Its not very often that a somewhat “No Name” unseats an industrial standard, but I think I have found one of those instances.
When you think of Irish Cream – Obviously, the first name that pops into your head is Baileys, and rightfully so. It is mass marketed everywhere, it is a hit around the holidays and is something anyone can drink at any time. It is smooth, delicious and great during Notre Dame Football Season. It IS Irish Cream.
That is, until now.
Entering the arena is Saint Brendan’s – a relatively low cost ($15-$18) substitute that I think is actually a better product to the competition.
The brand takes it’s name from Saint Brendan of Clonfert (or Bréanainn of Clonfert)- an Irish Saint who was sometimes known as "the Navigator", "the Voyager", or "the Bold", one of the early Irish monastic saints and considered to be one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
Not only do they take the name from an Irish Saint, but their focus is using primarily Irish ingredients. It is one of these ingredients that I believe makes the difference with St. Brendan’s.
With Baileys, most of the alcohol is produced from a bacterial fermentation of whey. The alcohol - referred to as 'spirits' on the company website - and cream, together with some whiskey are homogenized to form an emulsion, with the aid of an emulsifier containing refined vegetable oil. This process prevents separation of the alcohol and cream during storage.
While I am sure that Saint Brendan’s uses a similar process, I think it is the quality of ingredients that makes the difference. A major clue to that quality can be found on the company website -
Our triple distilled Irish whiskey is crafted just steps from the Giant's Causeway on the northern coast of Ireland in the world's oldest distillery.
Without a doubt, this is the Old Bushmill’s distillery. As someone who has toured this distillery, witnessed the production and sampled more than my fair share…..this to me is 100% why I enjoyed this Irish Cream and I also believes it adds its own unique tastes.
Another interesting side note – Bushmills is owned by the same holding company (Diageo) as Baileys. So I guess Diageo is hedging it’s bets.
Color- A light almond
Nose- To say “It smells like Baileys” would be a cop out . I found it more complex, with Mocha, Chocolate, Honey and sweet cream.
Taste- From the initial creamy texture, you get a front end of sweetness that flows into the mild Irish Whisky base. The whisky is not overwhelming, and this is what (IMO) could be alluring to women and non-drinkers. Hazelnut, Chocolate and hints of roasted Coffee round out the balanced profile.
Finish-Smooth and a little viscous, there was no alcohol aftertaste, but instead it reminded me of drinking a latte.
Overall- What can I say. I was surprised. When I initially picked up this bottle, I thought it was going to be just a cheap Baileys knock off (especially considering the price). Little did I realize I was going to get a solid contender that I believe unseats Baileys as the king of Irish Cream.
Excellent excellent product. Solid 4 Stars.