15 Irish Whiskey Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

The world of whiskey is vast and varied, full of different styles featuring unique profiles from many corners of the globe. The whiskey that hails from the Emerald Isle, however, is among the most renowned, popular, and plentiful.

What separates Irish whiskey from Scotch whisky or bourbon, for example, comes down to a variety of factors. For one, Irish whiskeys must be distilled from malted cereal grain, aged for a minimum of three years, and, of course, be made in Ireland. 

Much like other whiskey categories, however, Irish whiskey can come in different forms. Single-malt Irish whiskeys are made from one type of malted barley at a single distillery, single-pot stills are made from a combination of barley and other grains at one distillery, single-grains can include corn or wheat, and blended whiskies are made by mixing different whiskies together.

The whiskey that comes from Ireland is special because of the country's unique and bountiful resources. Irish whiskey is its own category of whiskey and its distinct aromas, mouthfeel, and flavor are a testament to that. There are plenty of Irish whiskeys to choose from, each bringing its own character to the category. Some are better than others, but one thing that is certain is that there is an Irish whiskey out there for everybody.

15. Proper No. Twelve

The first Irish whiskey brand on the list is also the youngest. Proper No. Twelve was established in 2018 by UFC champion and Dublin native, Connor McGregor. McGregor opened production at the older distillery in Ireland, working alongside his master distillery to come up with the perfect blend.

Proper No. Twelve is a blended Irish whiskey, made by mixing a combination of Irish grain spirit and single malt Irish whiskey. This whiskey is made as traditionally as any other, with the fermented milled mash being distilled three times before entering American bourbon barrels for aging. While the methods behind it are traditional, Proper No. Twelve is merely a fine Irish whiskey. It has the base-level flavor notes that any Irish whiskey should have, but can easily be spotted as a celebrity cash grab due to its lack of depth and overall mediocrity.

At its very low price point, Proper No Twelve is probably better as a mixer for cocktails than for sipping neat or on the rocks.

14. Paddy's Irish Whiskey

This next brand of whiskey is one of the most iconic on this list, sure to be found on any liquor store shelf or back bar. Paddy's Old Irish Whiskey was founded in 1913 by Patrick J. O'Flaherty, who traveled throughout Ireland selling his whiskey directly to pubs for over 40 years. Today, it is one of the most recognizable Irish whiskies on the market, earning itself a multitude of awards on the international stage. This blend of single-grain and single-pot still is made in County Cork and is made with the barley and water from its location.

For a first introduction to Irish whiskey, Paddy's is a great place to start. It may not be as smooth as some of the older whiskies on this list, but its character is bold and delicate the way an Irish whiskey should be. This whiskey can be easily found at very accessible price points and is fit for cocktails as well as sipping on its own. Paddy's is simple and straightforward and does not try to be anything other than a classic-tasting Irish whiskey.

13. Bushmills

Bushmill's markets itself as the "original Irish whiskey," which is actually well-warranted. The Old Bushmills Distillery was granted its license all the way back in 1608, making it the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in Ireland. Located on the northern coast of Ireland, Bushmills has been making whiskey for over 400 years and has since added a variety of whiskies to its lineup.

The brand's three classic blended Irish whiskies include its original, Black Bush, aged in Sherry and bourbon casks, and Red Bush, in first-fill bourbon barrels. Bushmll's single malts include a 10, 12, 16, and 21-year-old editions. Each of these has its own unique character, being aged in various ways such as in sherry casks, port wine pipes, and Madeira wine barrels.

Other bottles in the Bushmills lineup include limited edition releases including two single malt "rare casks," aged 28 and 29 years, and one made with the distillery's recipe from the Prohibition era. This bottle made and released "by order of the Peaky Blinders" is a unique one made the way Thomas Shelby would've liked his whiskey, presumably.

Given its variety, history, and accessible price point Bushmills is definitely a reliable Irish whiskey option with a straightforward flagship bottle and many others to choose from.

12. Tullamore D.E.W.

Tullamore D.E.W. is another Irish whiskey with a storied past, as its distillery first opened in 1829. The name of the brand comes from a combination of its hometown and one of its most important figures. Tullamore is a town in County Offaly, and "DEW" is the initial of Daniel E. Williams, who is responsible for progressing the brand toward country-wide success. Today, that success reaches far beyond Ireland alone.

The signature bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. is a blend of three different types of Irish whiskey that is then matured in three different casks. This brand prides itself on bringing together various components towards a common goal, and its flagship bottle is a great reflection of that philosophy. Other bottles include the 12-year-old Special Reserve, Caribbean Rum Cask Finish, 14 and 18-year single-malts, and a cider cask finish.

Tullamore D.E.W. is yet another accessible and straightforward Irish whiskey, and its passion for blends shows with a more complex and nuanced profile. This whiskey brand has a lot to offer, and its signature expression will fulfill any function you need from an Irish whiskey.

11. Jameson

Jameson is not only one of the most recognizable Irish whiskies, but it is also one of the most recognizable whiskey brands in general. Jameson was founded in 1780 by John Jameson, who established his distillery as one of the most successful in Dublin amidst dozens of competitors in a thriving industry. That same distillery on Bow Street is still making great whiskey today, along with the brand's other operation, the Midleton Distillery in Cork, home of the world's largest pot still.

Jameson's original bottle is your typical Irish whiskey, triple-distilled, blended, and aged. It's the world's best-selling Irish whiskey for a reason as its classic composition makes for an always familiar and iconic profile. For a whiskey with an added layer of complexity, Jameson Black Barrel is aged in charred barrels for added toastiness.

If sipping traditional whiskey isn't your thing, Jameson offers a variety of very unique expressions. In addition to orange and cold-brew flavored whiskies, Jameson also offers IPA and Stout editions of its Caskmates series, finished in beer-seasoned barrels.

Jameson remains an accessibly priced whiskey and its commonality and classic taste make it the world's go-to Irish whiskey.

10. Power's

Power's is another long-lasting Irish whiskey brand, continually in operation for more than two centuries. The brand was founded by James Power in 1791, who opened a distillery in Dublin after years of distilling whiskey as a hobby. After becoming one of the leaders of Irish whiskey, Powers has remained a family-operated business to this day.

Power's currently offers a variety of different bottles of whiskey, its flagship being the Signature Release. This single-pot still is finished in Sherry oak casks and is a wonderful expression of a single-pot still Irish whiskey. The flavor profile is complex and layered and its character remains soft and delicate. Power's also makes a high-rye Irish whiskey, which is a unique take on the style, as well as two other single pot stills and a bourbon barrel-aged Gold Label.

Power's most fundamental expression will cost more than your typical Irish whiskey, but the Signature Release is as good a sipping Irish whiskey as any. The price point may be higher than others, but for whiskey as smooth and enjoyable as this one, it's well worth it.

9. Teeling

The Teeling brand dates back to 1782 when Walter Teeling opened up his small-scale distillery in Dublin. In 2015, his descendants, Jack and Stephen, continued the family legacy by opening up a brand new distillery on the very same street as the original, the first newly opened distillery in the city in more than a century.

Teeling's flagship bottle is its small-batch whiskey. This category is normally attributed to American bourbon, but the idea is the same for Teeling's. Single-grain and malt whiskies are all aged in bourbon barrels before being mixed together. The blend is then finished for a year in rum casks to impart additional flavor notes and smoothness.

Other bottles by Teeling include a single-grain, single-malt, single-pot still, and even a peated whiskey, a less common form of Irish whiskey. There are also 30-year-old and 32-year-old expressions in the vintage reserve collection, both of which are single malts.

Basically, whatever type of Irish whiskey you are looking for, Teeling has them all and does all of them well. The small-batch, in particular, is unique in taste and accessible in price, making it a must-try for any fan of Irish whiskey.

8. Writer's Tears

Writer's Tears is one of the brands belonging to Walsh Whiskey, a company dedicated to crafting supreme Irish whiskey reminiscent of the spirit's glory days of old. The company was founded in 1999 by Bernard and Rosemary Walsh, who set out to recement Irish whiskey as one of the world's most beloved spirits. Their dedication to traditionalism was combined with a need for contemporary methods for modern palates, and the Writer's Tears brand is a perfect encapsulation of that philosophy.

The Writer's Tears lineup includes eight different expressions, all of which are completely unique. The Copper Pot is a blend of a single-pot still and single-malt whiskey, matured in charred oak casks. Other bottles include a cask-strength whiskey (which has an ABV of almost 55%), the Japanese Cask, and a Marsala cask whiskey.

The price range of these expressions is vast, as some are less accessible at over $100. Also, Writer's Tears is certainly not as commonly found in stores as other brands on this list. However, this brand by Walsh Whiskey does make inspired, distinctive whiskey. So, if you are able to find it, you ought to take advantage.

7. West Cork

What started as distilling whiskey in the back room of one of the owner's homes in 2003 has since become an award-winning Irish whiskey available in over 70 countries worldwide. West Cork now operates through a warehouse that produces 2,000 bottles of whiskey every single hour, opened in 2014 in Skibbereen. When John O'Connell and Ger and Denic McArthy started their whiskey business, they wanted to honor and uphold the reputation of the vibrant food and drink space that calls Cork its home, and they continue to do so today.

The lineup of West Cork Distillers has since grown to include expressions of gin and vodka, but it is its whiskey that remains on center stage. These bottles include a bourbon cask blended whiskey, a 5-year-old single-pot still, two single-malts, and a peat-charred cask, to name a few. West Cork thrives to bring variety to Irish whiskey and they do so at accessible price points.

West Cork whiskies are wonderfully fit for sipping straight and you can get yourself a bottle of the brand for less than $40.

6. Hyde

Hyde is one of the most exclusive brands of Irish whiskey on the market, but its rarity and price point are justified by its quality. Hyde Whiskey is named after President Douglas Hyde, Ireland's first president and one of the most impactful figures in Irish history. Therefore, the bottles that dawn his name are some of the best that Ireland has to offer.

All Hyde Whiskey products are small batches, made up of only the finest Irish whiskies in the country. These whiskies are blended and finished in carefully selected casks picked specifically to the whisky's profile. Each of these batches is available only as limited releases, so it's best you seize the opportunity to get your hands on this premium Irish whiskey whenever one arises.

The casks used to finish a variety of single-grain, single-malt, and single-pot still whiskey including Burgundy wine, rum, sherry, stout, and port, to name a few. Hyde Whiskey will definitely cost more than your average Irish whiskey, but you can rest assured they are excellent expressions of the spirit.

5. Celtic Cask

The Celtic Cask brand is courtesy of one of the most renowned whiskey retailers in the world, The Celtic Whiskey Store. The whiskey seller, located in Dublin, was opened by Scotsman Ally Alpine in 2003. Since then, his retail shop has been named the "Best WhiskeyRetailer Worldwide" by World Whiskey Awards. Thanks to its release of the Celtic Cask lineup, the retailer was named the best non-Scottish Independent Bottler of the Year by the Independent Bottler's Challenge.

The lineup, which debuted in 2010, includes specialty bottlings from confidential providers. What is consistent among them, however, is that they are all single-cask expressions, a category Alpine more or less introduced to the mainstream whiskey market. New releases of the Celtic Cask series do sell out quickly, which makes the price of a bottle quite high, normally well over $100. Each bottle of the Celtic Cask series is special, though, and to own one is to undeniably own one of the best whiskies in Ireland.

4. Connemara

Peat is a characteristic most regularly attributed to Scotch whisky, but Connemara is a peated Irish whiskey that combines the best of both worlds. In fact, Connemara is one of the only peated Irish whiskies on the market, and the only one that is relatively common to find.

Peated whiskey means that the barley is infused with the smoke of burning peat, or soil. This practice imparts flavors of earth, brine, and smoke into the final spirit that is unique, bold, and robust. This boldness works beautifully in tandem with the delicate nature of Irish whiskey. The softer, more subtle notes of malted barley are complimented and enhanced by the peat to create a whiskey that is inviting and layered.

Connemara's 12-year expression takes this nuance to the next level, as the punch of the peat is leveled by a longer maturation, making for an even more balanced spirit that is just as pleasant as it is brawny. The final bottle in Connemara's lineup is the Cask Strength, a charmingly burly whiskey with its undiluted strength and natural sweet honey.

Connemara makes excellent whiskey at a fair price, and the uniqueness of being a peated Irish whiskey is the perfect way to expand your palate for the spirit.

3. Knappogue Castle

In the 1960s, Knappogue Castle in County Clare was in ruins. That was before Mark Edwin Andrews purchased the medieval structure, restored it, and made it a symbol of one of the finest whiskies in Ireland. The name "knappogue" translates to "hill of the kiss," in Irish Gaelic, a name that reflects the soft, smooth, and delicate character of this whiskey.

The Knappogue catalog includes 12, 14, and 16-year-old expressions, all of which are single-malts as well as special edition bottles. The signature 12-year-old is aged in ex-bourbon casks, the 14-year-old in both bourbon and Oloroso sherry, and the 16-year-old in bourbon casks for 14 years and is then finished in sherry for two.

Knappogue whiskies are unique because of the temperate climate they are made in. Because of its environment, the whiskey is able to take on the character of the cask more swiftly and steadily, so more flavor is acquired in a shorter amount of time. Regardless, these expressions are still aged longer than most Irish whiskies, and this prompt development shines in each of them. Knappogue is best enjoyed neat, and each of the brand's bottles is well worth the price tag.

2. Spot Whiskey

The runner-up on this list dedicates its entire operation to single-pot still whiskies, the quintessential and most distinct form of Irish whiskey. Spot Whiskey's origins date back to 1805 when Irish rebel William Mitchell founded Mitchell & Son, a wine-buying and selling company. In 1887, the company began bonding whiskey, and its casks that had once held fortified wine were the perfect vessel to mature its single-pot still whiskies.

The Spot lineup, each bottle named after a color, ranges from the 7-year-old Blue Spot to a 15-year-old Red Spot. Between are three expressions of Green Spot, Gold Spot, and Yellow Spot, each of which are matured in casks including a variety of French and Spanish wine, bourbon casks, and others. Green Spot is the most highly regarded expression of the brand, a blend of single-pot stills between seven and 10 years old and aged in bourbon and sherry casks.

Spot Whiskeys are some of the best examples of beauty in simplicity, each of the profiles straightforward and well-matured with classic flavor notes from the barrels they lie in. Spot Whiskey products range in price depending on the bottle, but overall this brand is affordable and one of the smoothest-sipping Irish whiskies money can buy.

1. Redbreast

Coming in at the top spot on this list is Redbreast, an icon of the whiskey world and the pride of fine Irish whiskey. The brand's origins date back to the mid-1800s, but the current name of the brand did not come about until 1912. At that point, the whiskey was sold by Gilbey's Castle, and the name "redbreast" refers to the European robin and is an homage to the company's chairman, who loved birds.

Since then, Redbreast has cemented its name as the leader of Irish whiskey based on its dedication to quality and simplicity, letting the practice of good whiskey-making speak for itself. The flagship expression of the brand is Redbreast 12-Year-old, a single-pot still aged in oak and sherry casks. Although this method is common, Redbreast is able to remain distinct through its bounty of aromatics and flavor notes.

Other bottles include ones aged 15, 21, and 27 years, in addition to cask strength and bourbon barrel editions. All of Redbreast's products are single-pot still whiskies, an ode to the brand's focus on traditional distilling methods that make Irish whiskey what it is. If you want someone to fall in love with Irish whiskey, one sip of Redbreast ought to do the trick. With no bells and whistles to help it along, Redbreast is simply an excellent whiskey maker.