On March 11th I attended the third annual New YorkIrish Whiskey Festival. The festival was established back in 2019 and after a two-year pandemic break, returned to New York City in 2022.
At one time, Irish Whiskey was the most popular style of whiskey in this country, Prohibition and politics brought that all to a halt and for decades less than a handful of distilleries remained in the country. In the past couple of decades, the industry in Ireland has been infused with innovators and new startups that has expanded the industry greatly making it a one of the fastest growing categories in the U.S. with sales of $1.3 billion in 2021.
The basic regulations for Irish Whiskey are that the spirit has to be distilled in Ireland from a mash of malt and cereals, triple distilled and aged for a minimum of three years. Most (90%) are blended whiskeys, but they also produce single malt, single grain, single pot still and potcheen (unaged) whiskeys that have been aged different types of barrels. There is much more diversity than the usual Bushmills/Jameson pours available at the local pub.
At the well-attended event I, and the rest of the crowd was able to try a wide range of over 25 Irish whiskeys, The blended whiskeys in general were smooth and drinkable while I found the aged single malts the most interesting.
The event was held at The View at the Battery, an event space at 1 Battery Place at the southern tip of Manhattan overlooking New York Harbor.
Some of what I sampled:
Keeper’s Heart American and Irish blend
Bushmills 10, 12, 16, 21, 25, 30yr old single malt
On November 2nd I attended the first annual New York Irish Whiskey Festival. It’s America’s first Irish Whiskey Festival and promised 25+ brands to try plus live music and “Irish Grub”.
It’s was hosted by the team behind The Dead Rabbit which has been named the best bar in the world. They decided that Irish Whiskey should have its own festival to showcase what Irish Whiskey can be.
The history of Irish Whiskey sales have gone up and down and back up again. Before Prohibition it had been the largest selling type of whiskey in the U.S. which was its largest market but politics in Europe and the enactment of the Volstead Act caused the Irish Whiskey industry to fall off a cliff. It has seen a resurgence in popularity going from US sales of $74 million in 2003 to $1billion in 2018.
The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 states that Irish Whiskey must be triple distilled and aged exclusively on the island of Ireland at no higher than a ABV of 94.8% and must be aged a minimum of three years in wood. They are generally unpeated. The four types of whiskey are single malted, single pot still, single grain and blended whiskey.
I was looking forward to attending this tasting because most of my experience with Irish Whiskey has been with the Jameson and Bushmills that are available at every bar in town and I wanted to try new brands and whiskey styles.
There are no rules for what type of wood the whiskey is permitted to be aged in so to be globally competitive, the Irish Whiskey industry has been experimenting with aging in different types of barrels and wood. That includes casks that were used for Madeira, Sherry, Bourbon and Rum to name a few and types of oak such as American, French, Slovenian, Irish and even Japanese oak (Glendalough13yr single malt). Many are aged in one type of barrel and finished in others. This in addition to the pot still whiskeys which are uniquely Irish.
Many of the producers on hand make several whiskey, from a basic blend to the aged single malts to whiskeys aged in the different casks. I found most of those in the middle categories as the most interesting. In general many of the whiskey I sampled were very smooth with a lot of nuances going on in the glass, in other words, good sipping whiskey.
The event was held at Pier A Harbor House at 22 Battery Place in lower Manhattan. It’s a restaurant and event space inspired by the old oyster houses of New York with an expansive view of New York harbor.