Irish Whiskey 101
Scottish distillers might never accept it, but there’s sound evidence building behind the fact that the distilled grain spirits known as whiskey have their origins in Ireland. The term ‘whiskey’ comes from the Gaelic ‘uisce beatha,’ meaning the water of life.
Distillation stills, invented by the ancient Arab cultures, arrived in Ireland somewhere in the early 15th century at the Catholic monks' hands. While pot stills are regarded as the most acceptable source for fine brown spirits, in Ireland, the column still perfected by the Irish Aeneas Coffey in 1830, became the norm.
By the early 19th century, there were 88 licensed distilleries in Ireland, but by the turn of the century, revolution, Prohibition, and the World Wars took a toll on the industry. By the mid-1900s, only five distilleries survived: Jameson John Powers & Sons, Paddy Irish Whiskey, Tullamore DEW and Bushmills.
The new millennium marked the Irish whiskey renaissance, and today there are 32 distilleries on the island crafting smooth malts at all price points.
All Irish whiskey must be aged for at least three years, and 90% of it is labeled as Blended Irish Whiskey. It’s always made with 100% malted barley, and it’s commonly distilled in column stills.
Irish whiskey is mild and fruity, it lacks the signature smokiness familiar in Scotch, and it offers a malty, coating texture reminiscent of cereal grains and caramel.Incredibly versatile and easy to enjoy, Irish whisky has a place in every bar. Its malt purity has no competition.