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Irish Whiskey: A San Diego Taste Test

“You do know that God created liquor to keep the Irish from conquering the world, right?” I smiled at my Irish hubby.

“And tea to keep Irish women’s mouths from yapping at their men?” he retorted. “But your comment gives me an idea. Let’s make Irish whiskey the theme for our St. Patrick’s Day party.”

The next day I was off to the shops.

“Everyone thinks ‘Jameson’ when they think Irish whiskey,” offered the salesman at BevMo!.“But I don’t like it very much.”

My cart full of whiskey bottles had caught his eye.

“I like the Tullamore Dew,” he said. “And the John Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey is very good.”

I snatched up all the bottles under $25 — times are tough, don’t you know — and a few from Trader Joe’s.

That evening, Patrick invited some whiskey-loving friends over and we began sipping.

“Let’s start with Bushmill’s Original Irish Whiskey. ‘Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery, 1608,’” read Patrick ($20.99 for one liter at Trader Joe’s).

“A little hollow and hot on the finish,” said Frank. “It’s said that Bushmill’s was the Protestant whiskey because it was brewed in Northern Ireland, and Jameson’s was the Catholic one, brewed in the Republic of Ireland.”

“‘Well, then, let’s pour a biteen of this Catholic drink,” said Patrick, holding the green bottle of Jameson ($21.99 for one liter at Trader Joe’s).

“Much hotter on the nose than the Bushmill’s,” noticed Frank. “Less sweet up front, but there’s a thickness to the sweetness, a coating.”

“I didn’t like that!” said MaryAnn, scrunching her nose.

“Michael Collins Irish Whiskey [$24.99 for 750ml at BevMo!]. God luv ’em,” said Patrick, again with the brogue. “But poor Collins seems to have an identity crisis.”

“Yes,” agreed Frank. “It wants to go down the peaty road but finishes too sweet.”

The table couldn’t get enough of the label of the John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey ($19.99 for 750ml at BevMo!). The great pugilist himself, shirtless and in boxing pose, graces the label on the back.

“A very light, one-note whiskey,” noticed Bernice. “It goes down like water. You’d think with its fighter’s name it would be more pointed.”

“Ah, Tullamore Dew, it’s like a schmaltzy Irish song,” sang Pat, starting to feel happy as he cracked open the bottle ($17.99 for 750ml at BevMo!). “Makes me think of ‘The Rose of Tralee.’”

“A gentle whiskey; no pointy edges,” said Frank, ignoring the drunken singing Irishman in the corner. “This is for when I don’t want that sock in the face that bourbon gives.”

“Disappointing,” disagreed Bill. “Too sweet.”

Trader Joe’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey was a clear loser ($19.99 for 750ml at Trader Joe’s). “‘Legend has it that Irish monks first brought whiskey and its distillation methods to Scotland,’” I read off the bottle.

“The Scots would not have been grateful for this stuff,” grimaced Bernice. “Tastes like antiseptic Band-Aids.”

The Knot Whiskey took home the bottling prize, with its Celtic knot on the neck of the bottle and the Gaelic phrase Déanta In Éirinn (Made in Ireland) molded into the bottle’s base ($24.99 for 750ml at BevMo!).

“Smells like candy, tastes like torched sugar,” said MaryAnn.

Patrick popped open the bottle of Irish Manor Irish Whiskey ($15.99 for 750ml at BevMo!).

“‘Irish Manor is distilled to perfection: extremely soft and satisfying, like an Irish song,’” read Bernice off the bottle.

“I could drink the John L. Sullivan with a straw, but this one you’d have to take your time with,” added Frank.

By the time the last bottle was opened, the jokes were flying, spirits were high, and the room had found a favorite.

“This is the old-man label,” offered Bernice, spying the John Powers & Son Irish Whiskey ($18.99 for 750ml at BevMo!).

“The perfect blend of whiskey strength,” said Patrick. “Everything is bigger, but not in a harsh way.”

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“You do know that God created liquor to keep the Irish from conquering the world, right?” I smiled at my Irish hubby.

“And tea to keep Irish women’s mouths from yapping at their men?” he retorted. “But your comment gives me an idea. Let’s make Irish whiskey the theme for our St. Patrick’s Day party.”

The next day I was off to the shops.

“Everyone thinks ‘Jameson’ when they think Irish whiskey,” offered the salesman at BevMo!.“But I don’t like it very much.”

My cart full of whiskey bottles had caught his eye.

“I like the Tullamore Dew,” he said. “And the John Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey is very good.”

I snatched up all the bottles under $25 — times are tough, don’t you know — and a few from Trader Joe’s.

That evening, Patrick invited some whiskey-loving friends over and we began sipping.

“Let’s start with Bushmill’s Original Irish Whiskey. ‘Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery, 1608,’” read Patrick ($20.99 for one liter at Trader Joe’s).

“A little hollow and hot on the finish,” said Frank. “It’s said that Bushmill’s was the Protestant whiskey because it was brewed in Northern Ireland, and Jameson’s was the Catholic one, brewed in the Republic of Ireland.”

“‘Well, then, let’s pour a biteen of this Catholic drink,” said Patrick, holding the green bottle of Jameson ($21.99 for one liter at Trader Joe’s).

“Much hotter on the nose than the Bushmill’s,” noticed Frank. “Less sweet up front, but there’s a thickness to the sweetness, a coating.”

“I didn’t like that!” said MaryAnn, scrunching her nose.

“Michael Collins Irish Whiskey [$24.99 for 750ml at BevMo!]. God luv ’em,” said Patrick, again with the brogue. “But poor Collins seems to have an identity crisis.”

“Yes,” agreed Frank. “It wants to go down the peaty road but finishes too sweet.”

The table couldn’t get enough of the label of the John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey ($19.99 for 750ml at BevMo!). The great pugilist himself, shirtless and in boxing pose, graces the label on the back.

“A very light, one-note whiskey,” noticed Bernice. “It goes down like water. You’d think with its fighter’s name it would be more pointed.”

“Ah, Tullamore Dew, it’s like a schmaltzy Irish song,” sang Pat, starting to feel happy as he cracked open the bottle ($17.99 for 750ml at BevMo!). “Makes me think of ‘The Rose of Tralee.’”

“A gentle whiskey; no pointy edges,” said Frank, ignoring the drunken singing Irishman in the corner. “This is for when I don’t want that sock in the face that bourbon gives.”

“Disappointing,” disagreed Bill. “Too sweet.”

Trader Joe’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey was a clear loser ($19.99 for 750ml at Trader Joe’s). “‘Legend has it that Irish monks first brought whiskey and its distillation methods to Scotland,’” I read off the bottle.

“The Scots would not have been grateful for this stuff,” grimaced Bernice. “Tastes like antiseptic Band-Aids.”

The Knot Whiskey took home the bottling prize, with its Celtic knot on the neck of the bottle and the Gaelic phrase Déanta In Éirinn (Made in Ireland) molded into the bottle’s base ($24.99 for 750ml at BevMo!).

“Smells like candy, tastes like torched sugar,” said MaryAnn.

Patrick popped open the bottle of Irish Manor Irish Whiskey ($15.99 for 750ml at BevMo!).

“‘Irish Manor is distilled to perfection: extremely soft and satisfying, like an Irish song,’” read Bernice off the bottle.

“I could drink the John L. Sullivan with a straw, but this one you’d have to take your time with,” added Frank.

By the time the last bottle was opened, the jokes were flying, spirits were high, and the room had found a favorite.

“This is the old-man label,” offered Bernice, spying the John Powers & Son Irish Whiskey ($18.99 for 750ml at BevMo!).

“The perfect blend of whiskey strength,” said Patrick. “Everything is bigger, but not in a harsh way.”

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