It’s St Patrick’s Day so we asked James Connolly to talk about Irish Whiskey

James Connolly, Group bar manager of ARK Group Perth gives us the lowdown on his favourite booze, Irish Whiskey

Cocktail photography by Christopher Pearce

As the old joke goes:

“Why do the Irish distil their whiskies 3 times?”
“To be sure, to be sure, to be sure!”

Having amassed one of the largest collections of Irish Whiskey behind a bar in Australia at the Galway Hooker, I found a few things to be sure of. It is fair to say I am a big fan of the Irish stuff and hope more people get into it. Some of the reasons why this makes perfect sense to me are below.

On face value two brands probably define the worlds perception of what Irish whiskey is and should be, but if you peel back the layers then there are some real treats to be found with quality as good as a lot of juice from across the water. I was lucky enough to have a few nips of one of the 600 bottles of The Irishman 17yo (Sherry) Cask Strength. An incredible drop of liquid that quite rightly picked up “best” Irish whiskey at the Irish whiskey awards. Sadly, ours is all gone but if you come across one get stuck in!

Teeling ‘Brabazon’ bottling #1, another single malt from the emerald Isle, I put this in a line up with some appropriately priced Scottish single malts and the Brabazon not only held its own but was the best drop in the line-up.
If you never tasted Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength, then seriously…. what are you doing with your mouth that is more important?

Old wooden barrel full of Dublin’s Irish whiskey.

It’s an exciting time for Irish whiskey with innovation high on the agenda, with some of the rules around ageing stating that the distilled product needs to age in a wooden barrel for 3 years means that the options are endless with lots of experimentation happening across the category. Irish whiskey has always been big on cask finishes of the sherry variety but now there is even more options including but not limited Rum casks, Sauternes, Tokaji, Bordeaux wine casks, I even found one aged in seaweed charred casks!
Also, if like myself you enjoy a bit of peat in your whiskey then Ireland is no longer relying on one brand to lead the charge, whilst traditionally not peated there is now several brands that have released Irish whiskeys with this element added.

Bang for your Buck
Irish blends are generally cheaper than their Scottish cousins of comparative quality so when looking for that value for money either in the rail or for cocktails then it’s definitely an option.

Same with Irish Single Malts and Pot Still Whiskies, when compared to their Scottish cousins of similar quality or age statement then the price definitely works in favour of the Irish whiskies. Not to worry though you can still drop an obscene amount of money on some Irish bottlings if you wish.

So, when you’re looking for that new bottle of Irish for the bar or home bar below is a quick refresher on some of the things you may see on bottles

Single Malt – Just to add to the confusion not all triple distilled…. Bushmills being the most famous and popular single malt to come from Ireland, the regulations in terms of must be distilled from a mash of malted barley and from the one distillery still apply

Irish Pot Still – Distilled from a mash of malted and unmalted barley (originally a tax dodge), Traditionally distilled three times and aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of 3 years. If made at a single distillery then maybe called “Single Pot Still”.
Irish Single Grain – A category that is growing in popularity with a few examples available in Australia, Generally a much lighter and brighter spirit than the Single Malt or Pot Still varieties

Irish Blended Whiskey – Now the confusing part, Irish blended whiskey can be any of the 3 above or also any of the two above. Regardless of the blend make up it is labelled the same.

All this writing about Irish whiskey is making me thirsty! Sláinte!

Whack For My Daddy-o #2 
45ml Irish whiskey (We used Method & Madness Single Grain)
15ml Passion Fruit Syrup
10ml Vanilla Syrup
25ml Fresh Pressed Lime Juice
1 dash saline
1 dash Pernod Absinthe
90ml Club Rock Shandy
Add all ingredients (except Rock shandy to a cocktail shaker)
Shake with ice for 10 seconds.
Strain into a highball glass and add Rock Shandy. Fill with ice
Garnish with De-hydrated lime wheel & mint sprig 
The Galway Hooker, Perth
The Rover Reviver
40ml Irish whiskey (the folks at TWR use a combo of whiskies for this one)
10ml Guinness syrup
20ml Little Drippa Coffee
4 dashes of chocolate bitters
Add all ingredients. Shake hard and single strain and serve in a wine goblet.
The Wild Rover, Sydney