Top 5 Irish Whiskeys For Under $60 (2021)

By Richard Thomas

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey
(Credit: Richard Thomas)

St. Patrick’s Day 2021 is just a week away, and with the pandemic still raging one can’t recommend hitting an Irish pub and draining (a few) pints of green beer. Perhaps the best thing to do, should it be sunny, is take a flask of Irish whiskey out to enjoy the crisp air and the coming of springtime. If it isn’t sunny, take that same Irish whiskey as a brace against weather more typical of the Emerald Isle.

The last time The Whiskey Reviewer tackled this subject was October 2016, so it is time for a fresh look. Prices have changed, new brands have entered the market, and some items have been discontinued. However, the $60 mark continues to hold as a point that includes many mid-ranged, premium Irish whiskeys, as well as the best picks from the bargain category.

Top 5 Irish Whiskeys For Under $60

5. Jameson Black Barrel ($45): Jameson introduced this expression more than a decade ago, originally as Jameson Small Batch and then rebranded as Black Barrel. Whereas normal Jameson is a blend of the Irish whiskey trinity — pot still, malt and grain whiskeys — this is a blend of pot still and grain. Thus, it is more akin to a premium take on Powers than Jameson. In this particular instance, the last time I checked the folks at Midleton used pot still whiskey approximately 12 years old and grain whiskey about 5 years old, aged in either toasted Sherry casks or charred ex-bourbon barrels. Hence the “black barrel” part.

Since its introduction, Black Barrel has come up in price, but remained my go-to choice for getting real bang for your buck in Irish whiskey. It’s a very reasonably priced choice, offers excellent value, and is just plain, all-around good. Fans of Powers in particular should take note and snag a bottle for St. Patrick’s 2021.

4. Writer’s Tears Double Oak ($60): Whereas two of the whiskeys described above blend pot still and grain whiskeys, this Walsh Whiskey creation is based on pot still and malt whiskeys. This 2020 brand extension to the arguably best named of Irish whiskeys takes that blend (drawn from ex-bourbon barrel stock) and finishes it in ex-Cognac barrels. I found this particular choice of finishing cask brought out the best in Writer’s Tears, with the Cognac polish rounding out the malty honey and pot still spices nicely.

3. Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt ($50): Knappogue Castle is a sourced brand made by Castle Brands, and their 12 year old is a solid entry level example of Irish single malts. Several years ago, most Knappogue Castle single malts were supposed to have been sourced through Bushmills, but don’t think you are getting a slightly improved take on Bushmills 10 Year Old. Knappogue 12 is a quite different character, and one well worth becoming acquainted with.

Green Spot

Need to try pot still whiskey for the first time? Reach for Green Spot.
(Credit: Irish Distillers)

2. Teeling Single Grain ($50): Grain whiskey is often perceived as a cheaper, lighter spirit than pot still and malt, and thus is the least loved among Irish whiskeys … at least by those who know just enough to be snobby, without rising to erudition. So, why not put a twist on those folks by trying something underrated, a little different, and quite excellent this St. Patrick’s Day: Teeling Single Grain. This is one of the most accessible single grain whiskeys around, and you can tell just by looking at the bottle that the rich, golden liquid inside is not cheap or light on flavor.

1. Green Spot Single Pot Still ($55): Pot still whiskey, a type based on a mix of malted and unmalted barley, is a unique signature of Irish whiskey. In recent years, the category has seen a revival that has turned it into the crown jewel of Irish whiskey. Green Spot is a 7 to 10 year old single pot still whiskey, aged in first- and second-fill bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry casks. That mix yields a personality distinct from the more Sherry oriented style embodied in Redbreast.

During the dark days of the Irish whiskey industry in the 1970s, it almost disappeared from production, but the New Midleton Distillery (makers of Jameson and Powers) made a firm commitment to keep on making their pot still whiskey. They later spearheaded the revival with the introduction of two brands: Redbreast and the Spots. Nowadays, Green Spot is the only one of the lot that can be reliably had for less than $60, so if you are looking to get a handle on Ireland’s most distinctive style of whiskey-making for a reasonable price, this is where you must go.


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