo.com/whiskyshop) and are well worth checking out. Meanwhile, the more established brands are flourishing and have also been busy with innovations of their own. So I convened a tasting of three other whiskey enthusiasts—contributing editor Charlene Rooke from
Food & Drink, LCBO Product Consultant Sean Ormsby, and star mixologist Shane Mulvany. Our verdict was unanimous. All things considered, there has never been a more interesting time to explore Irish whiskey.