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The best Irish whiskies in the world: its official!

Updated on March 24, 2011

Which Irish whiskeys are best?

'Best' is a relative term. There is no accounting for personal taste when it comes to whiskey, or any other drink for that matter. However, the spirits industry does have an annual competition where spirits are judged by a panel of expert judges from around the world. Taking the 2010 San Franciso World Spirits Competition results as my guide, I have compiled a list of the best Irish whiskies in the world - officially!

Ireland is the home of whiskey - the drink has a long history on the island dating back to medieval times when whiskey was distilled in monasteries as a medicine.

There are three active distilleries in Ireland, each producing a range of whiskies. From world-famous brands like Jameson and Tullamore Dew, to the historic Bushmills brand beloved of whiskey-insiders, there is an Irish whiskey to suit all tastes.

There are three types of whiskey produced on the island of Ireland today - single malt, blended and pot-still whiskey. I have outlined below the best Irish whiskies under each category, based on 2010s San francisco world spirits competition.

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition is considered to be the most influential and well-respected spirits competition in the world. This is largely down to the wide-ranging panels of international judges. Judging panels are drawn from spirits experts from the industry including noted restaurants and hotels, well-known spirits journalists, and spirits buyers for major international companies.

Evaluations are based on blind tasting and a consensual procedure, ensuring competitive integrity and making the San Francisco World Spirits Competition the most recognized competition in the spirits industry. These judges know what they are talking about so anyone looking for the best Irish whiskey in the world should pay attention to their choices!

Guide to Understanding Irish whiskies

Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey

The Double Gold Medal in this category went to Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey, Cask Strength, Connemara, Ireland [57.9%].This is Ireland's first peated single malt whiskey in modern times. It is prized for its balance of peaty flavours with sweet malt and oak. It is produced by the Cooley distillery, using resurrected traditional techniques such as drying the malted barley over a fire. The whiskey is a tribute to the wild and beautiful region of Connemara in western Ireland, and to its inhabitants traditional way of life.

Gold Medals in this category also went to , Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey, Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Single Malt Madeira Finish,  Tyrconnell Single Malt Port Finish, and Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

Best Blended Irish Whiskey

Double gold medals went to two whiskies in this category made at the Northern Irish distillery of Bushmills:Bushmills 1608 Limited Edition [46%] and Bushmills Black Bush [40%].

1608 was a special bottling of Bushmills blended whiskey to mark the 400th anniversary of the first licence to produce whiskey at Bushmills which was granted in the same year. The whiskey has a smooth taste, with lots of nuttiness and vanilla / toffee notes. The production methods involve very little grain - it almost all Crystal Malt whiskey.

Black Bush is a rich dark blended whiskey, matured in sherry casks. The unique blend of single malt and grain whisky is noted for its smoothness, and for honeyed and spiced notes on the tongue. With a very reasonable price, this whiskey is well know for value-for-money.

Single gold medals in this category were awarded to Jameson 18 Year Old Irish Whiskey [40%], Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey [40%] , and Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey [40%].


Best Irish Pot-still Whiskey

Pure pot still whiskey is Irish whiskey which has been produced using both malted and unmalted barley, as opposed to Scottish whiskey were only malted barley is used. These Irish whiskeys are always distilled in a traditional Irish pot still - such as the one featured in this photograph.

The Double Gold Medal in this category went to Redbreast 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey [40%]. This whiskey treats the tastebuds to a mixture of fruits and spices. This whiskey has been awarded many prizes and many conoisseurs regard it as the best Irish whiskey available today. 

Best Irish whiskey in the World: 2010

I was delighted when I saw the overall results of the 2010 World Spirit Competition for Best Irish Whiskey. I thought that I was just biased to think Bushmills whiskey the best in the world, because I grew up near the distillery and Bushmills was my introduction to the wonderful world of Irish whiskey.

But it's official! the independent panel of expert judges awarded Bushmills 1608 blended Irish whiskey with the title Best Irish Whiskey in the World.


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    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ...well I am currently drinking my wake-up pot of Italiano espresso coffee here by my snowy lake here in Ontario, Canada at 8:16 in the morning (Lake Erie) listening to some lovely light classical music and watching the sun rise over the lake .......and the only thing I'm missing right now ..... is a wee shot or two of your world renown Irish whiskey .... in order to greet another brand new day .... and raise a glass to your health and toast you peace, happiness and contentment ......and many many more hubs to come!

    • Marie McKeown profile image

      Marie McKeown 7 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks guys. I'm not sure the spirit industry of Ireland will have had a noticable increase in sales because of me, but it is always good to put the word out .. :)

      mcrawford76 - the Cooley distillery seems to pride itself on producing rare and niche whiskies, their website might be a good place to start your search!

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 7 years ago

      Hi Marie.

      Good hub, well put together and very informative. I hope the Irish spirit industry appreciates what you do for them. lol


    • mcrawford76 profile image

      Matthew I Crawford 7 years ago from Greeley, Colorado

      I see I have some sampling to do. I've had Bushmills, Jameson's and Tullamore Dew. I really don't see very many others here. I'm a big Jameson's fan, and I would go so far as to say that I haven't met an Irish whiskey that I didn't like. I guess I'll be putting some effort into finding some of the rarer brands. Thanks so much for the info, very nice hub.