Char’s Christmas Whiskey Buying Guide

Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Instagram

So, whiskey is practically the national sport of Ireland, or at least it’s in a fierce bar brawl with Guinness for the title. It used to be your Granda’s secret potion, but guess what? Whiskey got a facelift, shook off its conservative vibes, and is now living its best life in a renaissance.

Forget the old-school rules – whiskey’s gone rogue, and innovation is on steroids. It’s seducing discerning drinkers worldwide faster than you can say, “One more round, please.” But diving into the whiskey world can feel like navigating a boozy maze. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with this cheeky guide to snagging a bottle, whether it’s for your badass self or the dram-atic pal in your life.

There are four basic styles of whiskey. Single Malt, Single Grain, Single Pot Still, and Blended. If you wade into the minutia, there are more, but these dominate. If you’re going to buy a whiskey, then buy style; it’s the key to buying whiskey.


Single Malt

Single Malt whiskey is made using only malted barley from a single distillery in a pot still. Malting is a chemical process that breaks down the barley to make it more suitable for fermentation. The malting process gives the grain-toasted biscuit aromas carried through into the end product. 

Single Malt is acclaimed. It’s what everyone in Mad Men orders all the time. Single Malt is referenced in every major wealth-porn-oriented TV show. No other whiskey style dominates the global cultural consciousness quite like Single Malt. In 2019, a bottle of 1926 Macallan with a label designed by Irish artist Michael Dillon sold for a record €1.5 million. 

Ireland, England, America, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Sweden, Spain, Tasmania, and India all make single malt whiskies of exceptional finesse, but Scotland is at the helm of this style internationally.

You can have high-quality single malts or grand ones with great marketing and everything in between.


Powerscourt Fercullen Single Malt

The Powerscourt Distillery is proud to announce its latest release, the first distilled whiskey from Co Wicklow in over 100 years! Whiskey enthusiasts and connoisseurs get ready for a new whiskey experience like no other. The Powerscourt Distillery has made history with their latest release – one hundred years since a whiskey has been distilled in the County, 100% Malt, 100% distilled on the Powerscourt Estate and 100% Wicklow in a bottle! The Powerscourt Distillery Single Malt is available from April 28th at selected stockists nationwide and from the Powerscourt Distillery and Visitor Centre, plus their online store. RRP for the release is €55.

Get it direct from the source or from Celtic Whiskey, Irish Malts, and McHugh’s


Dingle Grianstad an Gheimhridh

Dingle Distillery drops the mic with its fifth Wheel of the Year edition, the Dingle Grianstad an Gheimhridh Single Malt Whiskey, celebrating the Celtic winter solstice. Tapping into the vibes of Grianstad, aka ‘the stopping of the sun,’ this limited release of 7,800 bottles is a dark and stormy party for your taste buds. It is old enough to be well-rounded and not outrageously expensive. Cheers to the shortest day, and longest pour!

From €85 at Mitchell and Son, Celtic Whiskey Shop, O’Brien’s, or McHugh’s


Method and Madness 7-year-old Single Malt

Irish Distillers breaks new ground with METHOD AND MADNESS Single Malt 7 Year Old, an avant-garde creation from their Micro Distillery. Seven years in the making, this experimental release marks a departure for Midleton Distillery into uncharted single malt territory. It tastes somewhat like a chocolate digestive dipped in a vanilla latte in the best possible way.

From €95 direct from the source, Mitchell and Son, Celtic Whiskey, Wine Online


Single Grain

Single-grain whiskey is any whiskey made from grains other than malted barley. The grains used vary from distillery to distillery but are commonly maize, wheat, or rye. Single-grain whiskies are also typically distilled on a column still as opposed to a pot still. By law, Irish Single Malt and Single Pot Still whiskies must be distilled using a pot still, but that doesn’t apply to Single Grain.

Single Grain is an often maligned whiskey style, but it has its devotees. Single-grain whiskey is an excellent entry point if you’re just getting into whiskey. It generally hovers around the 40 per cent mark, and it takes on the flavour of the barrel it’s aged in really well. 

It’s a relatively new category in the Irish Whiskey market after arriving with the advent of the column still. The juice takes most of its flavour from the barrel as the distillate is clean and clear. There is only a small list of exceptional Irish single-grain whiskeys on the market, but there’s enough to play with.


Glendalough Double Barrel Single Grain

The combo of Bourbon and Olorosso casks makes a taught, light and drinkable whiskey that’s also complex and tastes like it’s got years on itself.

From €38 at O’Briens Wines, Mitchell and Son, Tesco, Celtic Whiskey Shop


Flying Tumbler The Roller

A firm favourite, this whiskey tastes like it should be top shelf and is my go-to whiskey to lure in people who “don’t drink whiskey”. Plus the packaging is modern and fun.

From €55 at Direct from the distillery, Baggot Street Wines, Irish Malts, Celtic Whiskey Shop


Teeling 15 Year Old Vintage Single Grain

This superb, limited-edition expression is made using a mash of 95% corn and 5% malted barley and has matured initially in ex-bourbon casks and then transferred to ex-sauvignon blanc casks for 12 months. Bottled at a smooth 50%, it boasts notes of citrus, green apples and honeysuckle on the nose with spicy peppers, juicy honeydew melon, poached pear and vanilla on the palate with a dry, lingering finish. 

From €110 Direct from the distillery or at Celtic Whiskey Shop, Irish Malts


Single Pot Still

A pot still is like a giant copper kettle that is heated to distil grain into whiskey. They come in a range of shapes and sizes but are thought to make more flavourful whiskeys than column stills.

Single Pot Still is regarded as the quintessential Irish style of whiskey. Predominantly made in Ireland there are some tributes to it across other countries. It is made as a combination of malted and unmalted barley with up to five per cent other grains. 

Single Pot Stills are temperamental and take a few years longer to round off than malt or grain but generally, they bring with them a full bounty of diverse flavours. They’re the most sought-after among aficionados and there has been such a surge in new Single Pot Stills on the market that it’s almost hard to keep up. Not bad for a category that almost died in the 1970s. Unfortunately, they start around fifty euro so they’re not as easy to cut your teeth on. 

Boann Summer Solstice Single Pot Still


Powers John’s Lane Cask Strength

This is a non-age statement Single Pot Still that’s a minimum of 12 years old. Powers is a robust muscular whiskey that tastes like a hefty slice of Christmas cake. This new pivot to cask strength is true to the original style of John’s Lane Distillery, which was renowned for its Pot Still Irish Whiskeys, bursting with flavour and character.

From €90 at, O’Briens Wines, Mitchell and Son, Celtic Whiskey Shop


Blue Spot

The only Single Pot Still with an unbroken history Samuel Becket’s favourite tipple is still growing strong. It has a vibrant green apple note that dances with delicate panettone flavours like Fred and Ginger whirling around.

From €100 at Mitchell and Son, Celtic Whiskey, Sweeny’s


Achill Island Single Pot Still

Introducing Ireland’s first island single pot still! Perfect for the collector in your life who is into independents. This little ditty is aged in Sherry and Bourbon casks this has a smooth mouthfeel followed by Pot Still spices & a subtle mix of fruit. A limited release of only 1,000 bottles, non-chill filtered and packaged in a luxurious wooden gift box. Perfect for an aul Santa prezzie.

From €130 at Irish Malts and Celtic Whiskey Shop



Blended whiskey is when you mix any two or more styles of whiskey together. Single Malt and Single Grain. Single Pot Still and Single Malt. In any proportion at all. Most entry-level whiskey is blended a la Jameson, but there are high-end ones, too like Midleton Very Rare. Blended whiskey can be maligned but brings its own complexity to the table. 

This mixing allows the blender to reach a specific taste. There is more dexterity required to assemble a blended whiskey and it can take aeons to crack it but once you do there is so much variety to spice your life with. Blended whiskey is the most affordable category.


Fox’s Bow

Foxes Bow, the audacious Irish whiskey brand that doesn’t give a damn, is your savior from rubbish Christmas gifts. Wave goodbye to the mundane socks and undies routine, and welcome an award-winning Irish whiskey – no pretentious vibes here. With a distinctive rye cask finish, this blended whiskey boasts a spicy twist, setting it apart from the usual Irish suspects. Bagging Gold at the Irish Whiskey Awards in November 2022 is a guaranteed hit for the whiskey aficionado in your life. All baby blendeds wish they could be as popular and as nice as Foxes Bow’s smooth bright juice. There’s some stiff competition these days but I think bang for buck-wise safety is sexy.

Get it direct from the bonder, Irish Malts, Celtic Whiskey, SuperValu.


Pearse ‘Distiller’s Choice’

Pearse Lyons was the first Irish man to receive a Masters in Brewing and Distilling in 1968. His whiskies all show a scientific thirst for the best and a creative, flavourful flair. This 7-year-old blended whiskey is a go-to for many and worth much more than it’s sold for.

From €56 direct from the distillery, Celtic Whiskey Shop, O’Brien’s, Molloy’s


Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach

This is a high-end luxury whiskey. In a fierce, competitive collectors market, the Very Rare collection is hard to find, but a few last-minute Christmas miracles landed this week. It’s a divine, vigorous drink that you could taste for hours and never run out of things to say about it. The recyclable luxury packaging, adorned with David Rooney’s artwork, portrays the Kilranelagh Estate’s flora and fauna, emphasizing sustainability initiatives. Priced at €440 per 70cl, Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Kilranelagh Wood exemplifies an undeniably elegant and authentically Irish whiskey experience.

Get it direct from Midleton, Celtic Whiskey, DrinkStore

Elsewhere on Char: The Dublin 100 Guide

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