The Irish know a thing or two about cold, damp winters (and springs and falls and summers for that matter). And over the years, they have developed fool-proof means of assuaging the dreary weather, ranging from cozy pubs to belt-loosening comfort food to frothy spiked-coffee. But the best cozy cure of them all is, of course, whiskey—lots of whiskey. Known for its light, honeyed flavor, Irish whiskey is one of the most drinkable spirits in the world. Unlike scotch, there’s no brininess or heavy peatiness, and in contrast to bourbon, the spirit is much drier and cleaner.
With over 145 varieties behind their bar, the multi-award-winning Dead Rabbit bar in lower Manhattan, has one of the largest collections of Irish whiskey in America—and they’re not all different Jameson bottlings. There are treasures on the bar’s shelves unknown to even the most devout Irish whiskey fanatics. We spoke to Jillian Vose, the bar manager of The Dead Rabbit, to find which rare, wonderful and under-the-radar Irish whiskeys are most worth seeking out. Here, her five top bottles.
“This whiskey hits that sweet spot,” says Vose. “It sits perfectly between the 12-year and the 21 year-old Redbreast.” The spirit is “light on the tongue” with a taste of “Christmas cake” and “notes of dried fruit and orange marmalade.” She goes on say that it imparts “that perfect smell of a house during the holidays when you’ve been cooking all day.”
This whiskey is a small batch, 100-percent single-pot-still expression, aged in both bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. “It’s a robust, mouth-coating whiskey,” Vose says.
According to Vose, this unique Irish whiskey is “buttery and floral” with notes of “brioche, stone fruits and fresh hay.” A blend of bourbon barrel- and sherry cask-aged whiskies made with unpeated malted barley, it’s unlike any other Irish whiskey on the market. For Vose, this bottle should be shared and savored. That said, she also likes it in an elegant, stirred cocktail.
At 110 proof, Vose says this whiskey is “perfect for cocktails—especially those made with bitter, robust amaros that usually drown out the heat and flavor of the base spirit.” The limited-edition bottling is filled with rich toffee flavors, with a creamy almond finish thanks to time in oloroso sherry casks. Aside from its excellent taste, the whiskey also comes with a story. In 1785, the town of Tullamore was nearly destroyed by a fiery hot-air balloon accident. The residents persevered and took on the symbol of a phoenix in the town’s coat of arms, which was the inspiration for this bottling.
For Vose, Teeling is always “pushing the envelope with creative, unique whiskeys that are as easy to mix as they are to drink.” With flavors of honeycomb, tart green apple, treacle and egg custard, this whiskey is terrific shaken into citrusy cocktails. It’s also a perfect bottle for Irish whiskey neophytes. “If you are unfamiliar with Irish whiskey, this is a great place to start,” Vose says.