By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 11, 2024 at 11:01 AM

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We could say that spring is almost here, but arguably, spring has almost been here, on and off, for months now. So, instead, we’ll say, hey, it’s Bar Month again at OnMilwaukee and St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner.

So what better time to take a look at some drams from the world of whiskey, with a little extra focus on the Auld Sod?

Here are some gems that have recently arrived on our bar top...

The Busker Small Batch Single Pot Still


This limited edition expression from Ireland’s Royal Oak Distillery is triple-distilled – of course – and aged in first-fill bourbon barrels and then finished in European oak Oloroso sherry butts, lending it an oaky sweetness that makes this one of the Irish whiskeys most likely to appeal to bourbon drinkers. At a slightly higher ABV than its standard single pot still (46.3 vs. 44.3), this whiskey is rich in oak, leather, baking spices and tobacco with a full body. But there’s also that fruity character that you’d expect from the Emerald Isle.

With an MSRP of $50, this is a great warming, satisfying dram. Find it at a retailer or on the website.


Clonakilty Port Cask finish

This relatively new family-run distillery on Ireland's Atlantic coast sources the ingredients for its single pot still whiskies locally. There's a Single Batch Double Oak that I tried last summer, and now I have had the pleasure of tasting the 87.2 proof Port Cask.

This is a blend of Clonakilty's base single pot still whiskey with single grain, aged in bourbon barrels and Ruby and Tawny port casks from the Douro Valley. It's fruit-forward with a satisfying hint of peppery spice and oaky vanilla and an almost chocolate note on the finish.

Keeper’s Heart Irish + American Whiskey

Keeper's HeartX

I can still remember the first time I stopped into O'Shaughnessy Distilling Co., next door to Surly Brewing in Minneapolis and seeing the three huge copper pot stills that can be spied through a large window in the tasting room. A tour taught me that the distillery’s Keeper’s Heart whiskeys are a blend of American and Irish juice, to create unique spirits, made by Master Distiller Brian Nation, who has worked for both Redbreast and Jameson, along with High West founder David Perkins.

While there is an express that blends Irish whiskey with bourbon, this one is a (ahem) mash-up of Irish and American rye (110 proof), bringing Ireland’s floral notes with rye’s zesty spice. Add in notes of sweet, smoky caramel and a dash of wood and the result is an easy-drinking whiskey that draws on transatlantic traditions.


McConnell’s Sherry Cask Finish Irish Whisky

This Belfast distillery was founded in 1776, but had been dormant for decades until it was kick-started again in 2020. With a new distillery expected to open later this year, for now the whiskey is sourced. This expression is the same 60/40 blend of grain/malt whiskey as the basic green label McConnell’s, but at a slightly higher proof (46 vs. 42) and, of course, finished nine months in Oloroso sherry casks.

How much you enjoy this expression will depend on your love of sherry cask finishing as it’s pretty heavy on the sherry notes. I really enjoyed the chewy body and the richness of the sherry sweetness alongside notes of chocolate, vanilla and, especially the dried fruits and baking spices. It’s a comforting dram, I think, but if the sweet fruitiness isn’t to your liking, this might feel like too much for you.

Old ELkX

Old Elk Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon and Straight Wheat Whiskey

Two more expressions on tap here from Fort Collins, Colorado’s Old Elk Distillery, albeit distilled in Indiana. The 108.1 proof Port Cask (MSRP: $90) earned a spot on Whisky Advocate’s Top 20 Most Exciting Whiskeys of 2023 list for this one, which has a 51-34-15 corn-malted barley-rye mash bill, is aged at least five years and is finished 10-12 months in 59-gallon barrels from Portugal. Fruit forward, of course, tempered with baking spices and brown sugar, plus notes of caramel, oak and even some honey sweetness. Old Elk also rum and cognac cask finishes in cask series.

Master Distiller Greg Metze crafts the 100 proof Straight Wheat Whiskey from 95 percent soft red winter wheat – grown “just east of the Mississippi” according to the website – and 5 percent malted barley. Aged at least five years, the whiskey possesses an unexpected caramel and vanilla sweetness. While it doesn’t seem incredibly complex, it is extremely enjoyable.


Tattersall Straight Rye Whiskey and Brandy Old Fashioned

While you might associate Tattersall with Minneapolis, where it was founded, but here in Milwaukee we might prefer to think of it as a Wisconsin whiskey-maker, seeing as it opened a Badger State distillery and tasting room in a former Shopko in River Falls in 2021.

The 100 proof Monongahela-style rye is twice-distilled in a pot still in River Falls using rye – 15 percent of it malted – entirely from Dale Anderson’s farm in Cambridge, Minnesota and aged at least two years on-site in northwestern Wisconsin. All the expected pepper, vanilla and oak is here, but there’s also an alluring hint of maple. There’s also a bottled in bond version that’s aged at least five years, but I didn’t taste that one.

In order to ensure that Wisconsin adopts Tattersall completely, it has also released  a 750ml ready to drink Brandy Old Fashioned using its own signature brandy with sour cherry, orange and cranberry liqueurs and housemade bitters. You can just pour this 70 proof treat over rocks or you could mix it with soda. Just remember to at least throw a cherry and orange slice on top, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, do a bit of muddling first to make it more authentic.

Waterford Whisky Cuvée: Koffi


Ireland’s Waterford Whisky has been possibly the world’s biggest exponent of the idea of terroir in distilling, making a point of disclosing from where the grain for each of its batches originates and so, says Founder and CEO Mark Reynier, “The natural progression of our unique terroir mission was to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Grand Vins of Bordeaux or the Grande Marques of Champagne, and that is to create our flagship cuvees.

“Our new creative Cuvée Concepts, where we layer together uniquely flavorsome Single Farm Origins, help us to great our most complex, expressive, and profound whiskies."

Three of those cuvees have been imported to the U.S. market, including the flagship, with artwork by contemporary French artist Nathanaël Koffi. The whisky is a blend of 24 Single Farm Origin, the youngest of which is six years old, and it is the most complex and most satisfying of any of the Waterfords I’ve tasted so far. It’s also Scotch-like in its layers of dried fruit, pepper spice, tobacco, citrus, cola and other notes.

Bottled at 100 proof, this one makes me eager to try the other two cuvees available here.


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.