Irish Whiskey

Whiskey traces its very origins to Ireland in the 1600s, and for centuries, Irish whiskey was the most popular spirit in the world. Only in the 20th century did Scotch finally surpass it, at which point Irish fell into decline. Irish whiskey differs from its Scottish cousin in several ways. To begin, the Irish spell “whiskey” with an “e.” More importantly, Irish whiskey is rarely made entirely from malted barley. Dating back to their efforts to dodge the British Malt tax of 1785, the Irish coupled raw, unmalted barley with malted barley to make their mash. This resulted in the development vanilla notes that remain more pronounced in most Irish whiskeys. Today, there are several notable single malt Irish whiskeys, but they remain the exceptions. As well, Irish whiskey is typically triple distilled whereas most Scotch is distilled only twice. To be labeled Irish whiskey, the distillate must be aged in wood casks for at least three years. Varieties of Irish whiskey include “single pot still” (which provides the most distinctively “Irish” spirit), “single malt,” “single grain,” and “blended.” Single pot still whiskeys, such as Redbreast and Green Spot, are made at a single distillery using a copper pot still and a blended mashbill that includes malted and unmalted barley as noted above. After years of decline, the popularity of Irish whiskey has exploded in recent years, and whereas there were only three distilleries in operation 20 years ago (Bushmills, Cooley, and Midleton), there are at least 18 today, all creating distinctive whiskeys that build upon and also challenge Ireland’s long whiskey-making tradition.

Top Irish Whiskey Posts:

On Toasts and Irish Whiskey for St. Patrick’s Day
A Visit to Dublin’s Teeling Whiskey
Tasting Report: Jameson Rare and Reserve Irish Whiskeys

Review: Puncher’s Chance The Unified Belt

By Christopher Null | February 8, 2024 |

This is our fifth round with a Puncher’s Chance whiskey release, and this time out we’re getting something different from the brand’s creators at Wolf Spirit: The Unified Belt is a blend of three whiskeys — two bourbons and an Irish whiskey. This is the first transcontinental blend from the brand, though Irish-American combos are increasingly…

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Ireland and Iberia: Kindred Spirits – An Interview with Irish Distillers’ Billy Leighton

By Drew Beard | January 29, 2024 |

Quick geography lesson for those who slept through it in school. The Iberian Peninsula is a region of southwestern Europe that includes most of Spain and Portugal, a tiny bit of southern France, and Gibraltar. Like Scotch, Irish whiskey has a long tradition of aging in ex-sherry casks that hail from this part of the…

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The Top 10 Whiskeys of 2023

By Christopher Null | December 24, 2023 |

It was another tough year for the whisky nerds among us – which is, well, all of us – as we tried to pare down the hundreds of options we reviewed throughout 2023 and come up with a list of the ten that excited us the most. Yes, we heard your cries from last year:…

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Review: Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey Pineau des Charentes Finish 33 Years Old

By Christopher Null | December 14, 2023 |

Pineau des Charentes — grape juice tempered with young brandy, basically — has been on the rise both as a stand-alone aperitif and as an ingredient in spirit finishing. Next up to make use of these unique barrels is Ireland’s Teeling, which has put its latest ultra-limited release, which starts with a single cast of…

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Review: Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Cask Strength 12 Years Old (2023)

By Drew Beard | December 1, 2023 |

The Irish still seem to be warming up to the idea of cask strength whiskey. While the numbers are certainly growing, the pickings are comparatively slim when you look to the east where the Scots have embraced high octane expressions for decades. Of course, not nearly with the same enthusiasm and zeal as we rocket…

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Review: Clonakilty Irish Whiskey Finished in Garrison Brothers Casks

By Christopher Null | November 3, 2023 |

Take the softest style of whiskey in the world and meld it with one of the most rugged and what do you get? Clonakilty‘s bold experiment, taking a 7 year old Irish single malt and finishing it in Garrison Brothers Balmorhea whiskey barrels, attempts to answer that question. And while there are moments of greatness…

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Review: Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Tawny Port Cask Edition

By Christopher Null | October 21, 2023 |

Like a lot of Irish whiskeymakers, Redbreast is cranking up the innovation engine of late, with new releases largely revolving around finishes of its classic single pot still whiskey. This round, installment #3 in the Iberian series, it’s time for Tawny Port, with non-age-statement Redbreast seeing its first round of aging in bourbon and sherry…

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Review: The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey 12 Years Old and 17 Years Old

By Drew Beard | August 19, 2023 |

The Irishman brand underwent some tweaking in 2022 with sexy new packaging and a few edits to the core lineup. What once was the entry-level Founder’s Reserve Blend is now dubbed The Harvest and a new rum-finished expression has joined Single Malt and Vintage Cask in the non-age stated portion of the portfolio. All that…

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Review: The Irishman Cask Strength 2023

By Drew Beard | August 1, 2023 |

Earlier this summer, we covered Writers’ Tears Cask Strength, a limited edition offering from Walsh Whiskey. Now we’re back with another cask strength limited release from Walsh Whiskey’s other moniker, The Irishman. The brand first launched this whiskey way back in 2008, and at the time, it was the first release of a triple-distilled Irish…

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Review: Writers’ Tears Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey 2023 – PX and Marsala

By Christopher Null | July 30, 2023 |

Writers’ Tears has long stood as one of the best and most accessible Irish whiskeys on the market. However, after 20 expressions, it’s never put out a 100% single pot still release; the standard expression is 60% single pot still and 40% single malt. This year that all changes with release #21, as Writers’ Tears…

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