Irish Whiskey Tasting in Killarney

The days and weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day always bring back memories of my trip to Ireland. Two of the most memorable experiences on my trip was the Irish Whiskey tastings I had in Dublin and Killarney. While I like Scotch, and Scotch or bourbon-based cocktails, I was unfamiliar with Irish Whiskey until I traveled to Ireland. And now, I am a big fan and have a small collection of Irish whiskeys on hand at home – always ready to mix a drink or pour a dram to savor on its own.

I first learned about Irish Whiskey at a tasting in Dublin at the Jasmine Bar at the Brooks Hotel. Brendan Vacations arranged the tasting for for me and my friend Lisa Niver of We Said Go Travel. You can read what I wrote about that experience here, and what Lisa had to say here.

I so enjoyed the tasting in Dublin that when I traveled to Killarney later in my trip, Brendan Vacations arranged for me to have a another tasting at my hotel, The Malton. This tasting put me over the top, and I fell head over heels for Irish Whiskey and whiskey in general. Now when I travel, either locally to a bar for a cocktail, or overseas for a vacation, I want to peruse the whisky/whiskey menu, see what is on offer, and sample something new.

Similar to my experience in Dublin, the tasting was at the hotel bar. I was introduced to Jerry, who asked which tasting I would like. There were several options on their bar menu, and as whiskey was still new to me, I asked him for his advice. Eventually, he poured these three whiskies to try: Greenore Single Grain, Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt, and Knappogue Castle Sherry Finish 16 Year Old Single Malt.

Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue

Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue.

As Jerry and I talked during the tasting (the bar was not very busy), he explained how the aging in different barrels changes the taste of the whiskey. And to prove his point, showed me these bottles from Tyrconnell.

Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey tasting at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland.

Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey – each aged in different casks, producing different tastes.

The same whiskey is aged in casks that previously aged madeira, port, or sherry. The whiskey on the left was aged fourteen years in a single cask. Jerry shared micro-pours of these so I could compare how aging in the different casks produced different tastes in each one. I also learned that Tyrconnell is the name of a horse, and the distillery was founded in 1762 (as noted on the bottle).

Another whiskey Jerry introduced to me was Red Breast. Known as the “priest’s whiskey,” it is so called because it is more expensive, so only priests could afford it (I believe this was decades if not a century in the past when the people of Ireland were so poor that life as a priest provided a stable income – or at least enough to purchase Red Breast).

RedBreast Irish Whiskey - aged 12, 15 and 21 years - tasting at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

RedBreast Irish Whiskey – aged 12, 15 and 21 years

Here the difference was not the type of casks that aged the whiskey, but the length of time that the whiskey was aged. I really enjoyed the Red Breast whiskey – it is very smooth (and I might have purchased some at the Duty Free in the Dublin airport on my way home).

I asked Jerry about the difference between bourbon, Scotch whisky, and Irish whiskey, and he challenged me to a blind taste test – to see if I could tell the difference. I surprised myself by correctly identifying each one – there are distinct taste notes to each. And while my preference now is for Irish Whiskey, I still appreciate bourbon and Scotch whisky – I think it is safe to say they are all in the same spirit family!

Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey, the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey

After I finished the tastings and micro-tastings of the whiskeys, Jerry prepared this cocktail for me – the Lembuca. He created it and said it won an award at a cocktail competition. It features my other favorite spirit – gin!

The award-winning Lembuca coctkail with gin by Jerry at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Bartender Jerry’s award-winning cocktail, the “Lembuca”

Punchbowl Bar cocktail menu at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland - Lembuca cocktail with Bombay Saphire Gin

The cocktail list featuring Jerry’s cocktail, the Lembuca

I thoroughly enjoyed this Irish whiskey tasting and all that I learned from Jerry. If you can see the display cases behind us, I barely scratched the surface – there are so many different whiskeys to sample. The bar also included an excellent selection of Scotch whisky’s, so there is something there to suit everyone’s taste. And, if you are not sure of what to order, or what you like, ask the bartender. Jerry was a wealth of knowledge, and he was more than happy to answer my questions.

I highly recommend an Irish whiskey tasting on your trip to Ireland. Even if there is not a “formal” menu for this, you can easily create your own tasting by ordering a few drams at a bar and comparing them as you sample each. You might be surprised by what you like!

Irish whiskey tasting at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Ireland

Posing with Jerry behind the bar – look at all those bottles of whisky and whiskey!

My whiskey tasting was arranged and paid for courtesy of Brendan Vacations, but the opinions about the tasting and the whiskey are entirely my own.

Have you tasted Irish whiskey? Do you have a favorite or a whiskey you would recommend I sample? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

https://kierareilly.com/2017/03/16/irish-whiskey-tasting-in-killarney/

Tasting Whiskey in Dublin

whiskey taste tastings

Whiskey tasting at Jasmine Bar in the Brooks Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.

When I traveled to Ireland last year, my first visit to the land of my ancestors, I knew a little bit, or maybe less than a little bit, about Irish whiskey. Sure I had heard of Jameson, and maybe had some vague knowledge of Tullamore Dew and Bushmills, two other popular Irish whiskey brands, but that’s about it. What little I did know is that I liked whiskey, or is it whisky? I did not even know the difference between whisky with an, “e,” and whisky without an, “e,” – clearly my knowledge was limited! My favorite cocktail is a Manhattan, and I enjoy Scotch on the rocks, so when the lovely people at Brendan Vacations invited me to join an Irish whiskey tasting with my friend Lisa of We Said Go Travel, I happily accepted.

Lisa and I spent the afternoon on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Dublin, and it was a cold and wet afternoon (surprisingly, the only rainy day I experienced on my entire week-long visit!). We arrived at the tasting needing to warm up, and in short order we ordered some soup from the kitchen which helped rid us of our chill. Of course sampling some whiskey also warms the body!

I did not know what to expect, but in my head a tasting was a formal affair, with a group of people being led in a tasting by someone who would be at the front of a room lecturing us about whiskey. I was very wrong! The tasting took place in the Brooks Hotel’s Jasmine Bar, “Ireland’s First Great Whiskey Bar of the World.”

The Brooks Hotel, Dublin

The Brooks Hotel, Dublin

whiskey taste Jasmine Bar

Entrance to the Jasmine Bar at the Brooks Hotel is right from the lobby of the Brooks Hotel.

After arriving at our assigned table in the Jasmine Bar and ordering our soup, Jacek, Jasmine’s head bartender, joined us to teach us about Irish whiskey. Originally from Poland, Jacek is extremely knowledgeable about whiskey and eager to share his insights with us. As he explained, Irish whiskey is different from Scotch whisky in that it is triple distilled. This makes for a smoother finish. The whiskey does generally not have the smoky, peaty smell and taste that is often, but not always, associated with Scotch single malt whisky.

There was a selection of five whiskies for us to taste, and Jacek walked us through each one.ย  I enjoyed them all. At one point, I started to ask about the price of a bottle of each whiskey, then decided I should wait until we were finished so that I could pick a favorite without regard to the price.

whiskey taste Jasmine menue

Jasmine Bar’s menu listing some of the over 100 whiskies they stock.

One of the great advantages to a tasting is that you can compare each whiskey to the others, and sample one, then perhaps circle back to another dram you sampled earlier. On their own, each whiskey had a lovely smell and taste, but tasting them in one sitting allowed us to differentiate between them and notice the subtle taste notes that are distinctive to each one.

The whiskeys we sampled (detailed tasting notes are listed at the end of this post):

  • Green Spot
  • Bushmills 16 Year Old ‘Three Wood’ Single Malt Whiskey
  • Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey
  • Jameson 18 Year Old Master Selection
  • Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Lisa created this short video of our tasting:

As the tasting progressed, I only took a sip or two from each, as I wanted to return to my favorites at the end.

whiskey taste glasses lined better

Here, with the whiskies lined up side by side, you can see the variations in color.

My favorite of all that we sampled was the Midleton Very Rare, which Jacek estimated to be about โ‚ฌ150 per bottle! Lisa’s friend Enda joined us near the end of our tasting, and he was familiar with the Connemara that we sampled. He had purchased it as a wedding gift for a friend. It has a very smoky finish, and as a peated single malt, was very similar to the Scotch whiskies that were more familiar to me. While the Midleton was the most expensive, some of the whiskeys we drank were less than half that price. The beauty of tasting five whiskeys is that there is sure to be one to suit everyone’s taste – and price point.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and the knowledge that Jacek shared with us. It was an excellent introduction to Irish whiskey. If you are visiting Ireland, I highly recommend adding a whiskey tasting to your itinerary – and Brendan Vacations can assist with planning your trip and scheduling a whiskey tasting.

I so enjoyed this tasting that later in my trip, I stopped at the Celtic Whiskey Shop to purchase some whiskey to bring home to share with family and friends (my purchase? Green Spot).

Slรกinte!

Dublin Whiskey tasting

Lisa and I with Jacek, the Jasmine Bar’s head bartender, during our whiskey tasting. (I am on the left and Lisa is on the right).

Tasting Details

Greenspot – made entirely from seven and eight year old Midleton Pure Pot Still, with 25% of the spirit having matured in sherry casks. Only 500 cases are made each year.

  • Nose: Heavy barley is noticeable to the nose.
  • Taste and finish: A good full body and sweet honey finish making this one of our favourite Whiskeys.

Bushmills 16 Year Old ‘Three Wood’ Single Malt Whiskey – The whiskey is aged for 15 years in 50% bourbon and 50% sherry casks. These are married in vat and recasked into port pipes for a year.

  • Nose: An exquisite belt of exotic spices, cut with rich cigar smoke.
  • Taste: A rich start sets off tangerines, cocoa and spicy port notes. This whiskey keeps unfolding as you hold it in the mouth. Later, nutty toffee and cocoa arrive.
  • Finish: The port really makes itself felt here.

Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey – Comprising of superior aged whiskeys from 12 up to 27 years of age. Midleton is soley matured in ex-bourbon casks which contribute to its wonderful honey, spice, vanilla and gingerbread flavour. A superb, complex and satisfying whiskey that reveals new hidden layers upon each sip.

Jameson 18 Year Old Master Selection – The 18 year old master selection is a supreme example of the Jameson tradition of maturing whiskey in Spanish sweet oloroso sherry casks. Rich, complex and truly rare – only limited stocks of this exceptional whiskey are available. Each bottle is individually numbered to become a true collectors item over time.

  • Nose: Soft, rich, juicy: apricot, dried fruits, orange, butterscotch, hazelnut butter. Water brings out sherry, becoming chocolate and bourbon biscuit.
  • Taste: A luscious, oily sweetness with a crisp solidity on the palate, then a burst of dried fruits, spices and citrus fruits.
  • Finish: Rich, soft and honeyed.

Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey – Connemara was the first peated malt whiskey produced by Cooley distillery. Once the malted barley has germinated it is dried over a peat fire, the smoke rising through the malted barley giving it a distinct peaty flavour and aroma.

  • Nose: Pronounced smoke, rather than peat, though both evident.
  • Taste: Syrupy. Sweet grass. Smoky, some drier hints of phenol. A suggestion of juicy wood extracts, or sherry, rounding out flavours.
  • Finish: Smoky and emphatically grassy. Sweet grass, but also spicy dryness.

Read Lisa’s article from USA Today, “Whiskey Tasting in Dublin’s Distilleries and Bars,” which includes with our experience at the Jasmine Bar.

My whiskey tasting was arranged and paid for courtesy of Brendan Vacations, but the opinions about the tasting and the whiskey are entirely my own.

Have you tasted Irish whiskey? Do you have a favorite or a whiskey you would recommend I sample? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!