Is it a whiskey or a beer? It’s neither

Is it a whiskey? Is it a beer? Black Irish is a mixture of the two and therefore cannot be called either. Irish distillers have had success with whiskey casks, finished whiskey in stout casks, and several craft brewers have aged their beers in whiskey casks, but Black Irish has gone a step further by combining Irish malt whiskey triply distilled with stout.

The whiskey is usually ‘cut’ or diluted to around 40% before bottling (unless it is labeled as cask raw). The Black Irish is “cut” with a strong stout and a barrel aged stout. To add more flavor, it’s infused with chocolate, malt, roasted barley and spices.

The man behind Black Irish is David Phelan of the Dublin-based Darker Still Spirits Company. He has already worked with Boru Vodka, Irish Mist and Baileys. “I have a history of innovating and developing beverage brands, which I love,” he tells me.

“I got involved with a few guys from Drinksology in Belfast who are great at brand development, as well as Adrian Walker, formerly of Coole Swan, who is a liquids genius. I had this image of a toasty guy with a beer and a hunter and wanted to combine those two drinks.

Beautiful flavors

The liquid is 80 percent Irish whiskey, with deep No. 4 char, from Great Northern Distillery, and the stout is from O’Hara’s.

“We bring together a really good Irish whiskey and a really good Irish stout with additional flavors to accentuate both. Black Irish is a spirit drink that extends Irish whiskey to the way spiced rum has taken rum forward. I think whiskey needs a bit of innovation and it’s a completely different take. The design of the bottle and label is also unique, with both a crown and a flip-up cap and references to classic stout.

“I see it as a very affordable, accessible drink with great flavors that makes it easy to drink solo. It can be drunk straight as a hunter, but for those who like a long drink, it’s fantastic with coke (which Irish whiskey isn’t) and makes great Irish coffee.

Black Irish is available at O’Brien’s and excluding independent licenses for 35 €. For more information see

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