Bourbon and scotch may get most of the attention all year in the U.S., but St. Patrick’s Day is all about Irish whiskey, and we’ve got a single recommendation for what to reach for today as you’re stocking up for weekend festivities: Slane Irish Whiskey. This is Slane’s first St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S., and while it’s only been on the market for a few months now, this is really the time to pick a bottle up. The spirit sets a new standard for what the world should demand in quality Irish whiskey.
The tradition ethos of Irish whiskey is to create a smooth, well-rounded dram first, and a lot of flavor second. That’s where the “triple distilled” jargon gets its power from, and why for bourbon or single malt drinkers, Irish whiskey can sometimes feel a bit too light. Most of the whiskey produced in Ireland by volume is blended whiskey, which combines malt and grain whiskeys in perfect balance.
But bolder, new blends like Slane are pushing the category forward. Slane refers to itself as triple matured — a nice reference to some of the heritage, but with a new message. The whiskey is actually a blend of three batches of the same whiskey, aged in three different kinds of barrels.
Some of it is distilled in new, charred American oak barrels from the Brown-Forman cooperage (the same place that supplies barrels to Jack Daniel’s, Woodford, and Old Forester). Some of them are sherry-seasoned casks from Jerez, Spain, which impart nutty, raisin-y notes to whiskey. Some of them are ex-bourbon barrels: a common type of barrel in Irish whiskey, because they impart warm, sweet flavors like caramel and vanilla but less aggressively, as the bourbon has already taken the lion’s share of the barrel’s flavor.
The blend of the three makes for a really incredible whiskey — smooth and soft, but rich and flavorful as well. Since it formally arrived in the U.S. last year, Slane has become one of our regular favorites. It’s floral and sweet on the nose, showing vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Drinking it shows more depth: notes of caramel, honey, vanilla, and just a bit of herbal, woody boldness and spice on the finish to balance it all out.
One of our favorite ways to drink it for the last few months has been as part of a much-needed toddy, nor’easters be damned. But coming into the warmer months, it’s perfectly balanced to go with a little club soda and ice in a nice, simple highball.
We should note for the authenticity seekers out there: for now, this whiskey is produced by contract at another distillery. Irish whiskey can be a bit of a mystery these days, because most of the new brands are sourcing whiskey from one of a handful of anonymous distilleries. A few years ago only three distilleries were making 100 percent of Ireland’s exports, but several dozen are either online now, or will be open by the end of the decade.
Slane is likewise unable to announce where their whiskey comes from. They’ve built a distillery and it’s up and running, but since Irish whiskey must be aged a minimum of three years, there are still about two to go before we’re sold a drop from that facility.
This is a fantastic blend for a first release, and if this is what they’re doing with whiskey made at someone else’s stills, we can’t wait to see what comes out of their own.
In the meantime, get yourself acquainted with their first release — you’ll be old friends before you know it.