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

Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2011

By Christopher Null | April 2, 2011 |

The San Francisco Belle was packed but the crowds were manageable at this year’s San Francisco Whiskies of the World event. With much more room to move around than last year’s cramped fest, lots more seating, and plenty of whiskey, guests seemed to be having a great time, myself  included. Who knows what venue will…

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Review: Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey Line (2011) – Original, Reserve 10 Years Old, Special Reserve 12 Years Old, and Single Malt 10 Years Old

By Christopher Null | March 17, 2011 |

“Do the Dew” doesn’t have to mean kicking back a half gallon of fluorescent green goop. It also means enjoying a dram of Tullamore Dew — the nearly ubiquitous Irish whiskey brand. Tullamore Dew actually comes in four expressions, and while most whiskey fans have only had the “original,” we finally got the chance to…

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Review: John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | December 30, 2010 |

After Jameson and Bushmill, most drinkers would be hard-pressed to come up with another Irish whiskey brand. Well, I’m going to tell you to check out John L. Sullivan. This small batch Irish, named after the last bare-knuckled boxing heavyweight world champion, is distinguished by being aged in “single use” Bourbon barrels. Now, most Irish…

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Review: Knappogue Castle 12 Years Old (2010)

By Christopher Null | July 19, 2010 |

Knappogue Castle has long shunned traditional age statements, instead vintage dating its whiskey with a year instead of telling you how long it’s been sitting around. That is changing, as Knappogue is finally moving from vintages to age, in order, as the company says, to better communicate to the customer how old these whiskeys are.…

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Review: Danny Boy Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | June 24, 2010 |

The name is not entirely politically correct (see also here), but Danny Boy is nonetheless Irish Whiskey true and true. Give Danny Boy — distilled by Cooley Distillery — a little time in the glass before you dig in: It’s got some heat that mellows after a few minutes with exposure to air. Your patience…

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Recipe: The Corned Beef Collins

By Christopher Null | March 2, 2010 |

St. Patrick’s Day is always good for dozens of recipe submissions from companies hopeful to have their (invariably green) cocktails featured here. None have come anywhere close to the audacity of Richard Blais’s concoction, which is reprinted here for your shock and awe. Cabbage water, people. Cabbage water. Corned Beef Collins 1 ½ oz. Michael…

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Review: Knappogue Castle 1994 Master Distiller’s Private Selection

By Christopher Null | February 11, 2010 |

We were lucky enough to land one of just 1,100 bottles of Knappogue Castle’s 1994 Master Distiller’s Private Selection Irish whiskey, a single malt Irish — hand numbered and signed by the son of the distillery’s founder, Mark Andrews III. Aged 14 years, it’s hard to imagine this whiskey spent that much time in cask.…

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Review: Slane Castle Irish Whiskey (2010)

By Christopher Null | January 22, 2010 |

It’s not just a drawing on the label of this whiskey. There really is a Slane Castle. It’s even in Ireland, thank the stars. Slane Castle Irish Whiskey is a new whiskey on our shores, and it’s now becoming available on the eastern seaboard. Created by the good folks at Cooley Distillery, it’s a young…

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Review: The Wild Geese Irish Soldiers & Heroes Irish Whiskeys

By Christopher Null | October 31, 2009 |

The Wild Geese Irish Soldiers & Heroes — in a million years I wouldn’t have come up with a name for a line of whiskey like this one. This collection of four new Irish whiskeys (named after soldiers forced out of Ireland during hard times) all share a common DNA, but offer some subtle differences…

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Review: Irish Mist Liqueur

By Christopher Null | October 13, 2009 |

By my count the sixth whiskey+honey combo liqueur we’ve discussed on this website, Irish Mist is as old as the hills… but updated and rebranded for the ’10s. The new bottle isn’t going to wow anyone with its uniqueness (hey, flared base!), but what’s inside may do the trick for you. Of all the honey-flavored…

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