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Get to know Irish whiskey

Where to start if you want to get into liquid sunshine

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, that feasting day for Ireland’s patron saint for his efforts to bring Christianity to the Emerald Isle. If you’re not into St. Patrick’s efforts to convert pagans (i.e., the snakes he drove out of Ireland), you can tip back a glass of whiskey for whiskey’s sake, this Friday, March 17. You certainly won’t be the first American to swill what Bernard Shaw called “liquid sunshine.”

In 1830, the average American age 15 and older, drank 88 bottles of whiskey a year. That means a bottle every four days. A hundred years of being stinking drunk and no wonder Prohibition happened to dry out the U.S.

Maybe Americans needed time off from Irish whiskey, but they sure as hell don’t anymore. From 2002 to 2015, Irish whiskey sales have increased by 642 percent.

But with all the Jame-Os and Tullamore-somethings, where the heck do you start if you want to get into Irish whiskey? El Moro, the Bookcase and Barber, and the Irish Embassy Pub have your back. Here are six Irish whiskeys found in Durango, from affordable to luxurious.

El Moro Spirits and Tavern, 945 Main Ave. Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Price: $$

“Interesting thing about Green Spot is that there’s no age statement,” said Lucas Hess, assistant general manager and bartender at El Moro. Irish whiskey seems to be going further and further from age statements because they are going through the juice faster than they can make it.”

Green Spot has a full, smooth body with hints of toasted wood, clove, and vanilla. It’s a blend of 7- and 10-year-old whiskey matured in sherry and bourbon barrels. “The bourbon barrels are going to give you that color. That sherry cask, which is my favorite touch on an Irish whiskey, is going to give it a real drying character. It makes you want to have that next sip,” said Hess.

Tullamore Dew

Price: $

Tullamore Dew, whose origins go back to 1829, has a gentle complexity. You aren’t going to feel a burn here. “It uses the same type of casks as the Green Spot, but it’s not aged as long,” Hess said. Which means it’s “super approachable in price and a delicious whiskey in its own right.”

Popular whiskey drinks at El Moro include ever-changing craft cocktails, Irish coffee, and weekly-themed whiskey flights.

The Bookcase and Barber, 601 E. Second Ave.Kilbeggan

Price: $

The Bookcase and Barber focuses on craft cocktails with a literary twist. The most approachable Irish whiskey they have is Kilbeggan. “It’s very mellow and smooth,” said Beau Black, bartender and proprietor of the B & B.

Kilbeggan whiskey is double distilled in traditional copper pots, one of which is the oldest working pot still in Ireland at 180 years old. You’ll find notes of vanilla and barley with a dry oak finish.

Bushmills Original

Price: $

Bushmills is a triple-distilled, single malt whiskey. It’s argued that Bushmills gives a smoother finish than Jameson, the most popular Irish whiskey in America.

Popular whiskey drinks at The Bookcase and Barber are $5 Manhattans on Mondays (if you bring in the password found on social media), old fashioneds, and Harry Houdinis (a house creation).

The Irish Embassy Pub, 900 Main Ave.Bushmills 1608 400th Anniversary

Price: $$$$

Bushmills is a distillery in Northern Ireland that has been around since 1784, but its license to distill spirits was originally granted to Thomas Phillips in 1608. Its 400th Anniversary blend is 40 years old and its rich, warm, smoky notes have won it the World Whiskies Awards twice.

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve

Price: $$$$

“This is the rarest Jameson you can have,” said Phil Brennan, co-owner of the Irish Embassy Pub. “It’s a 40-year-old Jameson.” The pub only goes through two to three bottles a year because the price of a shot – $40 – makes it a special occasion, sipping whiskey. “It’s a lot more fruity than the Bushmills. It’s softer and has a sweeter aroma ... it’s easier on the palette.”

The Irish Embassy Pub has 45 Irish whiskeys to try, a whiskey club to join, and on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17, they’ll have whiskey specials. All Irish whiskeys will be between $1 to $3 off.

Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer