Tasting Notes: Irish Whiskeys

Michael Kraus

Clontarf Classic Blend ($20) This blended whiskey offers a gentle entry to the category at a more than gentle price. Meatier than the standard blends, it contains enough musky, raw-barley pot-still spirit to give it ample body.

Connemara Cask Strength Peated Single Malt ($60) The folks at Cooley, better known for the intensely peaty Connemara 12-year-old single malt, have dialed things back with this whiskey, which lets the lushness of the barley come through. It's delicately smoky and balanced, particularly for a whiskey that's almost 60 percent alcohol.

Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve ($85) The Midleton distillery produces a lot of standard Jameson whiskey, all of it light and impeccably clean. Those qualities make this 18-year-old version a perfect example of the good things that long, careful aging can do. Notes of dill and toasted coconut in the nose; velvety, sweet, and nutty in the mouth. Delightful.

Knappogue Castle 1995 Single Malt Whiskey ($40) This whiskey shows a translucent, floral malt flavor with more citrus than grain: drinking it is like drinking lemon pound cake, in a good way.

**Midleton Very Rare 2008 Vintage ($134) **A blend of several very old whiskeys (some of which have as many as 25 years on them), with some younger ones folded in for sprightliness. More complex than the Jameson 18-year-old and particularly pleasant because of the way the bright, citrus peel notes of the younger whiskeys intertwine with the musky-sweet, orange blossom honey notes of the older ones.

Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt Whiskey ($34) My favorite of the Bushmills single malts—indeed, of the entire tasting—happened to be the venerable Northern Ireland distillery's youngest. Lively, fresh acidity lies atop a cushion of barley sweetness: the quintessence of "moreishness". If you like a darker whiskey, you might prefer the chocolatey 16-year-old or the spicy, leathery 21-year-old.

**Redbreast 12 Year Old Pure Pot Still Whiskey ($47) **A textbook old-school Irish whiskey: musky and bready in the nose, silky and smooth and surprisingly light on the palate.