Food + Drink

Irish Whiskeys perfect for gifting, or keeping

With Father's Day in mind we tasted Irish Whiskeys, here are five to buy now and two worth waiting for

by MICHAEL PINKUS

Yes, I know St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, but in honour of the patron saint of Ireland I decided to grab a glass and taste a few shots over the month of March, in preparation for Father’s Day gifting (at least that was my excuse). I gathered some friends (for appropriately distanced outdoor tastings) in cool weather, to see if we could warm ourselves up. Here are a few selections that proved to be big hits.

These bottles have been scored on a rating system of one to three stars.

The Sexton Single Malt

$49.95, LCBO #541607

★★☆

There’s some fruit on the nose here, fig and dried apricot along with some overripe peach skins. The entry on the palate is smooth and silky, almost creamy, with little “hurt” (from now on we’ll call that “the burn”), just warmth. There’s a hint of a burn on the aftertaste, but this one proved to be almost cozy and very interesting. The bottle shape is quite unique as well.

The Dead Rabbit Irish Whisky

$49.95, LCBO #631887

This is the Irish whiskey that kicked off my journey of discovery. It’s a complex beverage that doles out both fruit notes as well as “others.” The fruit is apricot, peach and raisins, along with a malty, floral and even a mothball quality (but in a good way). The “burn” here is pleasant, it seems to hit upon entry, but then melts into cinnamon candies, spiced-apricot and dried fruits, there’s even a booze-soaked fruit cake note that brings a coziness to the finish in the pit of your stomach. It’s a real punch in the mouth of flavour and a punch in the gut of warmth.

Bushmills Malt 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey

$50.95, LCBO #131870

The aromas here are reminiscent of summer fruits: raspberry, strawberry, ripe golden plums, floral and golden raspberries. I was surprised as anybody to smell these, it’s whiskey after all. The palate is creamy, warm, mellow and silky with little to no burn—in fact there seems to be a marshmallow-like smoothness: warm and soothing with toasted notes that grab a white peach then fry it, bake it and pop it in your mouth.

Proper Twelve

$38.45, LCBO #11945

★★ ½

The nose of this Irish whiskey was all about fruit, namely peaches: spiced vanilla overripe peaches and some baked fruit. The first sip brought the alcohol heat, but by sip two there was more to be found: spicy apricot-mango, that upfront burn was mellowed on the finish with a creamy lingering and some vanilla and cherry blossom. I could quite easily get into this one on a cold winter’s night.

Hyde 1916 Single Grain Bourbon Matured Irish Whiskey

$80.35, LCBO #490457

★★ ½

The combination of bourbon barrel and whiskey seems to be a good one. The nose is quite alluring with notes that make you want to take a sip: creamy vanilla, pineapple, caramel, pear, candy floss and even orange peel. Now orange peel is not my thing, but the rest I’m all in. The entry is silky smooth, the mid-palate also seems on the creamy side and only on the finish does the burn appear. All the while there are notes of pear, smoke, vanilla and oak—so while that burn is there, it is surrounded by pleasant flavours and is barely noticeable by sip three.

Paddy’s Old Irish Whiskey

$33.95, available early 2022

★☆

This one grabbed me by the nose and pulled me into the glass: vanilla, creme brulée, caramel and dried pineapple; there are some lovely sweet notes (what I expect from Irish whiskey). The colour is light and so is the palate (almost delicate really) with lots of fruity notes: peaches, plums, apricots and starfruit. The burn is there, but after a few sips it seems to lessen, almost into nothing, to a point where it becomes almost silky and so very pleasant. There’s even a hint of floral that emerges and brings a pretty note to your glass of Paddy’s. Very easy to drink.

West Cork Single Malt Calvados Cask Finished 

$59.95, available autumn 2021

Now this baby was truly one of my favourites in the lineup of more than a dozen Irish Whiskeys —there was just something about it that truly appealed. The Calvados (apple brandy) cask might have given it a little sweetness, but surely it has to be more than that. The nose was pleasant, but everything I loved appeared on the palate: starting with a note of caramel that moves into some green apple skin; the mid is smooth across the tongue adding in a hint of vanilla as it builds to a spicy long lingering finish that couches the burn in a vanilla spice. A real treat.

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