Ireland may be a small island, but it has a big whiskey tradition. In fact, Ireland is the home of whiskey. It’s where whiskey distilling started and where whiskey got its name.
Irish whiskey continues to be the world’s fastest-growing and most exciting spirit. Irish whiskey isn’t a single brand or style. It is many unique characters, but one shared spirit.
We pride ourselves on being able to support the industry and share below some great insights and nuggets of knowledge about our one shared spirit!
Did you Know?
The first written reference to whiskey distillation came in the Red Book of Ossory, written in Ireland in 1324. This was nearly two centuries before the first written records of whisky distillation in Scotland, making Irish Whiskey the oldest whiskey tradition in the world. The Red Book of Ossory is believed to have been mainly written by Richard de Ledrede who served as Bishop of Ossory for 44 years from 1317 to about 1361. During this period, the Black Plague ravaged the historic city of Kilkenny, and it is believed that the bishop developed the distillation of whiskey as part of his medicinal and pastoral response to the crisis. The Red Book of Ossory includes a recipe for Aqua Vitae which is the Latin term for ‘water of life’. In the Irish language this is known as Uisce Beatha (pronounced “ishka ba-ha”) or Fuisce, which became anglicised as whiskey.
The different types of Irish whiskey
Irish whiskey distillers use a wider variety of mashes of malt and grain than other whiskeys do, creating more types of distillate than in any other whiskey culture.
There are four distinct styles of Irish Whiskey:
• Pot Still Whiskey: This is a unique style of whiskey to Ireland, made from a mixed mash of malted and un-malted barley, distilled in copper pot stills.
• Malt Whiskey: This style of whiskey is made from 100% malted barley, distilled in pot stills.
• Grain Whiskey: This style of whiskey is made from a mixed mash containing predominantly maize or wheat, continuously distilled in column stills.
• Blended Irish Whiskey: Any style of whiskey containing 2 or more of the above component whiskeys which have been matured for at least 3 years in wooden casks and bottled at no less than 40% abv.
There are five steps in making Irish whiskey:
The chosen grains are milled into a fine flour known as ‘grist’.
The grist is mixed with water allowing the extraction of the fermentable sugars to create a sugary liquid known as ‘wort’.
Yeast is now added to the Wort, which consumes the fermentable sugars creating CO2 and alcohol. This results in a ‘wash’ (beer) of generally 8-10% abv.
The wash is distilled in a copper pot still or column still where the alcohol is separated from water through a process of vaporisation. This process takes place either two or three times to create our distillate (‘new-make spirit’).
The distillate is generally cut (diluted) to 63-64% ABV before being filled into wooden casks to mature for at least 3 years on the island of Ireland.
Most Irish whiskeys sold globally are blends and the Irish whiskey industry produces some of the world’s most sophisticated and complex blended whiskeys. Because we distil more types of whiskeys, matured in a variety of barrels; the permutations of the types of blends we can produce is endless.
The depth and diversity of the category mean there’s always a new Irish whiskey to taste, and there’s an increasing wealth of premium Irish whiskeys to savour and explore. Irish whiskey is there to be enjoyed.
Enjoy it straight or on-the-rocks, with a mixer or in a cocktail, not to mention Irish Coffee. Add Irish whiskey to the food fare and you have an unrivalled flavour-filled experience.
Discover our complete cocktails here .