Pros: Less expensive than Jameson, complex but remains gentle, not smoky and peaty like Scotch
Cons: Not readily available in the US
Powers is a gentle Irish Whiskey that has been pleasing its loyal Irish following for centuries. This smooth whiskey is both spicy and sweet and it does not overwhelm your palate or your nose like some scotch whisky. Some will argue that this makes it better or worse. I say, drink what you like and if you like whiskey, youll love Powers.
How it all began
A mentor of mine in New York introduced me to Powers late last year and I was made an instant fan. Powers, unknown in the USA, ranks slightly above Jameson Irish Whiskey in my opinion. Perhaps my preference is because Powers is so limited in the US and I can only remember the good and rare times Ive been able to sample some. When I was in New York this past month, I made sure that I put Powers and Jameson head to head and this review and my next review on Jameson are the result.
John Power founded a distillery in 1791 in Dublin to become one of the first legal distillers of his time. John Power changed his companys name John Powers & Son in 1809 and was producing 33,000 gallons of whiskey a year by 1823. He later increased his output tenfold by 1833.
The Power family became extremely wealthy and by the mid-1800s, John was Knighted and made High Sheriff of Dublin. So powerful, Powers & Son were the first to make the miniature bottles of whiskey. This new innovation to marketing whiskey required they alter the Irish law to do so and demonstrates their political influence.
John Powers & Son remains a leading whiskey power and they did so independently until 1966, when they merged with rivals John Jameson & Son and Cork Distillers Company. This Irish Distillers Group was later acquired in 1989 by Pernod Ricard after competing with other companies (Gilbeys and Guinness). Pernod just acquired Allied to gain even more spirits in July, 2005. Bushmills was sold to British Diageo in the process.
Powers pours a pale golden color. Powers is aged around 7 years (this is blended so there is no set age) in oak casks, so the whiskey does not inherit a lot of color from the wood like other whiskeys. This Irish whiskey undergoes triple distillation, so the whiskey is very clear and pure.
There is no smoky aroma as Irish Whiskey dries its blend of malted and unmalted barley in closed kilns. Irish whiskey is considered smoother and lighter than other types of whiskey because of this process. The barley and grainy aromas are present as there is little to cover their notes. Powers blends traditional pot still whisky with grain whiskey, so you will nose and taste a variety of grains.
When poured over rocks, the first sip or two are very pleasant and rich. The spicy flavor will overcome you first and then that will give way to a honey-like sweetness. Powers is more complex than what I consider to be its closest spirit, Jameson. Both are sweeter and smoother than most Scotch, however, Powers is does not give way to the mellow flavors initially. That is why I enjoy Powers more.
I found that adding enough ice to just chill the whiskey slightly was the best method. A couple cubes that dissolve quickly did not lower the 40% ABV too greatly, but it did help release a little more of the fruity sweetness and aroma.
Powers will linger with you lightly and not as strongly as you are used to with Scotch. You feel the Powers working, but there is not much to note on your palate a short time after your sip.
Some people claim that Powers is the best selling Irish Whiskey. If this is in Ireland only, this may be true, but I do not know 100%. I am surprised that Powers is not better known in the US as it actually costs less than Jameson around $17-22 a bottle.
There are several online sites in the US that sell Powers, but you are going to almost pay for another bottle in the shipping and handling. It is better to just hope that a good pub carries it on the shelf or that America catches on and starts to distribute it more after we agree that this is a winner.
For the price and its gentle complexity, Powers is a hit. *****
Check out my Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey v. Jameson Irish Whiskey