For us Scots it is difficult to write about Irish whiskey without prejudice however we will try our best for our Irish cousins. Firstly, we should deal with the myths surrounding Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky.
- It is not known for certain why the Irish and Irish Americans spelt whiskey with an ‘e’ but it is thought to have changed from whisky to whiskey in the 19th century due to a high volume of poor quality scotch whisky entering the market place. Adding the ‘e’ was to distinguish between them two.
- It is generally accepted that the Irish were distilling whiskey before the Scots and Irish monks took the skill of whiskey distillation to Scotland in around the 12th century (they must rue the day).
- Irish whiskey is not always triple distilled. Some Scottish whisky is triple distilled (mainly lowland whisky).
- It is not true that Irish whiskey is always un-peated.
- All Irish Whiskey is produced at just 4 whiskey distilleries, Bushmills, Midleton, Cooley and Kilbeggan (the oldest licensed in the world). Bushmills is in Northern Ireland where almost all triple distilled whiskies come from the rest are in the south.
- The ‘Coffey’ still was invented by an Irishman Aeneas Coffey. This still is used today for the production of whiskey, rum, gin, bourbon and rum.
There are four main types of Irish whiskey:
Irish Single Malt Whiskey
Irish single malt whiskey is yet to reach the prominence of Scottish single malt however single malts are produced at Cooley distillery and Bushmills, the former’s best-selling are Tyrconnell and Connemara (peated) however Cooley are producing various limited edition single malt whiskies. Bushmills have a 10 year old and 21 year old single malt whiskies which are widely available. Apart from its own brand name Irish Single Malt Bushmills also produces Clontarf, The Irishman, and Knappogue single malt whiskey.
Irish single malt whiskey is generally produced using Pot Stills with 100% malted barley.
Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey
This is the mark of true Irish whiskey Pure Pot Still and is exclusively Irish. This system uses a mixture of malted barley and unmalted barley. The most famous example of Pot Still whisky is Jamesons which is a blend of triple distilled Pure Pot Still and triple distilled grain whisky. However if you are looking for the real McCoy then Redbreast is most well-known of the Pure Pot Still whiskies however there are others available. Most Pot Still whisky comes from Midleton distillery the home of Jamesons.
Blended Irish Whiskey
As in Scotland it is blended whiskey which provides over 90% of revenue and this requires the Irish distilleries to work together as they do in Scotland. Brands such as Bushmills, Jamesons, and Tullamore Dew are true global brands and the cornerstone of the Irish whiskey industry. Often Scottish Blended whiskey has as many 40 single malt whiskies making a blend however with over a 100 operating distilleries this process is slightly easier. Bushmills for example only produces single malt whiskey and relies on a supply of grain whiskey from Midleton distillery. Midleton is Ireland’s largest distillery producing 19 million litres of spirit each year and also produces the vast majority of Ireland’s grain whiskey.
Irish Grain Whiskey
Both Midleton and Cooley distilleries produce Irish grain whiskey the vast majority used in Jamesons whiskey and there is currently only one single grain whiskey available, Greenore.
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