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: The Whistler Double Oaked, Honey Whiskey, and Irish Cream

By Christopher Null | August 10, 2020 |

The new Whistler Irish Whiskey brand comes to us from family-owned Boann Distillery, which can be found in the Ireland’s Boyne Valley. “At Boann, we pride ourselves in being one of the most innovative whiskey distilleries in Ireland, and in late 2019 our new state-of-the-art facilities and custom copper pot stills produced the first spirit…

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Review: Kilbeggan Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | June 14, 2020 |

Venerable Kilbeggan turns its attention to single pot still whiskey with this a limited edition release that follows the classic recipe of blending malted and unmalted barley — plus 2.5% oats — in the mash before distilling in a pot still. Why oats? Per the company, “In the late 1800s, oats were grown across the…

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Review: West Cork Small Batch Irish Whiskey 8 Years Old

By Christopher Null | June 13, 2020 |

We’ve reviewed quite a few Irish whiskey bottlings from West Cork Distillers, but this 8 year old single malt may be its best release yet. Some deets: The 8-Year Single Malt is a non-chill filtered whiskey distilled in hand-built copper pot stills from 100% local-grown Irish Barley and spring water sourced within 5km of the…

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Review: Jameson Cold Brew

By Christopher Null | June 10, 2020 |

Jameson’s latest bottling isn’t yet another standard spin on Irish, it’s a combination of whiskey with cold brew coffee flavor added. Makes sense, after all. The most iconic coffee + whiskey cocktail is, of course, Irish coffee. There’s not a lot of backstory here, but Jameson reps say that customers have been asking for this…

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Review: McConnell’s Irish Whisky

By Christopher Null | May 29, 2020 |

Conecuh Brands — best known for the Clyde May’s whiskey portfolio — is stretching its arms overseas to bring its first Irish whiskey to the U.S. Heralded as “one of the greatest global brands of all time,” McConnell’s Irish Whisky — spelled with no “e” as it was originally — was first established in Belfast,…

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Review: Midleton Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest Tree 1

By Christopher Null | May 28, 2020 |

Midleton continues its rare releases focusing on aging in barrels made from a single tree. The third release is still a single pot still whiskey that was initially aged in bourbon casks for 13 to 26 years, then finished for 2 additional years in barrels made from virgin oak sourced from Ireland’s Knockrath Forest in…

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Review: Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | May 23, 2020 |

Single pot still — whiskey made from a blend of malted barley and unmalted barley — is arguably the most iconic style of Irish whiskey. Redbreast and the “Spot” whiskeys are great examples of the style in use today. But a funny thing happened for most of Ireland some years back: Single pot still fell…

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Review: Redbreast Dream Cask 2020 – Ruby Port Edition 28 Years Old

By Christopher Null | May 22, 2020 |

The third edition of Redbreast’s Dream Cask release is here. These are very limited, one-off expressions that can be almost experimental in nature. Dream Cask 2018 was a monster 32 year old single cask release — the sample I had was quite delicious, though I didn’t formally review it at the time. Dream Cask 2019…

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Review: Glendalough Irish Whiskey – Pot Still, 17 Years Old, and 25 Years Old

By Christopher Null | May 13, 2020 |

When I stumbled upon Glendalough’s well-aged Irish whiskeys at a recent WhiskyFest, I knew that the baby sips doled out at these festivals weren’t going to do it. I named the distillery’s wholly unique 17 year old my favorite whiskey of the night, and finally we received a follow-up sample of it and the equally…

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Review: The Fighting 69th Irish Whiskey

By Drew Beard | May 9, 2020 |

A new Irish whiskey, The Fighting 69th, landed on our shores late in 2019, but the inspiration for this bottle reaches way back in American history. After immigrating from Ireland to New York in the mid-1800s, the men that eventually formed the city’s “69th” had a long history of heroism. Robert E. Lee christened the…

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