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: Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Years Old

By Christopher Null | March 16, 2013 |

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all! If you’re drinking Irish today (and you probably are), consider upgrading your dram with something a little more sophisticated. Bushmills 16 Year Old is a single malt (rare enough for Irish) that is matured in ex-Bourbon barrels or Oloroso sherry barrels — a portion of the production in…

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Review: Knappogue Castle 14 Years Old (2013)

By Christopher Null | March 9, 2013 |

Knappogue Castle is one of the blue chips of the Irish whiskey world, producing well-aged spirits and a variety of rarities, including the ongoing “Twin Wood” series of limited edition whiskeys. Twin Wood is Knappogue’s terminology for Irish that’s been matured in Bourbon casks and finished in Oloroso sherry barrels. The 14 years are spent…

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Review: 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | February 13, 2013 |

Reader Alex Trembley turned me on to 2 Gingers in the middle of 2012, and finally we’ve been able to track down a bottle of this Irish Whiskey to review. Why the trouble? It’s only sold in Minnesota… at least for now. The name 2 Gingers connotes spicy, ginger beer-laced drinks, but the moniker has…

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Recipe: Irish Whiskey Coffee — Tullamore D.E.W. Variation

By Rob Theakston | January 25, 2013 |

In our never ending quest to document and celebrate all of the spirits-based holidays on the calendar, today is Irish Coffee Day. Most of you are already at your desks settled in for this morning’s business with a non-Irish cup, but here’s a recipe to consider for later tonight, courtesy of Tullamore D.E.W.: Tullamore D.E.W.…

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Tullamore Dew Gets a Makeover as Tullamore D.E.W.

By Christopher Null | September 10, 2012 |

The classic (and inexpensive) Irish whiskey brand Tullamore Dew is getting a full rebranding, with a new bottle design and a new name: Tullamore D.E.W., initialized after its founder Daniel E. Williams. While the press release below curiously plays down the tweaked product name, it does speak to some other big things afoot at “The…

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Review: Mickey Finn Irish Apple Whiskey

By Christopher Null | June 8, 2012 |

I’ve never quite understood the idea behind the Mickey Finn name. Yeah, it sounds Irish, but it really means a drink served to someone to knock them out (typically to take advantage of them in some way). Why you’d name your Irish whiskey brand after such a thing, I have no idea. Mickey Finn makes…

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kilbeggan irish whiskey

Review: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey (2012)

By Christopher Null | April 30, 2012 |

Part of the recently-founded (1987) Cooley Distillery mini-empire (which includes Tyrconnell, Connemara, and Greenore), Kilbeggan is perhaps the best known bottling that this Cooley Mountains-based distillery offers. Why? Because the brand dates all the way back to 1757 (making it one of the oldest existing whiskey brands in the world). It changed hands many times…

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Review: Bushmills Irish Honey

By Christopher Null | March 15, 2012 |

Now the Irish are getting into the honey whiskey thing. Bushmills Irish Honey is the first honey-flavored spirit (to my knowledge) from the Emerald Isle, a simple blend of original Bushmills, Irish honey, and Irish water, bottled in the traditionally squared Bushmills-style bottle. The results are solid. As Jack Daniels proved with its Tennessee Honey…

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Review: Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey 12 Years Old Cask Strength

By Christopher Null | March 6, 2012 |

My oh my how the people love Redbreast. It wins awards, has hipster cred, and bartenders love the stuff. It’s the hippest Irish whiskey on earth, and it costs a boatload. Somehow I’ve never really gotten into it. Made by Midleton (which also makes Jameson and other Irish brands), it is distilled three times in a…

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concannon whiskey

Review: Concannon Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | February 10, 2012 |

There are about a half dozen unique things going on with this new Irish whiskey. Let’s enumerate them one by one. 1) It’s being sold and branded not by a distillery and not by an Irish company but by a California winery. It is, however, made in Ireland, in conjunction with Cooley Distillery (a giant…

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