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: Egan’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey Legacy Reserve Volume III 17 Years Old

By Christopher Null | March 14, 2021 |

Egan’s Irish Whiskey Legacy Reserve line is now an annual incarnation, and in year three it’s gained yet another year of age statement, bringing it up to 17 years old from its original 15. After 17 years in bourbon oak, this year’s finishing is done in French Cadillac AOC casks, which are used to age…

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Review: Red Spot Irish Whiskey 15 Years Old

By Drew Beard | February 28, 2021 |

The famed “Spot” Irish whiskeys have been slowly resurfacing on American shelves over the last decade, starting with Green Spot in 2014, Yellow Spot in 2015, and then a handful of Green Spot special releases (see here and here). In 2018, the much-anticipated Red Spot finally graced our shores. At 15 years old, it’s the…

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Review: The Busker Irish Whiskeys, Complete Lineup

By Christopher Null | January 21, 2021 |

The Busker isn’t just a guy that plays guitar on the street. It’s now a new brand of Irish whiskey, actually part of the Disaronno company. The Busker has at least one unusual element in its arsenal: It’s hitting the market with four variants, all built around styles of production: Single Grain, Single Malt, Single…

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Review: The Whistler Oloroso Sherry Cask, Imperial Stout Cask, and Calvados Cask

By Christopher Null | January 17, 2021 |

Boann Distillery’s Whistler Irish Whiskey brand is back with three new expressions, all built around particular wood finishes — some expected, some unusual. “The Imperial Stout and Calvados Cask Finishes are annual releases that will be produced in February of each year with limited availability. Currently 3,000 bottles for each of the Imperial Stout and…

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Review: West Cork IPA Cask Matured Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | January 7, 2021 |

Irish whiskey matured in an IPA barrel has been done before, a couple of years ago in Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition. Now West Cork is picking up the idea with its own whiskey finished in IPA casks. (Note that the label calls it “IPA Cask Matured,” but this whiskey does spend its first four years…

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Review: Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | December 27, 2020 |

Drumshanbo is increasingly well-known for its delightful Gunpowder Irish Gin, and now the brand is moving into a spirit more associated with Ireland: Single pot still whiskey. This spirit is very traditionally made with unmalted and malted barley and Irish oats in the mash, triple copper pot distilled, and aged in a combination of Kentucky…

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Review: Waterford Distillery Organic Gaia Edition 1.1

By Drew Beard | December 19, 2020 |

We recently reviewed a handful of Waterford’s Single Farm Origin releases, which showcased the distillery’s obsession with terroir. With all of the fuss about soil and farms, it’s probably not surprising that Waterford is working diligently with its partner growers towards organic barley production. In total, there are some 86 different farms across Ireland that…

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Review: Waterford Distillery Single Farm Origin Single Malts: Rathclogh 1.1, Dunmore 1.1, and Dunbell 1.1

By Drew Beard | December 9, 2020 |

Ireland’s Waterford Distillery is the next act for former Scotch whisky pioneer Mark Reynier, who famously resurrected Bruichladdich in the early 2000s (and sold it in 2012). The distillery is located on the site of a former Guinness brewery in the city of Waterford, which sits not far from Ireland’s southeast coast. Since 2015, they’ve…

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Review: Grace O’Malley Blended Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | December 4, 2020 |

Grace O’Malley, formally Grainne Ní Mháille, was born in 1530 and became known as the “pirate queen of Ireland,” though that seems to be more in the sense of leading maritime vessels against the English navy, not the whole raping and pillaging side of things. Now Grace lends her name to a new Irish whiskey…

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Drinkhacker’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

By Christopher Null | November 26, 2020 |

At this point it feels safe to say that the 2020 holiday season will be unlike any other in our lifetimes. And while in-person gatherings may not be possible, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop exchanging gifts. In fact, in the world of booze, it’s easier than ever to ship a bottle of…

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