Today we’re here to talk a little bit about “What is Irish whiskey?”. We’ve done a video in the past about whiskeys in general, what makes Scotch, Irish and Bourbon different. Today, we’re going to focus just on Irish Whiskey since St. Patrick’s day is coming up soon.
Irish whiskey, to start with, has to come from the island of Ireland. It can be Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, but it has to be distilled on the island. It is made from malted barley. That barley is traditionally malted without peat or without any smoke getting infused into the barley. This is one of the biggest differences between Scotch and Irish whiskey.
Scotch distillers like to use the peat smoke and keep that smoke into the malting process so that Scotches have that smoky finish. With Irish whiskey, they vent the smoke and they don’t use a lot of peat so that you end up with a much cleaner, smoother finish without smoke.
Of course, there are exceptions to that. There are some smaller distilleries that make peated Irish whiskey but those are fewer and far between. Irish whiskey also has to be aged for at least three years in oak barrels. That’s the minimum that it has to be aged in order to be called an Irish whiskey.
You will find, as with Scotches and other types of whiskeys, that some of them will age longer. They’ll spend longer times in oak barrels. One, in particular, is the Jameson 12-year-old. They do that to make the whiskey even smoother, impart more of those oak notes and vanilla. The whiskey also gets some of the richness from the wood and flavors from whatever the barrel was used for previously (usually bourbon).
The Resurgence of Irish Whiskey
Lately, Irish whiskeys have been gaining popularity quite rapidly again. Going back in history in the US, Irish whiskey pre-prohibition was much more popular than Scotch. During prohibition, obviously, there wasn’t much of an import process anymore. Coming out of the prohibition, Scotch kind of jumped in front and took the reins.
Up until recently in the US, Irish whiskey had a very strong following. Over the past few years not only in the US but worldwide, Irish whiskey has been on the rise again. Up till a few years ago, there were only less than a handful of distilleries on the island of Ireland. Between three and five. At the beginning of 2017, there are 16 distilleries in operation now. There are even more planning to come online soon. Distilleries like Teeling and Glendalough are some of the newer operations coming online.
Craft Irish Whiskey
As with the craft spirit movement in the US, Irish whiskeys are also embracing the craft spirit and trying some new experimental-type products. Jameson has their new Caskmates series. What they did with the first one, in particular, is they took some of their used barrels after they’ve aged Jameson in it and shipped them off to a brewery. That brewery then aged its stout in those barrels for a few months. They drained them off, and sold their stout as a barrel-aged stout. Then they sent the barrels back to the Jameson distillery where Jameson finished their whiskey in those barrels, so they picked up some of those stout notes.
This is the Stout edition of the Caskmates. They also have barrels at breweries throughout the US right now aging IPA’s, pale ales, and other types of beers. Over the next few years, we’ll be seeing more additions to the Caskmates series.
What is Irish Whiskey?
So, What is Irish Whiskey? To sum it all up, Irish whiskey has to be from malted barley, has to be distilled on the island of Ireland and it has to aged at least three years in oak barrels.
Thank you very much for watching, we hope you enjoyed this video on “What Is Irish Whiskey?”. We really appreciate all the great feedback and comments we’ve been getting. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Please let us know what other topics you’d like us to cover. Cheers.