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

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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Review: Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey (2009)

By Christopher Null | August 1, 2009 |

Now appearing with a new (and really, only modestly different) label design (pictured above), today we turn our attentions to Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey, a surprisingly big brand in the Irish business that is a standard in Ireland but less commonly known stateside. Very traditional, this light-bodied whiskey (the recipe inside is the same…

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Review: Michael Collins Single Malt Irish Whiskey (2009)

By Christopher Null | April 4, 2009 |

We’ve looked at Michael Collins’ blended Irish before, and now we turn our attention to the distillery’s single malt, presumably a higher class of spirit and one which is winning lots of awards these days in spirits competitions. On first blush, I found Collins’ single malt hotter than expected, with a distinct alcohol kick at…

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Review: Jameson Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | March 15, 2009 |

Come Tuesday, many of you will be picking up a bottle of Irish whiskey to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and for most of you, it’ll be either Bushmills or Jameson. Can’t blame you, both are solid Irish brands and you can often find them for about $16, especially this time of year. Some more detailed…

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Recipes: Irish Whiskey and… Eggs?

By Christopher Null | March 12, 2009 |

Our pals at Bushmills did an interesting experiment, challenging several San Francisco-area bartenders to come up “a twist on the traditional Irish meal of whiskey and eggs, but in cocktail form.” Here’s what they came up with. An Bodhran (The Drum) Jonny Raglin, Absinthe 1 1/4 oz. Bushmills Irish Whiskey 1/2 oz. Port 1 barspoon…

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Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey (2009)

By Christopher Null | March 11, 2009 |

St. Patrick’s Day approaches… here’s more Irish whiskey reviews. Kilbeggan is an awfully simple blended Irish whiskey, its claim to fame being that it comes from the “oldest licensed distillery in the world.” It isn’t hard to drink, offering light sweetness and moderate wood character locked into a pale yellow spirit. There’s a touch of…

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