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Irish Whiskey

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What is Irish Whiskey?

Ask for an "uisce beatha" at a liquor store in the United States, and you may get some funny looks, but you won't get a second look in Ireland! It's Gaelic for Irish Whiskey and means "water of life." That nomenclature shows the importance of this aged liquor is to the Irish spirit.

Until the end of the 19th century, Irish Whiskey was acclaimed as the most popular liquor in the world. Since the 1990s, this spirit has seen a significant resurgence as the fastest-growing Whiskey in its category.

How do you serve Irish Whiskey?

As with most liquors, the best way to drink Irish Whiskey depends on the type of Irish Whiskey you have on hand and your personal preference. There are also many options when you factor in cocktail recipes, but some of the most popular ways to serve Irish Whiskey include:

  • Drink it straight up
  • Drink it over a large ice cube
  • Drip in a bit of honey with a lemon twist or mix the Whiskey with ginger ale or club soda
  • Add just a splash of water (also known as "Releasing the Serpent")

While ice will dull your senses, water is perfect with Irish Whiskey. Why? Because by lowering the alcohol content, it lets your nose notice more of the aroma notes and allow for more tasting notes on your palate

What's the difference between Irish Whiskey and Scotch?

What's so different about Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey? To answer that question, it helps to explain Irish Whiskies' difference from Scotch Whisky. Firstly, notice that 'Irish Whiskey' has an extra 'e.' That's the least of the distinctions though, and the main difference is in the process in which it is made.

Scotch Whisky is distilled twice, but Irish Whiskey must endure triple distillation in pot stills triple the size of most copper stills. This gives the Irish version a much more refined flavor and a lighter color than Scotch.

How is Irish Whiskey made?

In making Irish Whiskey, raw and malted barley are used in the pot still process. The barley goes through a drying phase where covered kilns maintain the grain's natural aroma familiar to most as Irish Whiskey. The barley used in producing Scotch Whisky is whole-malted though and is allowed to sprout first, then dried using peat smoke to give it a distinctive Scotch flavor. Have a toast soon to Ireland and Scotland, and you'll likely taste how much smoother the finish is with Irish Whiskey compared to Scotch Whisky's smoky and earthy notes, compliments of the peat.

In a nutshell, the emphasis in making Irish Whiskey is at the beginning — starting with the best distilling process (known as “vatting”), and with Scotch Whisky, it's mostly on the distiller's skills in blending the ideal grain and malt whiskies.

Another critical difference between the two whiskeys is their aging time. To be considered Scotch Whisky, it must rest in the cask for at least two years. Authentic Irish Whiskey requires a minimum of three years aging.

These differences are not carved in stone, though, and leave producers a lot of leeways to define their styles. The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 outlines only the broad parameters necessary to label a product 'Irish' Whiskey. In a nutshell, it requires the Whiskey to be composed of grains (such as barley, wheat, corn, and rye), distilled to no more than 94.8% ABV, and aged at least three years in wooden barrels.

Is there Irish Rye Whiskey?

You may have heard of rye whiskey produced in the States, but for the first time since the 1890s, it's being made in Ireland. Irish rye whiskey is being created from a heritage mash of malt, barley, and ~30% rye and matured there by the country's oldest continually licensed distillery, the more than 260-year-old Kilbeggan Distillery. Its 86-proof Small Batch Rye is proudly produced in their copper pot stills, one of which claims to be the world's oldest in operation - and bottled at its plant in Westmeath, Ireland.

And how does this granddaddy of a whiskey taste? Just savor this description, straight-up from Kilbeggan itself: "Beautiful warming mouthfeel of textured vanilla cream, floral spice, clove and forest sorrel, building to a crescendo of warm spice and biscuit dryness."

Where does Irish Whiskey come from?

It's imperative to remember this next point: Only Irish-made Whiskey can be labeled as 'Irish whiskey.' And if you see the 'e' is missing in "Whiskey,' that's your quick indication that it didn't come from Ireland.

New worldwide interest in top-shelf spirits is behind Irish whiskey-makers exploring both modern and traditional styles, improving the quality of everyday blended whiskeys, and offering single-malt and small-batch versions for enthusiasts. Several new distilleries in recent years and the Irish Whiskey Association estimates more than a dozen new distilleries are in various stages of planning around Ireland.

What is a good Irish Whiskey?

Some of the most popular Irish Whiskey brands that we carry include:

What is the Best Irish Whiskey?

Looking for the best Irish Whiskey? “Best” is completely up to the individuals tastes and preference, but we did a list of our Top Irish Whiskeys to help you find your favorite!

What are the most popular Irish Whiskey cocktails?

Want to enjoy some of the most popular Irish Whiskey cocktails? How about an Irish-style Manhattan recipe popularized at Ireland's horse tracks called a Tipperary, or if trying a top-shelf, you can't go wrong making an Irish Old Fashioned with orange bitters (just substitute Irish Whiskey for standard Whiskey).

Or, if it's still morning, the classic Irish Coffee recipe can't be beaten. Great over New Year's Day brunch or anytime you have a sweet tooth. If you are looking for another new recipe to try, look no further than our Irish Gold cocktail recipe.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention two of our March Cocktail of the Month recipes: the Clover Fizz Irish Whiskey Cocktail and the Shamrock Sangria!

Want to learn more about Irish Whiskey?

We’re big promoters of the fact that the best way to learn is through first-hand research. So that means get to tasting to learn what your tastes prefer!

Browse our wide selection of Irish Whiskey to start exploring all this category has to offer, or head to our Guide to Irish Whiskey to learn even more!