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While craft distilleries in Brooklyn and the tech-savvy whisky plants in Japan have (deserved) reputations for making brilliant alcohol, you don’t have to look far abroad for some of the most exciting booze creations of 2021.
Ireland, with its exquisite natural resources, intimate knowledge of age-old distillery technique, and delightful curiosity for new, innovative tastes, is one of the world’s best countries for crafting splosh in all forms.
Abandon your preconceptions here; there’s no green beer, Guinness, or stale Irish Cream that’s split from being left too long undrunk between Christmas in sight. Instead, we’ve curated some of the most exciting Irish drinks we’ve tried in 2021, to introduce you to the best the Emerald Isle has on offer.
You won’t be surprised to see a stout and a whiskey among them, but with a line up of drinks producers that can compete with anywhere else in the world, there are plenty more choices to be had, from a gorgeous fresh gin to the potato-inspired offerings of Muff Liquor...
Muff Liquor Potato Vodka, 40%
Best for: a peerlessly smooth vodka
If we can make a quick, passionate entreaty - don’t dismiss this vodka as as a saucily-named stunt. It’s delectable. If you’re a fan of an ice-cold martini at the end of a tough day, this will take it a sacred place.
Ireland is famed for its potatoes so it’s no surprise that they’re adept at making brilliant spirits from the tuberous veg, a vodka from Co Donegal. Whereas Irish whiskey is noted for a triple distillation, this vodka has been through the process not three, not four, but six (SIX!) times.
The result is a super smooth and creamy spirit that has an earthy punch to the alcohol - it makes a deep, satisfying base for a umami Bloody Mary, too.
And if you want even more potato-based booze then Muff Liquor also produces a potato gin.
Dingle Original Gin, 42.5%
Best for: a fresh, crisp gin’n’tonic
With gin being so popular we’ll wager that a fair few folk will be pouring G&Ts for Summer this year, and if you aim to be one of them then may we recommend Dingle’s fine booze to accompany the tonic.
Using foraged ingredients from the Kerry landscape, including rowan berries, hawthorn and heather, it has fresh herbal and floral notes alongside the requisite juniper characteristics.
We like it best in a black g&t - muddle the freshest blackberries you can find, pour in 50ml of Dingle, top with tonic and lime. Refreshing.
The Dubliner Honeycomb Whiskey Liqueur, 30%
Best for: caramel hints in a whiskey liqueur
This liqueur blends The Dubliner’s triple distilled Irish whiskey with honeycomb and caramel and it tastes just as you would imagine: smooth and boozy with the whiskey’s vanilla and spice notes given a sweet honey coating. If you find whiskey too fiery to sup, this is an ideal alternative for a night cap.
It’s such creamily good nectar you can pour it over pudding: indeed, heat it up and spoon over ice cream for an alcoholic twist on affogato that’s heaven itself. We’ve poured a heavy-handed slug into salted caramel when making it, too, and it adds warmth and sophistication: it’ll turn your cheeks pink.
Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur, 16%
Best for: a step above Bailey’s - Irish cream with white chocolate
There can’t be many people who don’t like a nip of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and this Coole Swan liqueur offers even more superlative sip it action. Indeed, if you’ve ever been teased for having a Baileys outside of Christmas time, switch to Coole and you’ll suffer no further indignity.
It’s a liqueur that combines Irish Whiskey, Irish cream and white chocolate for an extra smooth texture – sweet, boozy and deliciously luxurious.
Drinks by the Dram Irish Whiskey Collection
Best for: trialling the best of Irish whiskey
If you’ve built up an admirable knowledge of Scotch, know your bourbon from your rye, delight in Japanese whisky, but don’t know where to start with Irish whiskey, this is the set for you.
This tasting set of 12x30ml drams features a range of styles from some of the best whiskey producers in the land.
There’s copper pot whiskey, single malt whiskey, grain whiskey and even a couple of peated whiskeys for your toasting pleasure. We won’t spoil too many of the surprises therein, but we’re particularly partial to the Connemara Peated, Writer’s Tears Double Oaks, and the superb options from That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
Jameson Whiskey Caskmates Stout Edition, 40%
Best for: a sophisticated new offering from Jameson, for stout lovers
‘Oh!’ You cry, ‘what’s the deal trying to pass Jameson off as new on a list of Irish alcohol’?
And yes, Jameson produce the best known Irish whiskey in the world. But here us out - their latest iteration is worth singling out. It’s something very special.
For this release they’ve mixed things up with the country’s most loved beer style by finishing their spirit in casks seasoned with stout.
You’ll get all the fresh oak and apple-y flavours of the classic Jameson whiskey, but we detect some additional touches of nutty chocolate drifting into the scene, smoothing out the experience and adding delicious complexity. Even if you’re a long-time Jameson lover: we’d wager this latest iteration may well end up your new favourite.
Bán Poitín, 48%
Best for: a smooth, intriguing gin replacement in cocktails
And here, the illicit spirit we allude to in the headline - a one-time illegal tipple now enjoying fresh celebrity in Ireland
Poitín is an Irish spirit on the comeback trail having only fairly recently seen a ban imposed in the 17th century come to an end. It’s distilled in a pot still from various ingredients including potato, with malted barley and sugar beet joining the fray in this product.
Although the booze will give you an initial warning shot, it soon smooths out enabling you to continue to sip it neat – but we think it best as an alternative to gin or vodka in your favourite cocktails.
Galway Bay - Buried At Sea Milk Stout 4.5%
Best for: a chocolatey, creamy stout
If you’re after a decent Irish stout, but fancy a change from Guinness, then this dark drop from Ireland’s west coast will see you right.
It’s sweet and malty, chocolatey and toasty – and being a milk stout it has an extra smooth creaminess that have see you slurping with glee.