Costco sells a lot of alcohol. Their sales of booze — beer, wine, and spirits — is in the billions of dollars annually. Part of that huge footprint is that Costco carries its own discount spirits under the “Kirkland Signature” brand name. One of the best deals on the spirits end of Costco’s Kirkland Signature is their 1.75-liter bottle of Irish Whiskey. Basically, you’re getting 2.33 bottles of triple-distilled Irish whiskey for $30, which is about $12.50 per bottle (standard 750ml size).
But is it any good? Moreover is it actually better than the world’s number one Irish whiskey, Jameson? Let’s find out!
For this blind taste test, I had one glass of each Irish whiskey poured for me and I nosed and tasted the whiskeys. The thrust of this blind tasting is whether or not a $12 bottle can beat a $30 one. That’s a tall order.
There are no fancy parameters here. This is based on taste alone. So with that in mind, let’s dive in and see if Costco’s famed Irish Whiskey is actually better than one of the most iconic whiskeys of all time, Jameson.
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Part 1: The Irish Whiskey Tasting
Nose: The nose is a fairly classic yet light Irish whiskey with a hint of soft graininess, a drop of honey, and a little leatheriness with maybe some apple.
Palate: The palate is very neutral with hints of that grain and honey and a balance of mild malt spice, oak, and a touch of orchard fruits.
Finish: The end is pretty much vodka.
This is as basic as Irish whiskey gets. Yes, you can tell it’s “Irish” but only just.
Nose: Light green chili pepper is accented by lemon candy, soft maltiness, a hint of sweetgrass, and honey-dipped almonds on the nose.
Palate: The palate opens with a hint of chocolate malt with a dash of vanilla next to creamy honey, nutty cakes, and a whisper of woody spice barks with a touch more of that dry sweet grass.
Finish: The proofing water comes through on the end but doesn’t overly mute the honeyed nuts and soft grassy maltiness.
This is so much more complex that it’s almost mind-blowing side-by-side. It’s like waking up and then having all that half-asleep fogginess clearing and seeing the world anew finally.
Part 2: Ranking Kirkland Signature Irish Whiskey Vs. Jameson
2. Kirkland Signature Irish Whiskey — Taste 1
Average Price: $29 (1.75-liter bottle)
This macro-whiskey from Ireland is triple-distilled and a blend of malt and grain whiskeys. The whiskey ages for at least four years before it is batched, proofed, and bottled for Costco.
As for who makes it? Costco will never tell. But it really, really feels like watered-down Jameson so I’d wager it’s likely Irish Distillers, which also happens to be one of the only distilleries that could handle the volume that Costco needs for this expression.
If you’re drinking whiskey and Coke or whiskey and ginger ale, then… I guess get this? It’ll be cheap and completely neutral with a fleeting sense of “Irish whiskey” buried deep under that sweet fizzy soda pop.
Or maybe if you’re making a big punch and need a cheap whiskey for it.
Or, you know, just skip it entirely. If you’re looking for quality, cheap Irish whiskey for this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, this ain’t it.
1. Jameson Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey — Taste 2
Average Price: $29
The whiskey is a blend of single pot still (made from malted and unmalted barley) and single grain whiskeys. Those whiskeys age in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks until they hit that classic sweet spot that makes Jameson Jameson. Those barrels are then blended, proofed, and bottled.
While this felt a million times better when tasted next to Kirkland Signature Irish Whiskey, this was still pretty basic. This will make a decent cocktail or mixer with ginger ale. You can also shoot it with a beer (Guinness, duh!) back. Other than that, this is entry-level stuff at an okay price point.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
I’m probably going to give that bottle of Kirkland Signature to my sink (the last thing I need is a bottle that big collecting dust on a shelf). Sorry, it’s just not that good.
And that’s kind of the issue with Costco’s Kirkland Signature spirits. Some of them are stellar, especially their latest bourbon releases. Then some bottles, like their tequila, are just okay. Some of it is absolutely undrinkable. This falls into the “meh” category, which is a pretty hard pass but not undrinkable. If you’re going to Costco for booze this weekend, get the vodka instead. Or just go to your local liquor store and pick up a Jameson.