Our first little tutorial on the subject was on our honeymoon in Ireland when we visited the Old Jameson Distillery. We've enjoyed Jameson previously, but didn't know a whole lot about what sets Irish whiskey apart from others. We were told that the big difference is the triple distillation. While many spirit makers distill their whiskies only once or twice, Irish whiskey makes triple sure that their liquor is free from impurities and extra smooth. From there, the aging in wood barrels gives it its signature color and flavor.
Cut to a few months later. We were in our local wine shop this past week when we noticed a bottle of Clontarf Irish Whiskey. For our honeymoon, we stayed at the lovely Clontarf castle and before our trip ended, we made it a point to pick up a sample pack and bring it home as a keepsake. The fact that we spotted it in a wine shop we trust at a good price so close to St. Patrick's Day was a sign--a prodigious sign.
We bought the bottle and took it home. We then got out the nice whiskey glasses and poured the whiskey over some ice with a splash of water--the best way to enjoy a nice whiskey in my opinion. It had a very woody flavor to it, probably from the bourbon barrels they age it in. It wasn't quite as clean and smooth as Jameson, but it had a nice complexity. It was at this moment that we realized that we had a small bottle of twelve year Jameson from our honeymoon just sitting on our shelf collecting dust. A little taste test was in order.
I poured a little of the twelve year Jameson over some ice and took a taste. It was a little darker and a little more woody than a standard bottle of Jameson, but the core characteristics of Jameson remained intact--very clean, very smooth, and with a hint of vanilla and honey. Thumbs up Jameson; you've done it again.
We will most likely be enjoying another glass of Clontarf Irish Whiskey on St. Patrick's Day. It may not be as classy as drinking a Budweiser out of a green shamrock-clad aluminum bottle, but it suits me just fine. Now all I need is someone to start a fistfight with. Preferably someone smaller than me. Sláinte.