09/25/2012 08:53 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Why Wait For St. Patrick's Day? 7 Irish Whiskeys To Drink Anytime

Apart from the odd glass of Jameson's at corner Irish bars which don't look like they could make a passable cocktail, I've managed to ignore Irish whiskey pretty successfully for most of my drinking life. And really, it wasn't the whiskey, it was me. "It's kind of like Scotch whisky, I'd always hear when I asked about it, "but, um, lighter." Wow -- doesn't sound too thrilling. "But it's really easy to drink!" Well, yeah, a glass of water also goes down easier than a dram of Laphroaig, but that doesn't exactly quicken my pulse either.

I wasn't a full-fledged Irish whiskey denier, but I was pretty close. "Well, it's good," I'd think whenever circumstances forced me to try some, "but it's not good like Scotch is good." But once I saw that, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, Irish whiskey was the fastest-growing spirits category in the US last year, I figured I'd better bite the bullet and drink the Bushmills. And the Redbreast, and the Jameson's, and all the other brands that have been catching on Stateside as of late. After trying a bunch of them, I came to realize that most Irish whiskey really isn't good like Scotch is good. But of course it's not supposed to be. And it's still good -- at times astoundingly so.

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive overview of Irish whiskey -- it'd be tough to do that with a mere seven brands. And my Irish education is just beginning. But with six months to go until St. Patrick's Day, there's plenty of time for more "research." In the meantime, I hope you seek out and try at least a couple of the whiskeys reviewed below -- and post in the Comments section about any of your favorites that I didn't mention. Slainte!

Irish Whiskey