Irish Pot Still Whiskey

An icon of the past and future
By Charles Montanaro
From 93 distilleries in 1835 to three by 1960s, Irish Pot Still whiskey has had a tough run. Crushed by socio-economical events as well as, some could claim, poor decision making when new technologies such as the Coffey still was invented, Irish whiskey still managed to survive through a coalition of 'Irish Distillers.' After over 50 years of difficult times, we are finally seeing a comeback of the liquid through new distilleries and quality products slowly reappearing and making a mark on the market.

Irish pot still whiskey has not got enough credit for its impact and achievements on the industry. After all, it was Irish pot still whiskey that turned the world onto whiskey and it was this same liquid which was in such high demand during the temperance movement in the USA. Let's remind ourselves that Prohibition with its speakeasies as well as the promotion of hard liquor allowed a boom in mixed drinks, and more specifically, cocktails.

If Irish pot still whiskey was so popular during prohibition, surely, cocktails back then were made with the liquid while they were still able to illegally import it? With its full body and creaminess, it is a perfect candidate for mixing, having a great character which plays well with other components. Irish pot still whiskey has infinitely more applicable uses in whiskey cocktails, as often, it's delicate and smooth flavours are of a less volatile nature than its Scottish counterparts.

I wanted to create a pre-prohibition drink with Powers John's Lane 12 Years Old, a nutty and spicy liquid, named after the famous distillery now closed. I decided to pair the nutty dryness of the Oloroso finish and vanilla heavy ex- Bourbon casks with a butterscotch fudge syrup. To keep it simple, I followed the same base structure as a classical Old Fashioned, with the bitters pairing themselves beautifully with the spice and sweetness of the whiskey and fudge syrup. A simple combination which is a pleasure to imbibe: The Butterscotch Old Fashioned.

Moving on, to showcase how malleable this liquid is, I went in the Cali-Polynesian direction with a typical Tiki styled drink made with Green Spot pot still whiskey. Its sweet papaya aroma and spicy menthol flavour is a perfect match for a tropical drink. To showcase these flavours, I used a typical trio often found in Tiki culture, almond syrup, pineapple and lime. Result: a soft biting libation with tones of marzipan, mint and the typical 'I'm on a beach' feeling finished with a short burst of spice and chili from the Tiki bitters. An Irish in the Caribbean.

Finally, a thirst quencher made with Redbreast 12 Years Old, a liquid which needs no comment on its full bodied temper and consistent quality. Being a fan of quaffable whiskey cocktails, I decided to go with a long, summery drink. Combining grapefruit peel to impart bitter oils to the drink, lengthened by a quality spicy ginger ale pairing itself with the nutty citrusy notes of the dram: The Horse's Breast.

The cocktail

Butterscotch Old Fashioned



  • 50ml Powers John’s Lane 12 Years Old

  • 5ml butterscotch fudge syrup

  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a chilled mixing glass. Stir over fresh cubed ice until sufficiently diluted and cold (about 30 seconds depending on your ice) and strain over cubed ice in a rocks glass. Squeeze and garnish with an orange peel.

Orange peel.

Spotted Tropical Mule

Copper/silver mug.


  • 45ml Green Spot Irish pot still

  • 35ml freshly squeezed pineapple

  • 10ml lime

  • 5ml orgeat

  • 2 dashes Elamakule Tiki Bitters

Combine all ingredients in shaker, shake with cubed ice until ice cold.
Fine strain over cubed ice in a copper or silver mug. Garnish with two pineapple leaves, dehydrated pineapple and a couple of cherries.

Two pineapple leaves, dehydrated pineapple and two cherries.

Horse’s Breast



  • 50ml Redbreast 12 Years Old

  • 10ml grapefruit syrup

  • Top ginger ale

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Cut a long wide grapefruit peel, about half the grapefruit. Take the peel and slowly insert it so it sticks to the side of the glass, use a long bar spoon to help you position it. Add crushed ice and combine all ingredients, slowly churn, top up with crushed ice and garnish with the mint sprig and dehydrated lemon wheels.

Grapefruit long peel, mint and dehydrated lemons.