An Irish VS. Bourbon Showdown

If you’re a fan of whisky or bourbon, learning about the subtle differences between them can be a fascinating journey into the world of spirits. Each classification is one of a kind and intricate, a reflection of the long history and careful methods used to make them. The authors of this book set out to examine and honour the differences between these two legendary brews.

Production and its Past

Scotch Whisky

Irish whisky is thought to have been one of Europe’s first distilled drinks, dating back to the 12th century. Triple distillation in copper pot stills gives Irish whisky its characteristic smoothness and levity.

“Triple distillation removes more impurities and gives Irish whisky its renowned smoothness and drinkability,” says Sean Muldoon, co-founder of the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog in New York City, a bar recognised for its large Irish whisky selection.


The history of bourbon begins in 18th-century Kentucky. Bourbon is a uniquely American spirit that must comply with certain guidelines for its manufacturing, such as being made with at least 51% maize and matured in new charred oak barrels.

As Jimmy Russell, master distiller at Kentucky’s Wild Turkey Distillery, explains, “The high corn content and the charred barrels give bourbon its characteristic sweet, full-bodied flavour and deep amber colour.”

Summary of Flavours

Scotch Whisky

Irish whisky has a reputation for being mellow and easy to drink. You don’t have to be a whisky connoisseur to appreciate its smooth flavour and subtle vanilla undertones.

Irrespective of one’s prior exposure to alcoholic beverages, “many people find the lightness and fruitiness of Irish whisky to be a great entry point into the world of whisky,” notes Muldoon.


In contrast, the flavour of bourbon is richer and sweeter, with hints of caramel, vanilla, and wood. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the way its rich depth recalls a dessert.

Bourbon is a satisfying end to a meal. Russell says, “It’s creamy and sweet and has a depth of flavours that people love to savour.

Suggestions for Plating

Scotch Whisky

Irish whisky is best enjoyed on its own or with a few rocks. It’s also great in whisky cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.


Bourbon’s adaptability means that it can be sipped neat, on the rocks, or in a variety of mixed drinks.

Adding Value to the Interaction

Use the proper glassware to get the most out of your tastings. Bourbon is typically served in a rocks glass, which is ideal for admiring its rich colours and swirling the spirit around, whereas whisky is traditionally served in a tulip-shaped glass, which helps focus the scents.

According to Muldoon, “the right glassware can greatly enhance your tasting experience,” and that a tulip glass is ideal for enjoying Irish whisky since it accentuates its subtle fruity flavours. Bourbon is best enjoyed in a rocks glass, which highlights the spirit’s deep hues and thick texture.

The Finest Bourbons and Irish Whiskies

When you enter the realm of spirits, you’ll find a wide variety of options to investigate. The unique flavours and sensations you’ll enjoy from each bottle are the result of a synergy between tradition, art, and science. Here are some of the top-tier Irish Whiskies and Bourbons that are now prized by aficionados and experts.

The Finest Irish Whiskies

Redbreast Adolescent, Age 12 Year-Old

  • The distinctive ‘Christmas cake’ flavour of Redbreast 12 Year Old, characterised by rich fruits, nuts, and spices, makes it a standout among Irish whiskies.

Black Barrel Jameson

  • The Black Barrel is a step up from regular Jameson, with a rich flavour profile that includes nutty, peppery, and vanilla undertones, as well as a trace of sherry.

Jameson Irish Whisky

  • Jameson Irish Whisky is crafted with triple distillation in copper pot stills using a blend of malted and un-malted barley. The Dungourney River, which flows through the distillery premises, provides the water needed in the production process, giving the whisky a distinctive flavour.
  • Additionally noteworthy is the company’s dedication to environmental responsibility. Jameson has managed to cut its production water consumption by 37% while simultaneously recycling over 99% of its garbage.

Green Spot

  • Green Spot is a great example of the single pot still style, with its spicy apple, vanilla, and toasted oak notes, all topped with a pinch of pepper.

Best Bourbons

Buffalo Trace

  • Buffalo Trace is a traditional Kentucky straight bourbon, known for its deep, multifaceted flavours of caramel, spice, and fruit.

Maker’s Mark

  • Maker’s Mark, one of the most well-known bourbon labels, is known for its constant quality and smooth caramel, vanilla, and fruit flavours.
  • In contrast to the majority of bourbons, Maker’s Mark uses soft red winter wheat in its recipe. Because of this change, the product now has a signature flavour that is both softer and sweeter.
  • Maker’s Mark is also unique because of the emphasis it places on handcrafting. The red wax used to seal the cork of each bottle is also a recognisable trademark sign.

Woodford Reserve

  • Woodford Reserve has a complex flavor profile that includes notes of dried fruit, vanilla, and toasted wood, and it has a long, smooth, and silky finish for which it is known.

The glass offers a window into the history of these bourbons and whiskies. The history, the skill, and the love that are poured into each bottle are just as important as the final product itself. These bottles are a fun and varied exploration of spirits, whether you’re a seasoned expert or just starting out. Keep in mind the words of Sean Muldoon as you peruse these bottles: “The best spirit is the one you enjoy the most.” Have a dram, take your time with it, and see what you like.

While both Irish whisky and bourbon are distilled from the same grain, they are otherwise very different. Both have unique qualities that make them enjoyable for people of all tastes and inclinations, solidifying their place in the hearts of alcoholic beverage enthusiasts around.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a bourbon connoisseur or a whisky aficionado; the finest spirit is the one you drink the most of. Drink up and enjoy this fascinating tour of the spirits industry while you fill your glass. For Russell, “it’s all about personal preference” when deciding between Irish whisky and bourbon. The best part is looking around till you find what you really like.