Black Irish: Is it a whiskey or a beer? It’s neither and both

Creator says spirit ‘will stretch Irish whiskey the way spiced rum moved rum forward’

Is it a whiskey? Is it a beer? Black Irish is a blend of both and therefore cannot be called either. Irish distillers have had success with caskmates, a whiskey finished in stout barrels, and several craft brewers have aged their beers in whiskey casks, but Black Irish has taken this a step further by combining triple-distilled Irish malt whiskey with stout.

Whiskey is usually “cut” or watered down to about 40 per cent abv before bottling (unless it is labelled cask strength). Black Irish is “cut” with a strong stout and a barrel-aged stout. To add further flavour, it is infused with chocolate, malt, roasted barley and spices.

The man behind Black Irish is David Phelan of Dublin-based Darker Still Spirits Company. He has previously worked with Boru Vodka, Irish Mist and Baileys. “I have a history in innovation and brand development of drinks, which I love,’’ he tells me.

“I got involved with a couple of guys from Drinksology in Belfast, who are great with brand development, plus Adrian Walker, formerly of Coole Swan, who is a genius with liquids. I had this image of a guy in a snug with a beer and a chaser and wanted to combine those two drinks.”


Beautiful flavours

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

“We are bringing together really good Irish whiskey and really good Irish stout with extra flavours to accentuate both. Black Irish is a spirit drink stretching Irish whiskey the way spiced rum moved rum forward. I think whiskey needs a bit of innovation and this is a completely different interpretation.” The bottle and label design is unique too, with both crown and flip cap and references to classic stout.

“I see it as a very approachable accessible drink with some beautiful flavours that makes it easy to drink solo. It can be drunk straight as a chaser but for those who like a long drink it is fantastic with coke (which Irish whiskey isn’t) and makes a great Irish coffee.”

Black Irish is available from O'Brien's and independent off licences for €35. For more information see