Whiskey Review: John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey

, | February 19, 2020

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by M.S. Walker. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

Naming your product after such a legendary pugilist as John L. Sullivan, the “Boston Strong Boy,” is gutsy. It means you believe the flavors encased within the smooth walls of glass can go toe to toe with the rest of the market and leave competitors limp and in a puddle of their own fluids while your champion scans the arena for the next contender. In this case, brand owner M.S. Walker, after acquiring the label a few years back, has enlisted a spirit that embodies the strength, character, and longevity of America’s first World Champion bare-knuckle boxer to carry the standard for their John L. Sullivan Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey.

The look of the bottle is classic and emblazoned with the promotional illustration of Sullivan in his heyday. The green-colored glass is reminiscent of other Irish whiskeys, but the contents are by far a different story for this taster. M.S. Walker Co. has an impressive lineup of spirits and wines that they bottle, label, and distribute, including Copley, London Dry Gin, Mezcales De Leyenda, and Islay Mist Blended Scotch. The wide variety takes into account almost a hundred years of cultivation from a company determined to find a flavor for every palette.

With John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey what one has here is a small batch blended Irish whiskey that is crafted using Irish grain and other local ingredients. It is tripe distilled in copper pot stills before being aged in bourbon casks.

John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey

John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey (image via M.S. Walker)

Tasting Notes: John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey

Vital Statistics: triple distilled in copper; aged in bourbon casks; 80 proof; around $26 per 750 ml bottle.

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Nose: Upon the first sniff, this whiskey pulls you in with the scent of a fresh Granny Smith apple, warmed by a thin layer of soft caramel. The predominant smell of the fruity treat is accompanied by hints of nutmeg and clove, among other spiced notes. All the initial scents are wrapped in the gentle tone of oak that brings it all together. The color is the shade of dry hay sunning on a field before being bailed up.

Palate: The front of the palette catches the buttery caramel flavor present in the nose, and the green apple from the nose is front and center but not overpowering. The heat is well-balanced with the spiced flavors that follow.

Over ice, the edge that this whiskey carries is smoothed over. I enjoyed it neat and with ice, or with a splash of water, but I preferred the zesty punch-counterpunch that drinking it neat provided. This whiskey is a perfect accompaniment to an evening of intellectual pugilism between friends.

The Takeaway


As heavy-fisted as The Boston Strong Boy was, John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey is a tribute to the romantic art of pugilistic honor. It is said that Sullivan would sneak away from his guards when at training camp to cavort and indulge at the local New York bars near his gym.

I am sure that if this spirit were around then, he would be more than amenable to going a few rounds with it on those indulgent occasions, and still come back punching.

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John Dover

As the creator and writer of “Johnny Scotch”, John Dover has built his Jazz Noir world from the music he is immersed in on a daily basis and from his travels across the US as a professional musician. John continues to build the “Johnny Scotch” library through short stories, and...