Whiskey is one is Ireland’s most popular exports and has deep links to the country’s’ culture, being at one time the most popular alcohol in the world.
The word whiskey comes directly from the Gaelic “Uisce Beatha” literally translating to water of life and perhaps as a nod to this, Irish whiskeys are featured heavily throughout the country’s history.
It has sixteen distilleries located in remote parts of the country who employ a large number in their surrounding communities.
Possibly quite unsurprisingly, Irish whiskeys production methods and bottling techniques have largely remained unchanged since they were first made in the early seventeenth century.
Whiskey and its Methodology
Irish whiskey defines itself in different terms than whiskeys from other countries.
Apart from the different spelling, which is the easiest way to tell an Irish whiskey by looking at the bottle, Irish whiskey whilst still uses a similar methodology as Scottish distilleries do in creating the mash bill – using different measures of cereal wheat and rye – and then treading it out to ferment on the distillery floor.
The difference lies firstly in the type of wood used to store the whiskey during its production, on the distillery floors, and in the Irish oak barrels used for ageing.
The second is that unlike Scottish whisky, Irish mash bill rarely contains peat, creating a much smoother and lighter finish both in its colour and taste.
The majority of Irish whiskey is also triple distilled which means that the end results – after ageing – continue in affecting the colour and creating a more complexly layered finish in its flavour.
Variants of Irish Whiskey
The main varietals of Irish whiskey are pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, grain Irish whiskey and blended.
The difference between the four varietals are subtle, however, they are a great way to suss out which style of Irish whiskey might end up being your favourite.
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Pot still or pure pot still whiskey is the only type of this spirit that is exclusively made in Ireland.
The whiskey is made by using a combination of both malted and unmalted barley which makes up the mash bill.
Pot still whiskey is identified by its very spicy flavour, and will create a distinct warmth in the chest when served neat, as is traditional with all Irish whiskeys.
For a great first still pot whiskey, try the Redbreast 12-Year-Old, as it’s spicy taste and smooth finish is a classic pot still whiskey.
Malt whiskey, more commonly known as single malt is the most popular and widely exported whiskey to come out of the Emerald Isle.
By simply malting the ingredients used in the mash bill (and in the case of a single malt, only one cereal being used to begin with, malt whiskey tastes malty, wheat and oaked, with a subtle spice to finish.
A good single malt will then be aged for upwards of ten years, so try the West Cork Single Malt Whiskey 10 Year Old as this is a great example of a solid malt whiskey, and it’s recipe have not changed since its inception.
Grained whiskey, unlike malt or pot still can refer to few different types, namely any whiskey, which uses a cereal or alternative in its mash bill, excluding malted barley.
Grain whiskey when using a dark rye will taste distinctly nutty, and pour out like dark amber, whereas a corn or maize-based mash bill tastes far sweeter, smoother and can be compared quite nicely alongside a good US bourbon.
Since the nineteenth century and whiskeys drop in popularity, using blending methods have allowed makers to play around with flavours, which has proven popular when exported to different countries.
Blended whiskeys are still high in their quality, and compare well with whiskies from Asia and the US, and they are both lighter with a smooth, and very drinkable.
Although more steadfast whiskey drinkers will refuse a blended whiskey, they are still a great choice amongst those who prefer a lighter, sweeter liquor.
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂