Irish Whisky


 Irish Whisky

An Introduction to Irish Whisky

Celtic or not, Ireland is one of the most important sources of whisky. This country has been producing the drink for centuries, and it continues to flourish today. In recent years, Irish whisky distilleries have begun exporting their wares around the world and raising the profile of what was once a very regional drink.

Irish whiskey is traditionally distilled from malted barley without dilution with any other cereal grain or roasted malt extract made from maize, rye, wheat or oats used as a substitute for a portion of the barley malt bill.
Irish whiskey is distilled three times and aged in wooden casks for a minimum of three years.

The process of distillation and the type of still used vary greatly between the two main categories of Irish whisky, those produced in the province of Ulster and those produced in the rest of Ireland. This can be attributed to historical factors, with each type using a different style of still produced in local potteries.
This is why there are two types:

Today, Irish whiskey is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks around the world; more than 100 million litres are consumed every year. The drink is most popular in North America and Japan, with traditional brands like Jameson and Bushmills taking up the lion's share of the market.

In Ireland, there are three main styles of Irish whiskey that can be tasted:

Traditional Irish Whiskey: This style is produced in the four counties of Donegal, Monaghan, Leitrim and Louth. The preferred distilleries are Lislea & Co, Midleton Distillery and Miltonduff Distillery. These are used to make Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Single Malt Irish Whiskey: This type of whiskey is aged for at least three years in wooden casks. It must be made from 100 percent malted barley. Examples can be found at the Midleton Distillery, the Bushmills Distillery and the Cooley Distillery. Bushmills produces a range of single malt whiskeys.

Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey: This type of whiskey is made from a mixture of malted and un-malted barley and aged in wooden casks for at least three years. Examples can be found at the Old Bushmills Distillery, West Cork Distilleries and Cooley Distillery. Old Bushmills produces a range of single pot still whiskeys.

Although the Scotch Whisky Association has lobbied against it , the European Union has given Ireland permission to apply for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for "Irish Whiskey", and the Competition Authority received an application from Diageo and Francoli in 2008. The process of designation then went to public consultation, with many Irish and Scottish pundits weighing in on whether they support the application. The PDO would not protect the name "whiskey" but only the term "Irish whiskey". Scottish producers of such whisky (which by law must be distilled solely in Scotland) would be able to continue using that name. In the UK, Scotch Whisky is a protected name, as is "whisky" or "Scotch" for any whiskey produced in Scotland, or blended and bottled in Scotland.

The Irish Whiskey Museum is located in the centre of Dublin on the historic site of St James's Gate Brewery. The museum guides visitors through the history of Irish whiskey and gives an overview of current brands and distilleries. The museum which tells the story of Irish Distilling was opened in October 2000 by Michael Colgan, one of Ireland's most distinguished chefs.

The Bushmills Distillery is located on the northern coast of County Antrim. At one time, it was the world's largest whiskey distillery. The company has a visitor centre and shows visitors through an Irish whiskey distillery.

The Jameson Experience is Ireland´s most popular visitor attraction dedicated exclusively to Jameson Irish Whiskey. Located in the heart of Dublin city centre, it gives you an authentic snapshot of what life might have been like for those that worked in the original Jameson Distillery, which operated on the same site from 1780 until 1971. The tour includes a chance to sample some of our award-winning whiskey at various stages during maturation in our exclusive maturation house.

Seán Quinn is worth over $4 billion dollars, and is the richest man in Ireland. He has been a major player in Irish Distilling for the past 20 years and owns the world-renown Cooley Distillery.

In recent years, there have been some very exciting developments regarding Irish whiskey. An American company called County Waterford Distillery was set up in 2008 with plans to launch a range of premium whiskeys into the United States market.
One of the most exciting new brands to come out of this venture has been Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, which is perfectly crafted using only malted barley grain, pure mountain water and triple distilled grain whisky.

In December 2011 Diageo, the world's largest beverage company and owner of a number of Irish whiskey brands, acquired Ireland's largest independent whiskey distillery, Cooley Distillery in Cork.

Currently, the most popular/recognized Irish whiskey is Jameson. But it isn't all that old (1824), nor was it the first to be distilled in Ireland (Midleton was!) The following list details the earliest distilleries in Ireland and those responsible for producing Ireland's first Irish Whisky.

Irish Whiskey is produced in many different styles and in many different counties throughout Ireland. The combination of stills and mashbills results in a wide variety of flavors and differences between brands.

The category is not without its controversy, principally surrounding how the term "whiskey" should be applied to Irish distilled beverages. In Ireland, whiskey is simply called "a whiskey", but in the United States it can only be labelled as Irish whiskey if it has been distilled and aged for a period in excess of three years in Northern Ireland, according to US law. Irish producers have lobbied for the term "Irish whiskey" to apply to all whiskeys distilled on the island of Ireland, regardless of where they are matured or bottled.

As with Scotch, many different types of stills are used to produce Irish whiskey.


To conclude, the Irish are mad keen on whiskey. Not only is it a beautifully complex and sophisticated drink which can be enjoyed in many ways and many occasions – but it’s also a big part of Ireland's societal history. Some of the most famous men in Ireland’s history have been involved with the distilling process over the years – including Arthur Guinness, who produces one of the most desirable brews in the world today.

The very concept of Irish Whiskey represents a struggle of independence – an independence from England, who hold a monopoly over Scotch Whiskey. In this new world where everything is for sale and people are increasingly becoming commercially driven, whiskey has proved to be an exception to that rule.

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