Irish Whiskeys I Have Known and Loved
Taking pulls with local buyers
I end most meals at restaurants with a glass of Jameson. The flavors and smells of Irish whiskeys make me feel like I'm back in Ireland, sitting at a bar on a meandering quay. But wouldn't it be nice if restaurants would carry whiskeys other than Bushmills and Jameson?
The Irish make so many wonderful whiskeys that most people never try. Thank goodness we have a wealth of great liquor stores in Austin that compete over the size and quality of their whiskey collections. Plus, they have passionate staffs.
Take Wiggy's on Sixth. Stephanie Bealart picked Knappogue Castle 1995 ($36), which is a bargain price for a single malt whiskey. I agree. It's the Irish whiskey I buy most often. They also carry Knappogue's 1951 vintage for a mere $643 a bottle. Off the top of her head, Bealart gave me great information on all eight of their whiskeys. When I told her I was amazed at the depth of her knowledge about the whiskeys, she laughed and said: "That's what's great about Wiggy's. We have so much weird stuff."
Tim Holloway, at the Twin Liquors on Balcones, also recommended the Knappogue Castle 1995 ($34) but also liked the Clontarf Reserve ($25) and the Redbreast 12-year-old ($44). I haven't had the Redbreast, but Clontarf is a mellow, complex drink that will please people who love subtlety. They have 15 Irish whiskeys, so you have plenty of options.
Spec's in South Austin has 17 Irish whiskeys. The whiskey buyer, E. Carter Wilsford (love that name), is a walking encyclopedia about spirits. He sells a lot of Powers Irish Whiskey, a favorite in Ireland because it's made by Jameson but only costs $25 per liter. His favorite is the Bushmills Malt 16 ($58), which has a complexity boost by being aged in old bourbon, sherry, and port barrels. They also carry my favorite Irish whiskey of all: Midleton ($140). I just wish I could afford to drink it.