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Toast St. Patrick's Day the right way with these 5 Irish whiskies

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Irish Whiskey 2 gingers jameson
Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with these whiskey cocktails. Photo by Matt McGinnis

St. Patrick’s Day has become an outlandish celebration of anything remotely Irish, as well as an excuse to get blindingly drunk. But it doesn’t have to be that way on March 17. To get into the traditional mood, sip a proper Irish whiskey this St. Pat’s Day. After all, the word "whiskey" comes from the Gaelic word for "water of life," which is worth a toast. Whether you head to one of the enormous St. Patrick’s Day parties at a bar, or just celebrate at home, here are five Irish whiskeys to try.

Tullamore D.E.W.: Friendly or fiery
Tullamore D.E.W. is named for the town of Tullamore, set in the heart of Ireland, and from the initials of the young entrepreneur Daniel E. Williams, who worked at the distillery at the age of 14, became head distiller at age 25 and eventually bought the distillery.

Tullamore D.E.W. was founded in 1829 in "the country that invented whiskey," according to Tim Herlihy, Tullamore D.E.W. ambassador. "We invented whiskey 500 years before the Scots. The first written evidence of whiskey production was found in Scotland, but it’s widely accepted that distilling started in Ireland. The Irish invented the kilt, bagpipes and how to make whiskey. We just forgot to tell the Scots the first two were jokes."

Irish whiskey sales are booming worldwide, but there are only seven distilleries currently operating in Ireland and only four of which have whiskey aged enough to sell (compared to 108 distilleries in Scotland). Tullamore D.E.W. is currently made with a blend of whiskey from the Midleton and Bushmills distilleries. It is building a new distillery in heart of town that should be up and running by August.

Irish whiskey is known for its approachable style and Tullamore D.E.W. is particularly known as a friendly spirit. Originally, Tullamore was just a pot still whiskey, but the recipe was altered after Williams’ grandson visited the U.S. in 1900s. Pot still whiskey was too robust for the U.S. palate and the distillation process was adjusted to meet the taste preference.

It’s now made with a blend of grain including malted for spice, creaminess and un-malted barley for citrus and fruit flavors and corn for delicate sweetness and a triple distillation makes it smooth. The combination of all three flavor components makes it both silky and complex. 

Herlihy recommends enjoying Tullamore D.E.W. neat, with ice, or with a splash of ginger ale to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day.   

Ginger D.E.W.

  • 2 ounces Tullamore D.E.W. over ice into a glass
  • 2 parts ginger ale
  • Garnish with a twist of lemon

If you are looking for a more hearty style of whiskey, try the new Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix. This triple distilled whiskey is a stout 110 proof. It’s made in homage to town of Tullamore surviving the world’s first aviation disaster in 1785 when a hot air balloon crashed and engulfed a third of the town in flames.

"The town overcame the tragedy and rebuilt better than ever before," said Herlihy. "The Phoenix rising from the ashes has been adopted as the town crest. Our Phoenix whiskey celebrates the strength and courage of the Tullamore people. We gave the whiskey fiery strength to tie in to the great fire story."

Phoenix is aged in sherry casks to give it a big red wine influence to soften the high proof. It sells for about $55 a bottle.

Jameson: Fancy and spicy
"Jameson Irish Whiskey was founded by hardworking people two centuries ago and we are still made for hard working people today," said Jameson brand ambassador, Stephen Mahony. "Jameson is real whiskey for real people. It’s for people who want to make friends over a drink."

These were the first words out of Mahony’s mouth after he ordered me a Jameson 12 at Fado Irish Pub. The Dublin native has only been in Austin for a handful of months and brings a strong Irish ethos for whiskey-washed camaraderie to an adopted city that likewise thrives on friendships solidified over a drink.  

Arguably one of the oldest and most recognizable Irish whiskeys around, Jameson is essentially the same whiskey as the original stuff made in 1780. It’s a triple distilled, blended whiskey made using water from the Dungourney River next to the distillery and malted barley for spice and biscuit flavor and corn for sweetness.  

By regulation, Irish whiskey must be aged a minimum of three years in barrels. Jameson ages its whiskey in a mix of sherry, port and bourbon barrels for a minimum of five to seven years to give it sweet and creamy flavor.  

"Jameson isn’t a fancy whiskey," said Mahony. "It’s not made for swirling and sniffing. Nah, this is your shot-and-a-beer whiskey. It’s also just fine on the rocks or in a cocktail."

Jameson Tipperary Cocktail

  • 1 part Jameson
  • 1 part green Chartreuse liqueur
  • 1 part Vermouth

Jameson is made at the new Midleton Distillery which also makes several styles of Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve, Jameson Gold Reserve as well as other brands such as Powers, Paddy, Red Breast, Middleton Barry Rare and Green Spot.  

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Jameson Black Barrel is available in Austin starting March 7. The small batch grain whiskey used in Black Barrel is distilled in copper pot stills only one day per year. It is aged in extra charred bourbon barrels and toasted sherry casks to add spice to the satiny sweet, tropical fruit flavors. It sells for about $45 and is delightful on the rocks and stands up well in cocktails.

Irish Wolfhound

  • 2 ounces Jameson Black Barrel
  • 2 ounces ginger beer
  • 2 dashes grapefruit juice
  • A dash of smoked salt

2 Gingers: Good in any weather
The origin of the 2 Gingers might not sound particularly traditional, but it is Irish at the core. After a stint of selling Irish dairy products in Saudi Arabia, Irishman Kieran Folliard, moved to Minnesota and decided to start a pub. Like any traditional Irish pub, whiskey was a big seller, but Folliard noticed that it wasn’t selling all the time to everybody. He wondered why whiskey wasn’t as popular in the summer as in the winter and why women ordered it less.

Folliard asked, "What would have to happen to have a season-less and gender-less whiskey? I wanted a whiskey to appeal to men and women who drink beer and vodka. I wanted a whiskey cocktail that people want to drink on the patio in the summer."

That curiosity was essential to the birth of 2 Gingers. He set out to make an Irish whiskey that reflects the spirit of the pub and can be enjoyed all year. He had a loose relationship with a distillery owner in Ireland and contacted him to explore the idea of creating his own brand of whiskey with his own recipe.

"The concept for 2 Gingers came out of a pub and the passion for representing the character of storytelling and friendship that is in the pub," said Folliard. "I’m passionately involved because it is a reflection on a deep level of respect I have in dealing with people and in how I run my business."

Recently, Beam, Inc. bought the 2 Gingers brand, but it hasn’t changed where or how the whiskey is made. It has allowed the brand to expand its footprint, and it’s now sold in all 50 states. As the founder of 2 Gingers Whiskey, Beam has retained Folliard as CEO and much of the original team to take this Minnesota-born whiskey across the country. And it is starting to capture attention around Austin. "This is a perfect product for Texas," said Folliard. "Its smooth taste is good in the hot weather."

Made with malted barley and distilled twice at Kilbeggan Distillery in Ireland, 2 Gingers is aged four years in bourbon barrels. The double distillation is favored by master distiller, Noel Sweeney, which gives it viscosity and bold flavor to stand up in cocktails, to remove the burn on the end and to give it the smoothness that makes it appealing year-round. 

2 Gingers is made to be approachable says Folliard. "Some people don’t want to wait for a fancy cocktail or pay $12 for it. They want cocktails that reflect the character of a pub and that they can get as quick as a beer at the same price." Currently, 2 Gingers sells for about $20 a bottle.

Big Ginger            

  • Fill a Collins glass with ice
  • 2 parts 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey
  • Top up with ginger ale

Garnish with both lemon and lime wedges

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Austin, March 17

  • B.D. Riley's Irish Pub, 204 East Sixth Street — Festivities from 10:30 am – midnight with live music and Irish beer.
  • Dog & Duck Pub, 406 West 17th Street — Live music starts at 11 am with plenty of Irish music and food.
  • Fado Irish Pub, 214 West Fourth Street — the Huge Outdoor Party happens 6 am - 2 am with live music, food and drink specials in the pub in a tent on the street.
  • Opal Divine’s, 3601 South Congress, 12709 MoPac, and 3801 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. — serving Irish whiskies and beers noon – 2 am with live music at each location.
  • North by Northwest Restaurant and Brewery, 10010 N. Capital of TX Hwy — live music starts at 5 pm
  • St. Patrick’s Day Austin, Shoal Crossing Event Center, 8611 North Mopac — celebrate 3 pm - 9 pm live music on two stages, dancing, traditional Irish food and beverages.
  • The White Horse, 500 Comal Street — enjoy Irish Whiskey Day Party 5 pm - 2 am with live music and drinks specials. 

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