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: Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey (2009)

By Christopher Null | March 6, 2009 |

No one reaches first for Tullamore Dew when they think of Irish whiskey, but looking at the spirit was fresh eyes, nostrils, and taste buds, it’s really not half bad. That said, the “Standard Blend” is nothing special. The flavor profile of the Dew is mildly sweet and malt-like, touched with lemon and with a…

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Recipe: Shamrocked

By Christopher Null | March 6, 2009 |

St. Patrick’s Day is just a week and change away. That means spirits merchants inundate us with holiday-appropriate recipes — I’ve been surprised by the number of tequila-based cocktail ideas this year — but this was the one I was most anxious to try, courtesy of the folks at Tullamore Dew. (Irish whiskey, of course,…

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Review: Clontarf Classic Blend Irish Whiskey (2009)

By Christopher Null | January 17, 2009 |

Named after a famous battle in Ireland (the one in which King Boru, another bit of history that’s become a liquor brand, died), Clontarf produces two Irish whiskeys, a blend and a single malt. Here’s the blend, which is a perfectly acceptable Irish, a light honey and butterscotch spirit that goes down with minimal fuss.…

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Review: Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey (2008)

By Christopher Null | December 12, 2008 |

Michael Collins, epic hero of modern Ireland, naturally deserves a whiskey bottled in his honor. Here’s a look at Michael Collins “A Blend” (there’s also a Single Malt version available). To consider the rich amber color of the whiskey you’d think you’re in for something hefty (check the photo below — the bottle itself is…

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Review: Knappogue Castle 1993

By Christopher Null | December 1, 2008 |

Amazing aromas of fresh banana and bubble gum punctuate this vintage single malt Irish whiskey (a rarity from Ireland), its malt playing against the fruit like you’d get in a malted milk ice cream sundae. Chocolate is surprisingly strong as well, coming up to tease you after the initial spicy fruit notes fade away. And…

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Review: Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | November 11, 2008 |

Connemara wears that “peated” slug right on its sleeve. If the name of the spirit didn’t tip you off, this is a rarity for Irish whiskeys, which are traditionally not peated at all. The smoky peat in this 80-proof whiskey (which carries no age-statement) is immediately at the forefront on the nose and the palate.…

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The Best Whiskey for Irish Coffee

By Christopher Null | November 1, 2008 |

Alex writes: What’s the best whiskey for Irish Coffee? Good question. I sampled all the Irish I had on hand in coffee and it was a tossup between the standard bottlings of Bushmills and Jameson. The only Irish that didn’t work well was Black Bush, which just didn’t play right with the bitterness of the…

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World’s Largest Irish Coffee To Be Mixed on November 10

By Christopher Null | October 27, 2008 |

The world’s largest Irish coffee is set to be a mere 15 gallons in size when San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe goes for a Guinness World Record on November 10, 2008. That’s big, to be sure, but that sounds like a record that’ll be pretty easy to break. Heck, with a big enough mug I…

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Review: Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey

By Christopher Null | March 15, 2008 |

As promised, St. Patty’s got started a bit early here at Drinkhacker HQ, and here’s your review of Bushmills’ Black Bush bottling of its Irish whiskey. Black Bush is, like standard Bushmills, a blend of malt whiskey and (a bit of) Irish single grain whiskey to soften it. The real difference comes in the aging,…

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Review: Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey (2008)

By Christopher Null | March 12, 2008 |

Jameson isn’t the only name in Irish. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, let’s share the love with Bushmills, the other major name in Irish whiskey, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. Bushmills — aka Bushmills Original — has a very typical Irish flavor: The honey of Scotch and but without…

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