In my opinion, one of the greatest parts of being an American living and in the United States, a country that epitomizes the term “melting pot,” is that we have the opportunity to celebrate various holidays that trace their origins back to countries and cultures from all over the world.
On March 17th we celebrate St.Patrick’s Day, once again reacquainting ourselves with traditional dishes, music, dances, legends and lore of Ireland. Ireland is known for many things, Irish Whiskies ranking highest on my list of favorites. To help bring in this St. Patty’s Day, I have taken it upon myself to provide a lil’ Irish Whiskey education.
Until Prohibition, Irish Whiskey was the most popular imported whiskey in the United States. Today, there are well over one million cases of Irish Whiskey imported onto American shores each year. Irish whiskey is distilled primarily from malted barley and may at times also have unmalted grain. Unlike Scotch, peat is seldomly used in the malting process of Irish Whiskey. Most, but not all Irish Whiskies are distilled three times, and all are aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. While many enjoy Irish Whiskey neat, on the rocks, or in the well-known Irish coffee; Irish whiskey also serves as an excellent base whiskey in a number of cocktails.
There are three main Irish Whiskey distilleries in Irealand. The following are all from the renowned, innovative and independently owned Cooley Distillery.
Michael Collins produces two outstanding whiskies, Michael Collins and Michael Collins 10yr. Single Malt. Both are double distilled for character and aged in small bourbon seasoned casks from 4-12 years. Michael Collins garnered “96 points” by The Chairman’s Trophy, and was rated the “#1 Irish Whiskey” at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2011. Michael Collins 10 yr. Single Malt was awarded a Double Gold Medal and acknowledged as “Best Irish Whiskey” from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Concannon Irish Whiskey is another great choice – a double distilled malt and grain whiskey that recently received a “93” rating from The Tasting Panel and “Four Stars ‘Highly’ recommended” in F.Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.
Also from the award-winning Cooley Distillery is Slane Castle. Slane Castle is named for the castle that sits on the banks of the mystical River Boyne beneath the famous Hill of Slane where St. Patrick lit his paschal fire. This “small batch” exhibits hints of honey, vanilla, and spice with a long malty finish. Slane Castle received “Four Stars” in F.Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal. Since 1981, the owners of the castle have hosted concerts featuring the music of U2, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the Red Hot Chile Peppers. In 2011 Tennessee’s Kings of Leon performed in celebration of the venue’s 30th Anniversary and perhaps even enjoyed a sip after the show.
Cheers to the luck of the Irish and a safe and festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration!
“La Fheile Padraig Sona Daoibh”