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St. Patrick’s Day at the Fearrington House: Irish Whiskies!

Good Irish Whiskey is a staple at the Fearrington House bar; too many places limit themselves to Jameson (not that it’s bad whiskey), and too many people fail to savor their whiskey and simply shoot it in a single second of deranged debauchery (not that they’re bad people). We stand for the finer side of things at the Fearrington House, and our selection of good whiskey reflects that – our Irish spirits included. I am here to share the cultural and historical significance of St. Paddy’s and the Irish whiskies, as well as a few available at the House bar that stand out and beckon your indulgence.
Saint Patrick’s Day is devoted to the life led by the 5th century bishop and patron saint of Ireland, celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general, and is celebrated in more countries worldwide than any other national festival. While traditionally a pious day of observance similar to Lent, many contemporary observers partake in feasting and drinking until they can’t anymore. In a time when the Pagan gods dominated Ireland, Saint Patrick traveled Ireland presented and wore the shamrock, or three-leafed clover, to symbolize and explain the Holy Trinity. To this day, the shamrock and wearing green remain must-haves in observance of the holiday, lest you get pinched or Charlie-horsed.
Whiskey, naturally, has deep roots in the holiday. The word “whiskey” is an Anglicized version of the first word in the Gaelic phrase “Uisce beatha”, meaning “water of life”. Arising in the 12th century A.D., Irish whiskey was one of the earliest distilled spirits in Europe. Initially used in medical practice, the distilled liquid was made into a beverage by introducing different botanicals. The spirit produced then was more similar to gin, as the process of aging in oaken barrels wasn’t introduced until much later.
By the 17th century, whiskey as we know it was being produced in the name of King James I, by the Old Bushmills Distillery. By the 18th century, the demand for whiskey began skyrocketing. Due to taxes on whiskey and other spirits imposing upon American colonists and subjects of Great Britain, distain grew towards the Crown, resulting in revolutionary movements. Obviously, this resulted in the founding of the United States, and the Irish Rebellion of 1798. More recently, early in the 20th century, the Irish attempted a second insurrection, funded in part by the sale of Irish whiskey to bootleggers in Prohibition-era America.
It’s plain to see; people really like Irish whiskey. If you’re in need of convincing, reference, or just a dram of great Irish whiskey this St. Paddy’s day, I’ve made a small list of whiskies available at the House bar that will provide all three and more.
#1 – The Redbreast 12, 15, and 21 Year Aged Single Pot Still Irish Whiskies
One of the oldest single pot still distilleries still in operation today, Redbreast follows an old technique that produces a more robust blended whiskey. Rich and oaky with great spice and sherry make these excellent sipping whiskies that you can turn on your tongue forever.
#2 – Green & Yellow Spot
These whiskies are cousins to the Redbreast line, and are tied with Redbreast for being the oldest single pot still whiskey produced. Both boasting sweet vanilla with a hint of spice, the younger Green Spot maintains a broader attack, while the Yellow Spot brings a more balanced profile.
#3 – Midleton Very Rare
A premium Irish whiskey known for its price tag, the price is worth paying when the time is taken to enjoy it. Launched in 1984 in celebration of the whiskies produced in Midleton, the Midleton line sports very well aged whiskies, each with its own balanced character.

~Watson, Fearrington House Restaurant Bartender