|Country of origin||Ireland|
|Alcohol by volume||40–94.8%|
Key regulations defining Irish whiskey and its production are established by the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, and are relatively simple (for example, in contrast with those for Scotch and Bourbon whiskey). They can be summarised as follows:
- Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged in the island of Ireland
- The contained spirits must be distilled to an alcohol by volume level of less than 94.8% from a yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains (saccharified by the diastase of malt contained therein, with or without other natural diastases) in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavour derived from the materials used
- The product must be aged for at least three years in wooden casks
- If the spirits comprise a blend of two or more such distillates, the product is referred to as a "blended" Irish whiskey
There are several types of whiskey common to Ireland, including those referred to as single pot still, single malt, single grain, and blended Irish whiskey. But in contrast to the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 does not actually contain a definition of the terms "single malt Irish whiskey" or "single grain Irish whiskey" or specific rules governing their production, so the exact definitions of these terms may not be clearly established. The meaning of such terms can vary substantially from producer to producer. For example, some Scottish whisky that could have been considered "single malt" before 2009 was distilled using continuous stills, and there is an American whiskey marketed as a "Single Malt" that is made from rye grain. Both of these practices would violate the 2009 Scotch Whisky Regulations definition of "Single Malt Scotch Whisky" but may not be prohibited for "Single Malt Irish Whiskey".
The word "whiskey" is an Anglicisation of "uisce beatha/uisge beatha" a phrase from the Goidelic branch of languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx) meaning "water of life". (Intoxicating liquor, and especially whiskey, is also sometimes referred to in Ireland as "the craythur".)
Most Irish pot still whiskey is distilled three times, while most (but not all) Scotch whisky, is distilled twice. Peat is rarely used in the malting process, so that Irish Whiskey has a smoother finish as opposed to the smoky, earthy overtones common to some Scotches. There are notable exceptions to these "rules" in both countries; an example is Connemara Peated Irish Malt (double distilled) whiskey from the Cooley Distillery in Riverstown, Cooley, County Louth.
Although Scotland sustains approximately 90 distilleries, Ireland has only four (although each produces a number of different whiskeys): economic difficulties in the last few centuries have led to a great number of mergers and closures. Currently those distilleries operating in Ireland are: New Midleton Distillery (Jamesons, Powers, Paddy, Midleton, Redbreast, and others, plus the independently sold rarity Green Spot), Old Bushmills Distillery (all Old Bushmills, Black Bush, 1608, Bushmills 10-, 12- and 16- and 21-year-old single malts), Cooley Distillery (Connemara, Michael Collins, Tyrconnell, and others) and the reopened Kilbeggan Distillery, which began distilling again in 2007. Irish Distillers' Midleton distillery has been part of the Pernod Ricard conglomerate since 1988. Bushmills was part of the Irish Distillers group from 1972 until 2005 when it was sold to Diageo. Cooley, which also owns Kilbeggan, agreed in December 2011 to be acquired by Beam Inc.
The word 'whiskey' (or whisky) comes from the Gaelic "uisce beatha", meaning water of life. Irish whiskey was one of the earliest distilled drinks in Europe, arising around the 12th century (see Distilled beverage). It is believed that Irish Monks brought the technique of distilling perfumes back to Ireland from their travels to the Mediterranean countries around 1000 A.D. The Irish then modified this technique to obtain a drinkable spirit. The Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the oldest surviving licenced distillery in the world (it received a licence from James I in 1608), although the Bushmills company was not established until the late 18th century. A statute introduced in the late 16th century introduced a viceregal license for the manufacture of whiskey.
Irish whiskey comes in several forms. If the whiskey is continuously distilled from unmalted grains, it is referred to as grain whiskey. This lighter and more neutral spirit is rarely found on its own and the vast majority of grain whiskey is used to make blended whiskey, a product made by mixing column still product with richer and intenser pot still product. Irish whiskeys made in a pot still fall into two categories. Those made entirely from malted barley distilled in a pot still are referred to as single malt whiskeys, a style also very commonly associated with Scotch whisky. The second style of Irish pot still whiskey is single pot still whiskey, made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley completely distilled in a pot still. This later style has also been historically referred to as "pure pot still" whiskey and "Irish pot still whiskey." Older bottlings often bear these names. Regardless of whether the blended whiskey is made from combining grain whiskey with either single malt whiskey or with single pot still whiskey, it is labelled with the same terminology. In Scotland, blended whiskey is made with a single malt pot still component.
- Blends: Black Bush, Bushmills Original, Clontarf, Inishowen, The Irishman Potstill, Jameson, Kilbeggan, Locke's Blend, Midleton Very Rare, Millars, Paddy, Powers, Tullamore Dew, Writer's Tears
- Single pot still: Green Spot, Jameson 15yr Old Pure Pot Still, Redbreast (12, 15 years)
- Single malt: Bushmills (10, 16, 21 years), Connemara Peated Malt (Regular, Cask Strength and 12 years), The Irishman Single Malt, Locke's Single Malt (8 years), Tullamore Dew Single Malt (10 year), Tyrconnell
- Single grain: Greenore (8, 10, 15, 18 years)
Irish whiskey distilleries
- Cooley Distillery
- Kilbeggan Distillery
- New Midleton Distillery
- Old Bushmills Distillery
- Dingle Whiskey Distillery
- Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, Irish Statute Book, 1980
- Gauntleys Whisky Newsletter, No.36, July 2009 WhiskeyIntelligence.com, 9 August 2009
- Comment by Dave Broom on Column Stills being Traditional Equipment for Malt Whisky Production, Whisky Intelligence, 11 August 2009
- Old Potrero Single Malt 18th Century Style Whiskey, Anchor Distilling Company[dead link]
- Terence Patrick Dolan. "A Dictionary of Hiberno-English". Google Books. Gill & Macmillan. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
- "Irish Whiskey Distillery". Planet Whiskies. 26 March 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
- Robert Dudley Edwards (1977). "Ireland in the age of the Tudors". Google Books (Harper & Row). Retrieved 23 September 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Whiskey from Ireland|
- The Irish Whiskey Society Irish Whiskey discussion forum
- Poteen Making / Déantús an Phoitín DVD - 'Singling' & Story from John William Seoige YouTube - documentary on the origins and process of whiskey making
- Irish Whiskey Act, 1980 Government of Ireland