7 Irish American Whiskeys You Should Know About, According To A Whiskey Enthusiast

Ireland and the United States are two countries with a deeply intertwined history and heritage. Over the centuries, millions of Irish citizens have crossed the Atlantic, some not by choice, some fleeing famine and poverty, and others simply looking for opportunities. Despite the move, those people and their descendants' links to the Emerald Isle have remained strong — which can be clearly seen in cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago.

Naturally, St. Patrick's Day is a major occasion, both for Irish Americans and others who enjoy Irish culture or just like a good drink. What better way to celebrate than with an Irish American whiskey? The relatively new but rapidly growing concept is simple: Take the traditional spirit and add an American twist somehow. The twist in question can be added by blending distillation methods, aging a traditional whiskey in a New World way, or just throwing a liberal amount of American spirit into the mix.

Drinking whiskey is a long-standing hobby of mine. I've sampled many a dram from both Ireland and the United States. I've also written about the magical liquid, read even more about it, and never need an excuse to go on a distillery tour. Here's a selection of unique Irish American whiskeys I've highlighted, along with how each distillery has managed to celebrate Irish American culture and history with its product. So whip up some Irish cuisine, slap "Thousands are Sailing" by The Pogues on, and raise a glass of something distinctly Irish American this St. Paddy's Day.

Talnua Distillery Single Pot Still Whiskey

When it comes to Irish whiskey, blends like Jameson are far from the gold standard. To experience this spirit at its absolute best, you'll need to get your hands on a single pot still Irish whiskey. These traditional whiskeys are made from a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley, which is fermented and then sent to a copper pot still — and this is where all of the magic happens. The result is a spirit that is richer and far more complex than your basic mass-produced blend.

The first American company to use this traditional Irish method of producing whiskey is Talnua, a Colorado-based distillery. Talnua produces a wide variety of single pot still whiskeys, including a few special editions. But our pick, if you want a true Irish American toast this St. Patrick's Day, is its Virgin White Oak Cask Whiskey. White oak casks aren't uncommon in the whiskey world, but before the casks host a batch of the Irish tipple, they tend to spend their early days as bourbon barrels. Talnua hasn't called up Jack Daniels for hand-me-downs; instead, the company matures this particular pot of whiskey in unused virgin casks. 

So expect more intense notes of vanilla, akin to what you get from bourbon when sampling this special drink. It's a neat little American twist on what is the most Irish of distillation methods.

McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey

Talnua isn't the only American distillery producing traditional Irish single pot still whiskey these days. New York's Finger Lakes Distilling, which is arguably better known for its bourbon, has its own take on the traditional Irish tipple. The distillery's single pot still effort carries the same McKenzie label as its bourbon but should be distinct from the traditional corn-based American drink.

As for Finger Lakes Distilling and Talnua, if you want some kind of distinction between the two single pot still options, McKenzie is by far the more American. So if you're a touch more Stars and Stripes than Tricolor, then this is the obvious choice for you. It doesn't just use the traditional 50/50 mix of malted and unmalted barley in its mashbill. Instead, the distillery also adds oats, creating a unique and complex take on a long-established tradition, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and fruit. The company is also registered as a farm distillery in New York — a status that obliges it to use a large number of locally sourced ingredients in its products.

Brothership Irish-American Whiskey

How do you make an Irish American whiskey? Well, there's no set way to do things, but the simplest method is obvious. Take an Irish whiskey and an equivalent American whiskey, and then mix the two together. Boom, your firewater is now as Irish American as dyeing beer green and eating corned beef.

New Liberty Distillery, the Philadelphia-based company behind the transatlantic blend, offers a few options, including a four-year-old whiskey that is distilled in Ireland, imported, and bottled in the City of Brotherly Love. However, the standout effort that nets New Liberty its spot on this list is its Irish-American Blended Whiskey, which combines a 10-year-old Irish whiskey with a 10-year-old American whiskey. This creates something unique that may just bring out the best in both spirits, with notes of tropical fruit, caramel, and spice. 

The blend has even netted a couple of awards. So it's probably worth your consideration if you're looking for something a little different this St. Paddy's Day.

Four Walls Irish American Whiskey

As with many Irish American whiskeys, Four Walls is a blend of Irish whiskeys that has received a decent dose of rye. The rye provides the American component, with rye whiskey being a very traditional American spirit. According to its website, you can enjoy Four Walls "on its own, in a cocktail, or with your favorite beer," which presumably means you're meant to chase it down with a Yuengling or some other traditional American lager.

In addition to its flavors and the fact that it gets you in the Irish American mood on a day like St Patrick's Day, Four Walls has a bit of a pop culture tie-in that some people may find interesting. This whiskey is backed and partially developed by the stars of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." The hilarious trio of Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, and Charlie Day is aiming to recreate the spirit of the show's Irish Bar — Paddy's Pub — in an actual spirit you can drink. While you might expect notes of chaos, inappropriate humor, and episodes that aren't allowed to be aired anymore, you'll actually get a mix of sweet, toasty, fruity, and earthy flavors.

As far as we can tell, this venture probably wasn't bankrolled with Danny DeVito's character, Frank, particularly in mind. Though Frank would probably still be overleveraged on Wolf Cola anyway, and DeVito's already staked his claim in the limoncello business.

Keeper's Heart Irish + American Whiskeys

Keeper's Heart may be one of the better known Irish American whiskeys out there. Its standard Irish + American spirit is also one of the simplest to explain. The Irish component consists of a blend of whiskeys from the Emerald Isle itself. The blend is then mixed with rye whiskey — something that is, of course, distinctly American.

If rye really isn't your thing, then there's another option Keeper's Heart offers, which is perhaps an equally obvious combination. Bourbon, the other famous American whiskey, takes the place of rye in its Irish + Bourbon bottle. Beyond that, there are a variety of other options, including a cask strength release and, for those with a sweet tooth, a version that is finished in maple syrup barrels. If you want to say sláinte with a glass of something that has an even more Irish slant, then opt for the Keeper's Heart whiskey that is finished in former stout barrels. 

Barrel aging plays a major role in defining a whiskey's flavor and other characteristics, so all of this means that you get a lot of variety in what is already a unique product. Personalized bottles can also be ordered if you're looking for a nice gift for Irish, American, or Irish American friends and family.

Natterjack Irish Whiskey

Almost all of the entries on this list involve Irish whiskeys being imported to the United States and combined with a local drink or an American distiller putting its own stamp on a traditional Irish distilling method. Natterjack Irish Whiskey isn't like that; in fact, it's quite the opposite. The spirit definitely ticks the Irish American box, as it combines aspects of both nations' spirit-crafting histories. It's an Irish whiskey produced in Ireland that uses a selection of what it dubs "American techniques" to set itself apart from the green-bottled pack.

For a start, the mashbill is very American, with only 20% barley and 80% corn. The triple-distilled spirit is then aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being moved to virgin oak casks for finishing. Flavor-wise, it may be more akin to a bourbon than an Irish whiskey, though the barley component in the mashbill will certainly give it some grounding in the Emerald Isle. According to the distillers, you're likely to experience fruit, cinnamon, and vanilla on the nose, and cedar, citrus, spice, and tobacco on the palate.

Stone Breaker Irish & American Blended Whiskey

Missouri-based distillery Restless Spirits is locally known for producing, as its website boasts, "Kansas City's first single malt whiskey." It also has a line of Irish American whiskeys available under its Stone Breaker label. The basic Stone Breaker consists of a blend of imported four-year-old Irish whiskeys alongside its own single malt. The malt itself goes through a double distillation in pot stills, giving it a further link with the most traditional Irish spirit production method. 

Given that it blends a traditional European style of whiskey — albeit one produced in the United States — with imported Irish whiskeys, Stone Breaker will taste closer to a pure Irish whiskey than its competitors' efforts. Those tend to add rye or bourbon to provide that distinct American twist. However, a 10-year-old variant is also available if you want to spend a little more on something a little more mellow.

Restless Spirits also has a pure Irish whiskey on import. Its Sons of Erin iteration is part of a collaboration between the Missouri-based distillery and the Great Northern Distillery of Dundalk. It's distilled in Ireland and finished in rum barrels, which provides a little taste of the Americas, before being shipped off to the Midwest. A 10-year-old Sons of Erin, along with a 15-year-old single malt version, are both available.