Liquid Gold from the Emerald Isle
Before the world got shut down last year around this time, our very last public event was our Irish Whiskey Seminar with the guys from The Whiskey Library. It was a little bittersweet, knowing it was the end of our tasting bar for the forseeable future. But it also confirmed for me a suspicion I had been harboring for a while – the more new Irish Whiskeys (to me, the DC market, or both) that I tried, the better they kept getting. And yet, many whiskey nerds still scoff at Irish whiskey for its relative simplicity and accessibility. I think that is shortsighted, even if your taste lies elsewhere.
A derivative story: In high school, I may have participated in an ill-advised summertime campout party in a corn field. Several friends and I might have scavenged the ends of whatever bottles we could from family liquor cabinets, and called in favors from upperclassmen with nascent mustaches to procure cheap beer. As you may expect, it was a fun night, and a much rougher morning. My primary offender, however, was the full bottle of cheap bourbon that we saved for last. It was a bad idea inside bad idea wrapped around bad idea folded over on itself. For a decade afterword I could not even /smell/ whiskey without revulsion.
Fast forward to grad school, when aged rum got me thinking maybe all brown liquors were not of the devil, after all. I began frequenting the Black Cat after class once a week, where our bartender's courtesy shot of choice was Klontarf. (Cheers, Al!) After skipping the first few, I finally swallowed my pride and was surprised to find that I rather enjoyed it!
My subsequent tear through the usual canon of Irish whiskeys and lighter-bodied scotches (while maintaining straight As, I'll have you know!) was a bit rocky at times. But it was also exactly what I needed to ensure that I had the base I would need to undertake my own exploration of whiskey down the road. Y'know, like when the economy collapsed a week after I finished my Masters, setting me on the path that led to Wardman Wines and the writing of this article.
Look, I'm not saying that just because Irish Whiskey was my personal gateway back into the world of whiskey that you should love it. But, if you avoid it because it is beneath your elevated consciousness, then I suggest you check yourself and try again. You might just find something you are not expecting, but only if you leave yourself open to it.
Our selection of Irish spirits this week contains my new go-to everyday Irish Whiskey in the Glendalough Double Barrel, and their Wild Botanical Gin is almost as much a favorite as the Dingle Gin. The Redbreast-12 Year is a Cask Strength release of a Single Pot Still whiskey, and the Waterford Whiskeys are an entirely new terroir project in that their grain was all grown on a single farm! The Blackadder Drop of the Irish is a delightfully expressive and US exclusive independent bottling of an Irish Single Malt.
- Eric Kintner