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4 Rare Irish Whiskeys To Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2024

  • Mar 8, 2024
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4 Rare Irish Whiskeys To Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2024

St. Patrick’s Day is the annual celebration of everything from the Emerald Isle. It serves as the perfect reason to relax with a pint of the black stuff and sip away on a good dram of Irish whiskey. But while Irish whiskey is more popular than ever, this has not always been the case.

A period in the early- to mid-20th century saw the number of distilleries in Ireland collapse from over 100 to just two: Bushmills in Co. Antrim up north and Midleton in Co. Cork down south – by the late 1960s. A combination of two World Wars and the Prohibition era in America were the key reasons for this dramatic slump and disappearance of many beloved brands.

A third distillery, Cooley in Co. Louth, did not appear until the late 1980s. It is only within the last decade that Irish whiskey has begun to rise again from the ashes. A true renaissance is taking place, driven by the craft and artisanal distilling movement that has swept across the country.

While this is great and refreshing, it means that consumers are faced with an ever-increasing amount of young whiskey. Although the market for this continues to grow, so does the desire for older vintages. The latter are increasingly rare and scarce, making them extremely sought-after by Irish whiskey connoisseurs.

These limited, high-aged whiskeys are often in a very different league in terms of both price and quality. Below, we take a look at four of the best super-premium and collectable Irish whiskeys that are currently on the market.

Bushmills 36 Years Old Hill Street Edition

Northern Ireland’s Bushmills, located just two miles from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at The Giant’s Causeway, holds the oldest distilling license in the world, dating back to 1608. As one of the two survivors of the Irish whiskey crash, it also holds some of the rarest and most highly aged spirits in its warehouse.

This new bottling represents the oldest whiskey ever released by Bushmills in Europe. It is exclusive to the legendary Irish whiskey retailer The Friend at Hand, located on Hill Street in Belfast. The whiskey was distilled and filled to French oak ex-sherry casks in November 1986, before four such casks were condensed down to a single ex-Oloroso sherry hogshead in 2001.

The lengthy secondary maturation has given this rare 36-year-old whiskey an exquisite character and profile. Expect notes of fresh honeycomb, toffee and ripe tropical fruits combined with warming wood spices, milk chocolate and hazelnut praline.

Underlying hints of malted barley, cocoa powder and ginger cake add further depth and complexity.

RRP: £5,000.

Available at: The Friend at Hand. 35-43 Hill St, Belfast, BT1 2PB

Midleton Very Rare 40th Anniversary Ruby Edition

The Midleton Very Rare brand has long been considered the pinnacle of Irish whiskey quality. This year it celebrates 40 years since the inaugural edition was released in 1984, a moment which many see as historically changing the path of Irish whiskey forever. Ruby is the gemstone associated with a 40th anniversary.

This commemorative example of the famous blend features whiskeys distilled by all three men who have held the coveted title of Master Blender for Midleton Very Rare during the last four decades. Just three casks, each holding a complex blend, have been married together before being moved to ex-ruby Port casks for a nine-month finishing period. Several of the whiskeys included date back 40 years.

The whiskey opens with a heady perfume of red berry fruits and aromatic spices, complimented by green orchard fruit, vanilla pod and dried citrus peel. An evolving tropical note comes through, as do those of cinnamon and clove. A vibrant floral characteristic also develops towards the end.

RRP: €20,000/£17,250

Available at: Midleton Very Rare

Redbreast 27 Years Old

This bottling is another iconic and prestigious Irish whiskey. The Redbreast range is one of the most awarded in the world and the 27 Years Old sits right at the top. Batches are released on an annual basis and the quality remains consistently high. Redbreast is a single-pot still whiskey, meaning it is made using a combination of malted and unmalted barley.

The Redbreast 27 Years Old has been matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks for much of its life. But a final finishing period in ex-Ruby Port barrels has enriched its flavour profile and pushed it in a luxurious direction. It is also bottled at cask strength and presented in a wonderful red glass bottle and wooden casket.

This whiskey is packed with fruity aromas and flavours – think black cherry, prunes and red summer berries combined with pineapple, mango and blood orange. A hint of peach also sits in the background, as does plenty of milk chocolate and caramel-like notes. Warming oak spice and some gingerbread round things off nicely.

An absolute stunner.

RRP: £475

Available at: The Whiskey Exchange

Teeling 30 Years Old

The Teeling family are Irish whiskey legends and key figures in its resurrection. Not only did they establish Cooley distillery in 1987 and bring many brands and whiskey styles lost to history, but they also brought whiskey making back to the centre of Dublin when founding the Teeling distillery in 2015.

Teeling was the first new whiskey distillery in Dublin for 125 years and is now a major tourist attraction. Its core range features several award-winning whiskeys that they have distilled in the years that have followed. However, when the family sold the Cooley distillery in 2011, they also acquired many old casks of maturing whiskey. These are released as prestigious bottlings from time to time.

The 30 Years Old is one such release. It was distilled and filled to ex-bourbon barrels in 1991 and left to mature quietly. The final twist saw this spirit transferred to ex-Sauternes dessert wine casks sourced from France.

The result is a velvety and soft whiskey that drips with lush tropical fruit, peach and apricot notes. Add in honey, golden syrup and a twist of grapefruit peel and you are in for a real treat.

Irish whiskey at its very best.

RRP: £875

Available at: Master of Malt

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