"Slainte!" This Irish toast, pronounced a bit like "slancha", may be the most commonly used term in the Irish language. It precedes just about every pint of Guinness and every nip of whiskey that's sipped in that fabulously bibulous nation, and it means "health". St Patrick's Day (Thursday, March 17) is the perfect occasion to practise your pronunciation of slainte, and make sure it's accompanied by a glass of something Irish. Here are some suggestions.
Murphy's Irish Stout
(500ml can; 4 per cent alcohol), $4.80
Guinness isn't the only Irish stour, as wonderful as it is. In Cork they drink Murphy's, and some brides in that southern city have even been known to go to their weddings armed with a can of it. Murphy's is a super-smooth brew with aromas of toasted malt, black toffee and chocolate. It has moderate bitterness which enhances its easy drinkability.
Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Aged 10 Years (700ml, 40 per cent alcohol), $63
A mellow Irish whiskey from County Antrim, enhanced by ageing in both bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. It smells of honey, heather, cocoa and vanilla, and it tastes mellow, fine, and almost gentle. It's an elegant Irish whiskey.
Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey
(700ml, 46 per cent alcohol), $85
From the first new distillery in Dublin in 125 years, Teeling Single Malt is a bit wild, full of personality, yet not raw or rough. The nose is fruity, reminiscent of citrus, apples and vanilla, and it's intensely flavoured with lifted malt spirit and wood characters. It's slightly armagnac-like. Sip it with coffee after dinner and see if you agree.
Kilkenny Irish Ale
(440ml can, 4.3 per cent alcohol), $4.50
First brewed in 1710, Kilkenny is an ultra-smooth beer that benefits texturally (like Murphy's Stout) from a self-gassing can that helps its dense creamy head and velvety mouthfeel. Deep amber in colour, it has sweet malt, caramel and subtle hoppy aromas, gentle flavour, and a light minerally bite at the end.
Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey
(700ml, 40 per cent alcohol), $72
I'm not sure how much bearing whiskey has had on the creative processes of the many great writers populating Irish history, but a sip of this smooth drop might have kept the tears at bay. It's smooth and likeable, with malt, vanilla and nutty aromas, a soft, smooth palate and a lovely friendly feel.