Emails with the subject line, ‘What are the best Irish whiskey brands to drink straight…?’ hit our inbox every single week.
And it’s a fair question, especially if you’re about to drop a chunk of cash on a bottle and you’re not used to the various Irish whiskey brands.
There’s no denying that drinking whiskey straight looks cool (and – generally – tastes good!). From Frank Sinatra to Don Draper, there’s an air of style that comes with holding that small glass with a drop of the honey-coloured spirit inside.
In the guide below, you’ll find 3 excellent Irish whiskeys to drink neat, each of which as a smooth finish.
Some quick need-to-knows before drinking Irish whiskey straight
We’ll get to the best Irish whiskey to drink straight in a second – there’s some quick info you need to gulp down, first!
1. This will be very person-dependant
We’ve all heard the old line that taste is subjective and, frankly, it is! Drinking Irish whiskey straight can be quite a step up from what you might be used to drinking so what might work for one person, may not work for another. So don’t take what we’re about to say as gospel – it’s just our thoughts on a very kaleidoscopic subject!
2. Add a little water, if needed
You might think that adding a little water to your whiskey may erode the taste of the carefully crafted spirit, but that isn’t entirely the case. In fact, true whiskey connoisseurs will tell you that adding a couple of drops of water to your glass actually improves and enhances the taste of the drink as it helps to ‘open up’ the whiskey!
3. Don’t get carried away
Experiencing straight whiskey isn’t the same as having a sip of a new beer or a smooth glass of wine. A strong spirit that’s bottled to at least 40% proof in most cases, its bold flavour profile can be quite an assault on the senses if you’re not prepared! Basically, manage your expectations and don’t take straight whiskey lightly.
The best Irish whiskey to drink straight (in our opinion)
The best Irish whiskey to drink straight is, in our opinion, Redbreast 12 followed by Tullamore Dew and then Jameson.
These are three Irish whiskey brands that are much more palatable for those new to whiskey. Here’s what to expect from each one.
1. Redbreast 12
A cracking single pot still Irish whiskey, Redbreast 12 Year is a beautiful place to start your Irish whiskey journey and is a lovely drop to try either straight or with a dash of water.
Distilled at the Midleton site in county Cork from malted and unmalted barley, it’s then matured in a combination of American oak bourbon barrels and Spanish oak Oloroso sherry butts.
The nose is rich and full of nutty aromas as well as fruit and candied peels, while the palate is similar with added marzipan and sherry. The finish is then long and creamy with custard and spice.
You might not sense all of those notes on your first time trying it, but the joy of whiskies like Redbreast 12 is slowly discovering these exciting flavour profiles over time. This is hands-down the best Irish whiskey to drink straight, in our opinion.
2. Tullamore Dew
Created in 1829 and later prospering under general manager Daniel E Williams (hence D.E.W. in the name), Tullamore D.E.W is the second largest selling brand of Irish whiskey globally.
That popularity makes it pretty accessible for those new to whiskey and the triple blend is known for its smooth and gentle complexity.
The nose is fruity and biscuity, while the palate has a good body with notes of sherried peels and spice, granary toast with butter and honey, grains and vanilla cream.
The long finish comes with notes of caramel and toffee that linger giving a sweet sensation after putting your glass down. Well-balanced with no harshness, it’s a fine drink for enjoying straight or with a dash of water.
Even the most uninitiated of whiskey newcomers will have heard of Jameson, and may even have tried it during their life at some point. Ireland’s most famous whiskey has been going since 1780 and is a perennial fixture among the spirits behind most bars.
A blend of pot still and grain whiskey, Jameson is triple distilled to give it the well-known Irish smoothness and then aged for 4 years in oak.
The nose is full and floral and leads with the smooth sweetness of marmalade and fudge, while the good body has notes of orchard fruits, both fresh and cooked with a little vanilla cream. The finish is then medium-length with spice and honey.
The great thing about this one is that as it’s so widely available, you can give Jameson a go at almost any time if you’re in the mood for trying a straight Irish whiskey.
Some advice for drinking Irish whiskey straight
Now that we have what we think is the best Irish whiskey to drink straight out of the way, it’s time to offer some advice on how to tackle your first drop.
Below, you’ll find some tips and tricks for your first glass or two. Point 4 is hard to beat!
1. Add some water
You might think that recommending that you add water contradicts a guide to the best Irish whiskey to drink straight, but bear with me.
Counter-intuitive it may be, but as we discussed earlier, adding a touch of water can actually release some interesting new flavours and aromas.
Simply add a drop, give your whiskey a swirl with a straw, take a sip and repeat until you find the pleasing flavours you’re after. Of course, the bigger the splash, the more diluted your whiskey will become, therefore attaining the effect of ice without chilling the whiskey.
2. Avoid ‘on the rocks’
Speaking of ice, you’ll often hear about ordering your whiskey ‘on the rocks’ (usually on TV shows or in movies). And while it might look cool and keep your drink even cooler, the ice will actually numb your palate and dull the flavours.
If you want the chilling effect but without the dilution, you might consider adding chilled whiskey stones.
3. Start small
Unlike wine, a bottle of whiskey isn’t something you can just polish off in the space of evening (unless your name’s Lemmy!).
It’s best to take things easy, especially when you’re in the process of getting used to the often complex flavour profiles of whiskey.
Start small in terms of sips and the overall quantity drunk and you’ll have a much better time going forward.
4. Pair it with a Guinness
Why make a cocktail when you can just pair your straight whiskey with a pint of the black stuff?
We enjoy pairing Guinness with a glass of Tullamore Dew ourselves, as they combine to form a sweet caramel/coffee taste.
Simple take a sip of the Tullamore Dew and then, after 30 seconds or so, follow it up with a sip of Guinness.
FAQs about good Irish whiskey to drink neat
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some good cheap options?’ to ‘What is the fancies Irish whiskey for sipping?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What is the best Irish whiskey to drink straight?
In my opinion, the best Irish whiskey to drink straight is Redbreast 12. It’s smooth and has a lovely, vanilla and caramel finish to it.
What are some cheap Irish whiskeys for drinking neat?
Jameson and Tullamore Dew are two of the cheaper brands for sipping neat.