Top Irish Whiskeys for 2023 - Sweet 16 Blind Bracket Head to Head Matchups
Well, I'm a little late after St. Paddy's day getting this posted up. I did some teasing on my Instagram earlier, but I've just been flat out with the ol' day job lately. Rectifying this wrong now.... Here are the results of a 16 Irish Whiskey blind tasting bracket (all of these were poured ahead of time by the lovely @amongstthefernsco). Let's go!
Included in this year's bracket in randomized order is: Green Spot, Redbreast 21, Tyrconnell 10 Year Madeira Cask, Teeling Single Grain, Redbreast 12, Redbreast Small Batch Cask Strength, Gold Spot, Red Spot, Redbreast PX, Yellow Spot, Bushmill's Prohibition Recipe, Northcross Triple Wood, Redbreast Lustau, Glendalough 13 Year Mizunara Cask, Redbreast 27, and Blue Spot. If you want a visual of what these 16 beauties look like on the counter, check out my introduction reel.
The filled in, unblinded bracket is shown below. Let me know what you think of the matchups we got!
I found it super interesting that Redbreast Lustau, a great whiskey no doubt, managed to sneak to the top of this bracket this year. Despite an early elimination for me last year, I want to note that my bottle of Lustau is very old & likely quite oxidized. I've had it for the better part of probably 4-5 years and it's below half full. I re-tasted it again later and was surprised to find that almost all of the Sherry influence is completely gone from that bottle now, and the end result is something that tastes like it has incredible age. So put a really big asterix on that top spot, and hope you can recreate its greatness with oxidation on your end too! I will definitely be leaving it out of any future brackets given the stark change in flavor (though I believe it was for the better), given that it's not representative of what most people might be able to taste when they pick up a new bottle off the shelf. What pours stood out for me though, and may have gotten tough matchups?
Top 3: Redbreast Lustau, Redbreast PX and Redbreast 27 Year
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Redbreast 27 and Redbreast PX Edition are worth their weight in gold. I had handwritten notes on my bracket that the matchups of both Lustau vs PX and Lustau vs 27 were impossible for me to choose. My palate was pretty weathered by that many sips, so ultimately the ranking was a bit of a coin flip. This is always so much fun every year, and I'd argue more fun than science for me. Normally I would prefer to do individual head to head tastings, or a smaller blind flight, but this is a fun little get together I like to do with good company (who also do their own blind brackets which often varies from mine). Taste is quite subjective, so let me know if you have done your own blind matchups of some of your favorite Irish whiskeys. One thing is for sure: I love Redbreast!