We live in a golden age of whiskey, with seemingly boundless options at every price point. Driven by increased competition from around the globe, distillers eager to up their game now offer higher quality and great value across the price spectrum. Despite our collective willingness to spend ever more chasing that elusive “perfect dram,” the best deals reside lower down the scale.
Irish whiskey in particular has seen staggering market growth in recent years, prompting an explosion of new brands and expressions. Although single malts receive most of the glory, the real shining stars are the bargain blends. Current low-cost champ, Kavanagh Blended Irish Whiskey, is produced and bottled by Kilbeggan Distillery under contract to big retail chain Total Wine and More. Scoring a 90 with Wine Enthusiast, its petite $14 price belies impressive baked-pear and vanilla richness.
Kilbrin Irish Whiskey produces a smoothly balanced award-winner with notes of sweet caramel, vanilla, and a moderately warming spice finish under $17.
Completing our Irish trio is a unique $19 casking from industry-leader Jameson Irish Whiskey. In a unique symbiosis, Jameson sends ex-fill barrels to Franciscan Well Brewery to age their “Jameson Stout,” and they send the beer-infused kegs to back to Jameson for aging Caskmates Stout Edition Irish Whiskey. Still exhibiting the classic Jameson green fruit and herbal mown-grass freshness, this dessert-ish expression adds dark complexities of hazelnut, cocoa, coffee, and a long, decadent chocolate-covered-toffee finish. They have a similar arrangement with Boston’s Castle Island Brewing Company for their IPA Cask Edition.
There’s room on the shelf, of course, for excellent, higher-end bottlings—but for weeknight sipping, the values here are exceptional.