As those of you who follow the Whisk(e)y Apostle Twitter feed know I recently went to Ireland with my wife for vacation. Among all the castles, Mesolithic burial mounds, and endless natural beauty I also tried to do a little whiskey tourism too. I know, go figure. I have plenty of great things to share with you but I thought I’d start off with shopping. No, I’m not talking about the couture shops in Dublin or that perfect Irish wool sweater. I’m talking about whiskey shopping. If I could put it into one sentence it would be this. Don’t buy Irish whiskey in Ireland.
Did that surprise some of you? Well, it surprised the hell out of me too. Let me elaborate. Given the variety of Irish whiskeys available in the U.S. and through other outlets you’re hard pressed to find too many Ireland only bottles. For the rest of the selection you’ll easily find better prices elsewhere. Taxes on Ireland’s native spirit are astronomical compared to what you’ll pay here. Let’s use a regular bottle of Jameson (750ml US/700ml International), the standard bearer for Irish whiskey.
• Jameson in the U.S. is around $20 a bottle. (Binny’s Chicago/Total Wine Atlanta)
• Jameson in Ireland (Dublin, Galway Killarney) is €24.50 or $30.64 VAT included.
Ouch! That’s about 50% more a bottle of plain old Jameson. It doesn’t get any better when you’re buying up to a bottle of Midleton Very Rare either. Even when you cut out the VAT (about $4) you’re still better off buying U.S. for any bottle of Irish whiskey you kind find here. There is a little relief buying Ireland than the U.K. but it’s still way more than buying stateside.
If you are going to buy Irish whiskey in Ireland and you’re not planning to drink it there my one piece of advice is this…duty free. That does limit you a bit. U.S. travelers are limited to one liter of duty free spirit per traveler when returning to the U.S. However, there are two key things you need to know about that. First, it’s irrespective of age. So if your kids are traveling with you too then you can use their liter allowance too. Second, in a lot of instances the paying duty is actually cheaper than pay VAT in Ireland.
Some of you might wonder about selection. There’s a lot of Irish whiskey in Ireland. You might not even realize how much the selection of Irish whiskey has expanded in recent years until you’re in a shop confronted by all of it. However, as most of these selections are available in the U.S. or online you might want to focus on the few you can’t here. Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Powers John Lane, and Midleton Barry Crocket are a few examples. Also, if you’re visiting distilleries they all tend to have a distillery only bottle that for obvious reasons you can’t get anywhere else. Be warned that the bottle offered at Kilbeggan can also be purchased for a LOT cheaper duty free. 😉 The distillery bottles really are the only “Ireland Only” bottles left out there. Everything else you should be able to get your hands on one way or another.
So if I had to sum it for you I’d say this. First, if you can get it here don’t try to buy it there. Second, the distillery exclusives are worth a look. Third, anything else should be purchased duty free at the airport on your way out. The Loop operates The Irish Whiskey Collection right after departure security in Dublin’s airport. They have everything you can get anywhere else in Ireland except that one bottle of Bushmills and one bottle of Jameson. The Irish Whiskey Collection is also the cheapest place in the Emerald Isle to buy the stuff. They also have a number of private bottlings of Cooley’s various whiskies that you can only get from them.
I hope this helps in your shopping preparation if you’re planning a trip to Ireland. It’s a lovely country with amazing people. You shouldn’t go without making the native spirit part of the fun!
Drink wisely my friends,