St. Patrick’s Day is an excuse to let our inner leprechauns out to play by knocking back some Irish whiskey. What makes this particular kind of whiskey special? As the luck of the Irish would have it, I’ve got a quick overview.

Whiskey is made around the world, and each region—America, Canada, Scotland, Japan and Ireland—has its own set of regulations. Irish whiskey is made within its national boundaries, from grain, aged a minimum of three years in barrels, and typically has a light, fruity quality. Poteen is the equivalent of American moonshine, meaning it doesn't follow official laws of production or aging.

Irish whiskey's popularity and sales have quadrupled in the United States over the last decade. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing spirits categories, worldwide. In congruence with global trends, new micro distilleries are popping up across the landscape. Meanwhile, most well-known brands have been bought by larger companies, helping them reach enthusiasts around the globe.

Irishman Tim Herlihy is the brand ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W., and he has spent the last month traveling throughout the United States, seeking the most interesting St. Patrick's Day celebrations and recording his findings. Along the way, he visited San Francisco's Buena Vista, known as the birthplace of the Irish coffee, and saw the world's largest shamrock in Georgia. Herlihy also attended the world's shortest one-man St. Patrick's Day parade, in Arkansas. He even stopped in Albuquerque. His trip ends at the famed Dead Rabbit, an Irish pub in New York City. Tullamore D.E.W. was the first to boast a triple blend of grain, malt and pot-still whiskies, which impart sweetness, citrus and spicy notes. Its name comes from Daniel E Williams, the distillery worker who made it up to head honcho, back in the 1800s. During his travels, Herlihy is also introducing Americans to Tullamore D.E.W. Trilogy, their new 15-year-old version, which is thrice distilled and aged in used bourbon, oloroso sherry and rum casks. With the power of William Grant & Sons behind the small brand, it is now sold in 80 countries, winning 35 gold medals in the last decade. 

Jameson is perhaps the most widely known brand and has seen huge growth here. Consistent, versatile and affordable, try it in place of vodka in a Moscow Mule (with lime and ginger beer) for your St. Pat's celebration.

Teeling Single Grain is made from malted barley. The Teeling family's distillery dates back to the 1700s, and the youngest generation has opened the first new distillery built in Ireland in 125 years. Teeling's tasting notes include fig, melon, citrus, vanilla, spice and cloves.

Bushmills is marked by clean, fruity notes, and this pot-stilled whiskey has followed the same recipe for four centuries. It is one of the top sellers in the United States.

Connemara is an enigma in the Irish category, being the only peated version, giving it a rich smokiness. It's high proof, so enjoy it with a little dilution or as the base of a cocktail.