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

jameson black barrel with box

Review: Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | February 7, 2012 |

Jameson is one of the big darlings of the whiskey world right now — Irish is currently the fastest growing spirits category, and Jameson is at the top of the sales charts. We’ve long loved Jameson’s various incarnations, and now it’s out with a new one. Jameson Black Barrel is mostly pot still malted and…

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michael collins whiskey

Review: Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey and Single Malt 10 Year Old (2011)

By Christopher Null | December 29, 2011 |

Irish whiskey brand Michael Collins has been on a tear this year — taking advantage of the recent upsurge in popularity of Irish whiskey, no doubt — rebranding, repackaging its spirits (the old bottles were monstrosities), and replacing its old Single Malt whiskey with a new, age-statemented, Single Malt 10 Year Old whiskey. We re-sampled…

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Tasting Report: The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza 2011

By Christopher Null | December 4, 2011 |

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza is the smallest of the whisky shows, but that doesn’t mean it has something to prove. With fewer crowds and more thoughtful selections — no white dog here, folks — you can find quality whisky (overwhelmingly Scotch) at every table in the room. This year the Extravaganza seemed…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2011

By Christopher Null | October 28, 2011 |

WhiskyFest remains the whiskey enthusiast’s festival to beat. With hundreds of whiskeys, it is a mad dash for all sorts of great stuff — if only you can find it in the scattered auditorium and muscle your way to the front of the line. Don’t worry, you can do it, and even though the 2011…

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Review: Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey (2011)

By Christopher Null | October 17, 2011 |

Clontarf Classic Blend has been rebranded and upgraded to Clontarf 1014, named now in honor of one of Ireland’s most famous battles (the Battle of Clontarf, as it were) — and released just in time for a 1,000-year anniversary. As for the whiskey, nothing seems to have changed since the old version. My notes —…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2011

By Christopher Null | April 2, 2011 |

The San Francisco Belle was packed but the crowds were manageable at this year’s San Francisco Whiskies of the World event. With much more room to move around than last year’s cramped fest, lots more seating, and plenty of whiskey, guests seemed to be having a great time, myself  included. Who knows what venue will…

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Review: Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey Line (2011) – Original, Reserve 10 Years Old, Special Reserve 12 Years Old, and Single Malt 10 Years Old

By Christopher Null | March 17, 2011 |

“Do the Dew” doesn’t have to mean kicking back a half gallon of fluorescent green goop. It also means enjoying a dram of Tullamore Dew — the nearly ubiquitous Irish whiskey brand. Tullamore Dew actually comes in four expressions, and while most whiskey fans have only had the “original,” we finally got the chance to…

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Review: John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | December 30, 2010 |

After Jameson and Bushmill, most drinkers would be hard-pressed to come up with another Irish whiskey brand. Well, I’m going to tell you to check out John L. Sullivan. This small batch Irish, named after the last bare-knuckled boxing heavyweight world champion, is distinguished by being aged in “single use” Bourbon barrels. Now, most Irish…

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Review: Knappogue Castle 12 Years Old (2010)

By Christopher Null | July 19, 2010 |

Knappogue Castle has long shunned traditional age statements, instead vintage dating its whiskey with a year instead of telling you how long it’s been sitting around. That is changing, as Knappogue is finally moving from vintages to age, in order, as the company says, to better communicate to the customer how old these whiskeys are.…

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Review: Danny Boy Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | June 24, 2010 |

The name is not entirely politically correct (see also here), but Danny Boy is nonetheless Irish Whiskey true and true. Give Danny Boy — distilled by Cooley Distillery — a little time in the glass before you dig in: It’s got some heat that mellows after a few minutes with exposure to air. Your patience…

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