Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Luck of the Irish: Some Alternative Drinks for St Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick's Day is rapidly approaching and I must confess it isn't one of my favourite nights of the year…

Now while plenty of the English population will be putting on novelty hats, drinking green pints of Guinness and firing out tenuous stories of Irish heritage, I thought I would put together a few alternative Irish drinks you may not know so well.


Wait hold on, you said alternative? Stay with me a minute.  I'm aware that Jameson is one of the worlds best known whiskies and a global super brand.  While perfectly pleasant, it is a fairly middle of the road dram.  Good for mixing, great in a pickleback, but nothing to write home about.

What less people know is that it has a big brother.  Jameson Gold Reserve is a totally different animal.  Using a higher proportion of the pot distillate this blend punches harder, mellowed by a multi-wood ageing including virgin oak and Oloroso sherry cask.  This allows beautiful notes of nut and honey to arise.

While some may bemoan the global brand fame and modest ABV of 40%, Jameson have been producing whiskies 'sine metu' ('without fear' - the company's motto) since the 1780s.  Great value at £55.55 from The Whisky Exchange and thoroughly deserving of the excellent score of 94 from whisky guru Mr Jim Murray himself.

Brooklyn Irish Stout

Now I actually like Guinness, despite taking plenty of abuse about this from my colleagues who specialise in the brewed rather than the distilled.  However, I'm taking it on great authority that if stout must be your drink of choice on the 17th, there might be an alternative you should try.

There was a time when Irish Stout was once produced by dozens of breweries in Ireland. These days there are only three.  The ever progressive Brooklyn Brewery have released a limited run of their own take on a classic. At 4.7% it is light and easy drinking, the coffee malt used adding hints of espresso.  Branded as a 'session beer' it shouldn't be quite as heavy as other stouts and tips the hat to the heritage of lighter porters and dark beers.

The one catch - where to find it? I know James Clay imported a limited number of kegs and cases though unfortunately, if not unsurprisingly, demand has exceeded supply. BUT - there is one place I've found it - The Real Ale Company sells it for £2.39 a bottle - so grab some and keep it to yourself!

Teeling Irish Whiskey

Taken from Fareham Wine's stream under the CC
Now here is a whiskey that I think everyone can get behind.  With a family history in distilling dating back to 1780, the modern generation have created a spirit and a brand designed specifically to be different.

With Irish Whiskey being one of the fastest growing spirit categories on the planet, the few expressions I have managed to get my hands on have been truly stunning.  The entry level 'small batch ' isn't chill-filtered and is bottled at an impressive 46%.  The high proportion of malt gives a creamy finish and the use of second fill Flor de Cana rum barrels from Nicaragua adds a unique sweetness and spice.

The star of the range though is the Teeling Whiskey Single Grain .  This has been the talk of the bar since we grabbed it a couple of weeks ago and is an absolute steal for £38.95 from TWE.  Finished in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon barrels its young and robust fruit aromas are tempered with a hint of tannin and leather, a great contrast in such a young whiskey.  This is a serious drop.

I would love to know what your favourite Irish whiskey is or if you have tried any of the products mentioned (especially the Brooklyn!) so let us know what you think.


Top image taken from Offbeat Magazine's stream under the creative commons act.

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