I’ve noticed in the past 24 hours an influx of visitors to Braised Blue from Ireland. I had been holding back this article because I wanted to wait for St. Patrick’s day to release an article about Irish Whiskey as a response to the need people have to drink crappy green beer and break into the “incase of St. Patrick’s day” box that resides under their beds*. But because I fear a potato with a note tied to it being thrown through my window tonight saying, “Wattabout Our Whis-key fucka”, I decided to do this today and save myself the clean up job.
The first legal distillery in the United Kingdom was not a Scotch Whisky distillery it was actually in Ireland. In 1608 Bushmills distillery opened and for the first time, legally, continued a tradition of distilling that began with Irish monks as early as 500-600 AD. These monks travelled Europe and learned much more than just their faith, they learned to distill. Now back in this time distillation wasn’t really for drinking purposes, alcohol is to this day a big part of perfume. And because the middle ages were also a time in history where bathing was frowned upon. Perfumery was a valuable business for the monks to learn. But sometimes you just need to drink some perfume and somehow these monks figured out their distilled grain matter was also a great medicinal cure for not being able to touch women.** So Uisce Beatha was born, translated to “water of life” this grain spirit was probably quite potent but also not so good for you, but a small amount of it could do what a gallon of beer could do.
Now there are some fundamental difference between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whisky beyond the addition of an E in the Irish spelling. First is an obvious one, Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged in Ireland. Second is the aging time for Irish Whiskey is 3 years as compared to the Scottish standard of four years, and though it’s not a law, traditionally Irish Whiskey is distilled three times vs. the scottish tradition of two times distillation.*** Generally the flavour of Irish Whiskey is lighter and the nose is a bit more fruit driven. With the exception of Connemara, Irish Whiskies are unpeated and the kilning process is done with coal or natural gas.
There are three major distilleries in Ireland. The Bushmills Distillery, The Cooley Distillery and The New Midleton Distillery. The Bushmills Distillery clearly produces Bushmills Irish Whiskey. The Cooley Distillery produces such wonderful brands as Kilbeggan, Tyrconnell, and Connemara. And finally Jameson the biggest brand of Irish Whiskey in the world is produced at the New Midleton Distillery along with Tullimore Dew, Powers, Paddy’s, Red Breast and Green Spot. Sadly there are almost no independent distillers of Irish Whiskey that can be found in Canada.
Irish Whisky also comes in a few different classifications:
Blended Irish Whisky: Is produced in a continuous still and can be blends from all different distilleries on Ireland. Generally it only spends the minimum three years in oak and gets a healthy dose of spirit caramel. ex Jameson’s, Bushmills, Black Bush, Paddy’s Tullimore Dew
Single Pot Stilled: These are batch distilled in a pot still and generally see between 8-15 years of age. ex Jameson’s 15 Pot Still, Redbreast, Green Spot
Single Malt Irish Whiskey: Made from 100% Barley Malt and comes from one distillery. Just like scottish Single Malt: Bushmills 10,12,16, Connemara, Tyrconnell
Single Grain Irish Whiskey: Made from a single strain of wheat. Greenore 8,10,12,18
In all Ireland has a great distilling tradition and some really beautiful whiskies which in many cases are more approachable than Scotch Whisky. Jameson’s 12 was my entry point into Scotch, and I love the simple, but subtle flavours that Irish Whisky provides. If you want to get into Scotch but the powerful spirits have deterred you maybe trying Irish Whiskey will give you a kickstart.
*This box contains:
1 Deep Blue Sea CD that makes you proclaim “look I am kind if irishish.”
1 “Kiss me I’m Irish” t-shirt you got at Old Navy in 2nd year university.
1 Stupid hat, obnoxious visor, pair of green goggles, or Moosehead foam antlers
1 Blinking LED light that clips to your shirt or hangs around your neck in shot-glass form.
***There are exceptions to these traditions which I have laid out in other articles so settle down whiskey nerds.