Ahh, St. Patrick’s Day…that beautiful time of year when Jameson and Guinness are on sale at your local liquor store and Irish Car Bombs cover the drink special boards at every neighborhood bar across the country. While Jameson certainly has the name recognition here in the US, you might be surprised to learn that the best selling whiskey in Ireland is actually another brand made by the same distillery. That title belongs to Powers Irish Whiskey. Powers is a budget-friendly bottle, with a surprisingly complex profile despite the lackluster labeling. But before we get there, let’s back up for a moment…
If you have a pretty good understanding of the rules and regulations behind bourbon (Start here if you don’t), you’ll see that there are several similarities as well as a few differences when it comes to Irish whiskey. Just like bourbon, Irish whiskey must be bottled at a minimum 40% abv and must use a grain source. While bourbon must be distilled at no more than 160°, Irish whiskey has a little more latitude and can be distilled up to 190°. Also worth noting is that Irish whiskey is generally triple distilled. There are no defined grain requirements, and the final product can contain coloring. If you start exploring whisk(e)ys of the world, you’ll quickly see that Bourbon has pretty much the most strict regulations out there.
The five categories of Irish whiskey you’ll generally see are:
- Single Malt: Made from only water and malted barley at one distillery using pot stills.
- Single Grain: Made with multiple malted and/or grains in addition to water and malted barley.
- Single Pot Still: Made from malted and unmalted barley using only a pot still.
- Grain Irish Whiskey: Made in a column still from unmalted grains.
- Blended Irish Whiskey: A blend of pot still and column still whiskey.
Powers Gold Label is a blend, made up of triple-distilled pot still and grain whiskey. Since 2006, it has continuously been the best selling whiskey in Ireland.
- ABV: 43.2%, 86.4 Proof
- Age: NAS, estimated 5-6 years
- Company/Distillery: Irish Distillers, New Middleton Distillery
- Category: Blended Irish Whiskey, Triple Distilled
- Price: $20-25 / 750 mL
Appearance: Golden, Copper
Nose: Pear, Green Apple, Pepper, Nutmeg.
Taste: Lots of Black Pepper Spiciness, Pear and Honey Sweetness. A touch of Vanilla and Nutmeg. Very thin mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium-short, good amount of spiciness and fruity sweetness.
Overall: When I picked up the bottle, I didn’t really have high hopes for this one. It’s a very simple, almost cheap looking bottle; however, it packs a pretty good amount of depth and complexity. It’s got somewhat of a Heaven Hill BIB thing going on – fairly low price point, understated bottle, solid sipper. While I typically prefer whiskey in the 100-110° range, I did enjoy this one at 86.5°. It’s got a good amount of spiciness without the heat that you would typically see in a higher proof pour. While I don’t think it would stand up too well with an ice cube, it’s a solid neat sipper and also works very well in an Irish Coffee. While I’ll admit I haven’t ventured too far into Irish Whiskey, Powers definitely stands up against everything else I’ve tried in the $20-30 range.