St Patrick’s Day celebrations rarely come in small measures – so let’s raise a glass to the land of the shamrock.
A whiskey from Bushmills is a good place to start. Its long history of distilling dates back to 1608 and its famous single malt, Bushmills Malt Irish Whiskey 10 Year Old (£27.25, 70cl, www.thewhiskyexchange.com), is sweet and soft with butterscotch and honey notes, a touch of sherry wood and lingering spice. Triple-distilled and peat-free, its an ideal match for simple Irish nosh, like a plate of whiskey-glazed corned beef and cabbage.
Pot still whiskey, a blend of malted and unmalted barley, produces a more intense, heavier style of spirit. It’s also triple-distilled (this type is unique to Ireland, whereas Scottish whisky is double-distilled) and the pure, full flavours really stand out in Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey (£28, 70cl, Marks & Spencer). Aged in flame-charred bourbon barrels, it is slightly sweet with rich fruit, oak and caramel notes on the long, fruity finish and would be delicious with a side dish of creamy colcannon (mash potatoes and cabbage).
Meanwhile, Green Spot Pot Still (£36.45, 70cl, Waitrose) is matured in old and new bourbon and sherry casks, and it is delightfully rich and peppery with spice, apple and clove notes, and a fruity sweetness finishing with sherry nuttiness.
To wash down a plate of Dublin Bay prawns, try a white wine from Galicia in north-west Spain? The godello is one of the region’s most exciting grapes, sometimes blended with palomino to achieve a breezy, minerally white with a beguiling, saline quality. Try Las Minas del Sil Godello Palomino 2012, Spain (£9.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk). You can almost hear the crashing waves.
For nibbling on some soda bread, another Irish favourite, a South American cabernet sauvignon made from old, gnarled vines will complement Irish beef stew or beef and Guinness pie. Rich, smooth and plummy, try Domaine Vistalba Vinalba Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (£9.99, Waitrose) with classical blackberry and bramble fruits and a good structure to suit thick sauces.
For rounding off the meal with a good Irish cheese board (and perhaps more soda bread), a rustic red from south-west France such as Plaimont Producteurs AOC Madiran Reserve des Tuguets 2010, France (£11.99, Tesco) will complement with its concentrated, plummy flavours, firm tannins, anise and mint on the savoury finish.
However, for sporting fans worried a Madiran may not bode well with the Six Nations clash between Ireland and France on St Paddy’s weekend, Innis & Gunn have released their seasonal Irish Whiskey Finish (£1.99, 33cl, Tesco) to mark the celtic connection between Ireland and Scotland. A sturdy stout at 7.4 per cent abv, made from Scottish malt matured over Irish whiskey-infused oak, it’s earthy and hoppy with a rich, malty taste, ending with an oaky sweetness on the creamy mouthfeel - a very fine alternative to a good, old-fashioned Guinness.