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 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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Review: Bushmills Single Malt Cognac Cask 28 Years Old

By Christopher Null | October 15, 2020 |

Ready for something fun and unexpected? Bushmills Irish Whiskey has just launched Bushmills 28 Year Old Single Malt Cognac Cask Whiskey, the debut release in Bushmills’ new annual series, “The Rare Casks.” Matured in bourbon and Oloroso sherry barrels for 11 years, the single malt is then finished in Cognac casks for 17 years. All…

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Review: Midleton Very Rare 2019

By Drew Beard | September 23, 2020 |

While Midleton flexes its experimental muscle with limited editions like Dair Ghaelach, their most well-known and widely available limited release is the bluntly named Very Rare. Midleton has been releasing Very Rare annually since 1984, but somehow, we’ve never gotten around to reviewing it. Before we finally cross this one off our list, here’s a…

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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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