What exactly is Irish Whiskey and how is it different from other whiskies?
Irish whiskey (with the E), is a whiskey from Ireland, and the Irish are generally credited with inventing modern whiskey…
Key to the Distillery Map of Ireland:
Defining Irish Whiskey, today:
There are four categories of labeling terms related to the production of Irish Whiskey. These terms have been more clearly defined over the years, and are in line with the EU regulations of protected status you might find with other whiskey, wine and similar products.
Some of the basic production requirements include:
Traditionally the most distinguishing characteristic of Irish Whiskey would be - Balance. Often the aspect defining the style of Irish whiskey is the fact that it is triple distilled. This is not a legal requirement, but it is a technique used to create a smooth and elegant whiskey – different from Scotch and American whiskey styles.
When tasting Irish Whiskey, refer back to the label and check the category. Blended whiskies will have a lighter, more delicate feel on the palate (contributing to their popularity), while Single Pot Stilled and Single Malt styles will be more unique and reflect the region and distillery characteristics, essentially making a richer and deeper flavored whiskey.
Unlike Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey typically does not involve the use of Peat, and as such it is rare to come across a Peated style – although they do exist. Look for Coonemara Peated Pot Still as the most widely available of this style.
What about wood and finishing?
Oak barrels from the Sherry and Port Regions were common vessels for storage, aging and transport throughout much of the history of Irish Whiskey and whiskey in general. Today, most Irish whiskey will be aged initially in used Bourbon barrels, with some being aged and/or finished in ex-Sherry, Marsala and Madeira casks. Each of these styles will impart a unique aspect to the spirit. Look for the Spots whiskeys by Mitchell & Sons, and taste side by side, as these are done in a variety of barrels.
What about Aged Whiskey Statements?
Similar to other regional age statements on whiskey, Irish Whiskey with an age statement means that no part of the blend or bottling may be younger than the age expressed on the label. Some of the better examples to look for will be: Bushmills 16y, Kilbeggan 15y, Jameson 18y, Powers 12y. Some of these whiskies are becoming short in supply as older stocks run low, but time will allow for them to catch up.
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ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.