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: Mickey Finn Irish Apple Whiskey

By Christopher Null | June 8, 2012 |

I’ve never quite understood the idea behind the Mickey Finn name. Yeah, it sounds Irish, but it really means a drink served to someone to knock them out (typically to take advantage of them in some way). Why you’d name your Irish whiskey brand after such a thing, I have no idea. Mickey Finn makes…

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kilbeggan irish whiskey

Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey (2012)

By Christopher Null | April 30, 2012 |

Part of the recently-founded (1987) Cooley Distillery mini-empire (which includes Tyrconnell, Connemara, and Greenore), Kilbeggan is perhaps the best known bottling that this Cooley Mountains-based distillery offers. Why? Because the brand dates all the way back to 1757 (making it one of the oldest existing whiskey brands in the world). It changed hands many times…

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Review: Bushmills Irish Honey

By Christopher Null | March 15, 2012 |

Now the Irish are getting into the honey whiskey thing. Bushmills Irish Honey is the first honey-flavored spirit (to my knowledge) from the Emerald Isle, a simple blend of original Bushmills, Irish honey, and Irish water, bottled in the traditionally squared Bushmills-style bottle. The results are solid. As Jack Daniels proved with its Tennessee Honey…

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

By Christopher Null | March 6, 2012 |

My oh my how the people love Redbreast. It wins awards, has hipster cred, and bartenders love the stuff. It’s the hippest Irish whiskey on earth, and it costs a boatload. Somehow I’ve never really gotten into it. Made by Midleton (which also makes Jameson and other Irish brands), it is distilled three times in a…

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concannon whiskey

Review: Concannon Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | February 10, 2012 |

There are about a half dozen unique things going on with this new Irish whiskey. Let’s enumerate them one by one. 1) It’s being sold and branded not by a distillery and not by an Irish company but by a California winery. It is, however, made in Ireland, in conjunction with Cooley Distillery (a giant…

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jameson black barrel with box

Review: Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | February 7, 2012 |

Jameson is one of the big darlings of the whiskey world right now — Irish is currently the fastest growing spirits category, and Jameson is at the top of the sales charts. We’ve long loved Jameson’s various incarnations, and now it’s out with a new one. Jameson Black Barrel is mostly pot still malted and…

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michael collins whiskey

Review: Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey and Single Malt 10 Year Old (2011)

By Christopher Null | December 29, 2011 |

Irish whiskey brand Michael Collins has been on a tear this year — taking advantage of the recent upsurge in popularity of Irish whiskey, no doubt — rebranding, repackaging its spirits (the old bottles were monstrosities), and replacing its old Single Malt whiskey with a new, age-statemented, Single Malt 10 Year Old whiskey. We re-sampled…

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Tasting Report: The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza 2011

By Christopher Null | December 4, 2011 |

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza is the smallest of the whisky shows, but that doesn’t mean it has something to prove. With fewer crowds and more thoughtful selections — no white dog here, folks — you can find quality whisky (overwhelmingly Scotch) at every table in the room. This year the Extravaganza seemed…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2011

By Christopher Null | October 28, 2011 |

WhiskyFest remains the whiskey enthusiast’s festival to beat. With hundreds of whiskeys, it is a mad dash for all sorts of great stuff — if only you can find it in the scattered auditorium and muscle your way to the front of the line. Don’t worry, you can do it, and even though the 2011…

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Review: Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey (2011)

By Christopher Null | October 17, 2011 |

Clontarf Classic Blend has been rebranded and upgraded to Clontarf 1014, named now in honor of one of Ireland’s most famous battles (the Battle of Clontarf, as it were) — and released just in time for a 1,000-year anniversary. As for the whiskey, nothing seems to have changed since the old version. My notes —…

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