Boozehound: Ditch the green beer and check out some excellent Irish whiskeys this St. Patrick’s Day

Booze Hound
The Dublin Underground offers one of Iowa City’s widest range of whiskeys. — photo by Adrianne Behning

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Boozehound! My name is Tom and I’ll be your tour guide as we wander through the crazy world of cocktails, liquor and my personal favorite, whiskey. It’s no coincidence that we’re starting this journey on the most booze-drenched holiday of the year. But if you feel like your St. Patrick’s Day traditions are in a rut, and you’ve maybe had just one too many green tinted beers, well, have no fear, that’s what I’m here for.

So, say you don’t feel like having a pint of Guinness — because you’ve already eaten and you don’t want to feel like you’re drinking an entirely new meal. Say the Irish car bombs have lost their luster or your love affair with Jameson has faded, well, guess what? There’s more than one way to fill your glass this St. Patrick’s Day, so don’t be afraid to explore.

Irish whiskey has been on the comeback trail for four decades now, its popularity having cratered in the ‘70s (when it accounted for only one percent of the world market) and right now, although it’s been the fastest-growing spirit in the world since 1990, it seems to be on the verge of an even greater renaissance. (This article from Imbibe Magazine waxes rhapsodic about the joys of Irish whiskey, and it’s dated from three years ago—imagine what they’re saying now!)

Currently, 105 Scottish distilleries sell their whiskies, compared to Ireland’s four, and Scotch whisky also has more complex regional distinctions. But the Irish are catching up. Three more distilleries are currently in production and their whiskeys should be on the market soon, and a growing diversity and range of Irish whiskeys are starting to arrive from across the Atlantic, right onto the shelves of our grocery and liquor stores.

Irish whiskey is gaining a reputation as being drinkable, delicious and fun — so why not explore the category’s possibilities this St. Patrick’s Day?

For those celebrating at home, the Hy-Vee Drugstore has one of the most diverse Irish whiskey selections in the city, including Bushmills Black Bush, a smooth whiskey that sees time in both Spanish oloroso and bourbon barrels. If you’re into infusions, they also have Celtic Honey, an Irish whiskey and honey liqueur, and Paddy Devil’s Irish Apple. Waterfront offers Bushmills Irish Honey and, for the purists, single malts from Bushmill and Redbreast, as well as regular Paddy’s Irish Whiskey.

If you’re looking to spend some money on a really nice bottle from the Emerald Isle, John’s Grocery is the place to go. With three single pot stills on offer from Redbreast and an excellent range of Jameson — including their Gold and 12-year Special Reserve — they’ve got the high end Irish whiskies covered.

If you’re celebrating the holiday by going out, there’s the usual trio of suspects to visit: Mickey’s, Donnelly’s and The Dublin Underground. All three offer Irish whiskey, but, if you want the most selection, Dublin is the place to go, with the more obscure Kilbeggan and Redbreast on offer.

So, if you want to break out of the old ‘Guinness or Jameson’ rut you’re in, shake up your St. Patrick’s Day and grab a bottle of Bushmills, Redbreast or Tullamore Dew and start exploring the ever-expanding world of Irish whiskey. You won’t regret it. Sláinte!


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