The Dead Rabbit in New York is no ordinary Irish pub. The former number one on The World’s 50 Best Bars list (and consistent top five contender) boasts a gargantuan whiskey collection filled with beloved bottles and others you may never have even heard of, so when the prestigious bar decided to make their own Irish whiskey, we (and every other whiskey aficionado worth their malt) took note.
“We have 270 different whiskeys at The Dead Rabbit. We knew we had to make something that stands out,” co-founder Sean Muldoon says. He and his business partner Jack McGarry personally designed the 5-year-old blend of Irish malt and grain whiskey with the help of Darryl McNally, master distiller of Dublin Liberties Distillery (formerly master distiller for Bushmills). And yes, before you ask, it lives up to the bar’s excellent reputation.
As the bar evokes the Irish homeland in a New York craft cocktail setting, so too does The Dead Rabbit Whiskey blend Irish and American traditions. After distilling The Dead Rabbit’s custom blend in Dublin, the whiskey is aged first in ex-bourbon casks for a distinctly Irish-American flavor, before making its way to specially-made, half-size virgin American oak casks, “which impart a vanilla and toasted wood characteristic to the whiskey, to provide something totally different in the Irish Whiskey category,” Muldoon explains.
The resulting whiskey is heavier and more deeply flavorful than most typical Irish whiskeys. It takes on vanilla-heavy sweetness from the bourbon casks, while toasted oak and caramel come through on the nose, along with caramelized white chocolate, dates and a touch of must. Vanilla is prominent on the palate too, rising like steam from warm cereal notes of eggy challah topped with caramel.
While the bar exclusively makes its famed Irish Coffee with Bushmills, the new whiskey seems adaptable to a range of both bourbon drinks and Irish whiskey cocktails. For the release (which was pegged to the bar’s five-year anniversary), The Dead Rabbit beverage director Jillian Vose created a few custom drinks to highlight the whiskey, ranging from an applejack-spiked tiki punch to a vegetal Whiskey Smash variation with Lillet Rosé, beet, fennel and blackberry syrups, lemon juice and bitters.
As zealous advocates for their native spirit, McGarry and Muldoon wanted to use The Dead Rabbit Whiskey to teach drinkers about the evolution and increasing quality of the fastest growing liquor in the world, while doing some good back home too; the duo from Belfast is donating to Aware NI, a mental health charity based in Northern Ireland. “The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey is a great expression of the category—one we’ve spent our careers championing,” Muldoon says. “Our goal at The Dead Rabbit is to bring the Irish pub into the 21st century, but we can’t do that without paying homage to the traditional pubs back home. We are so proud to be Irish—of the land, the people, the pubs and the whiskey. The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey is an expression of that pride.”
After an initial roll-out in New York in February, the whiskey will start to hit American and international markets, priced at $40, but you can pick it up online from one of these distributors now.