Complete Guide to Irish Whiskey
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A Complete Guide to Irish Whiskey: The Overview

As the name so obviously suggests, Irish Whiskey is a category of alcoholic beverage distilled and derived from Ireland. It’s popularity has grown and made a comeback in recent years, arguably becoming more popular than its competitors by the likes of scotch and bourbon, among others in many countries. 

With several brands, both historic and up & coming, and even more distilleries being developed throughout Ireland and Northern Island, there’s no doubt that Irish whiskey is becoming a household drink of choice for many. 

Related: How is Bourbon Made?

So, if you appreciate a good bottle of Irish Whiskey and you’re interested in learning more, or if you’ve recently become informed of this affordable yet smooth alcoholic delicacy, this post is for you! 

We’ll be discussing what Irish Whiskey is, how it’s made, the history of Irish whiskey, and we’ll finish by sharing some of the most popular brands and distilleries!

So, if you’re ready, pour yourself a glass, take a seat, and buckle in for this complete guide to Irish whiskey…

What is Irish Whiskey?

Whiskey at large is simply a form of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented yeasts such as corn, wheat, and/or barley. Irish whiskey, more specifically, is a type of whiskey made and distilled in Ireland. 

Other types of whiskey include Bourbon, Scotch, Tennessee whiskey, and rye, just to name a few. The difference between all types of whiskey, excluding the region of the world in which it’s made in, is the distillation process itself. With that said, there are several key differentiators amongst the world’s whiskeys:

  • It’s Origins (i.e. where it’s made)
  • Distillation & Fermentation Process
  • Grain Selection 
  • Maturation Process

While Irish whiskey is distinct from other types of whiskey for the reasons listed above, there are also several subtypes of Irish whiskey itself. In fact, there are four (4) primary types of Irish whiskey. Those four types are as follows: 

  • Single Malt
  • Blended
  • Grain 
  • Single Pot Still 

Irish whiskey is arguably the most desirable, popular type of whiskey, and for good reason. Because of its unique and elaborate distillation process, Irish whiskey provides a smooth and decadent taste, unlike its counterparts that are stronger and more bitter.

So, how is Irish whiskey made? Great question…

How Irish Whiskey is Made

Irish Whiskey is distilled and produced in a similar fashion as its counterpart in that of Scotch. The primary difference? A blended approach to the use of malted AND unmalted barley. otherwise, the process of making Irish Whiskey is almost identical to that of the process of making Scotch.

First, you dry the barley. Next, you ground and steep it in water. This is, in short, the fermentation process. Once fermented, the distillation follows; typically thrice when it comes to most Irish whiskeys. The final step is the aging process which can take up to three years in old oak barrels. 

Depending on the type of Irish Whiskey we’re discussing, there may be an additional step that involves blending grains pre-bottling. All that’s left do now once Irish Whiskey is aged and bottled is to, of course, pour, raise a toast to the pleasures of whiskey, and enjoy!

The History of Irish Whiskey 

While its name is dubbed after its origins in Ireland, it also happens to be a Gaelic derivative that means “the water of life”. If that doesn’t depict its popularity and necessity in history, I’m not sure what does! 

Nevertheless, Irish Whiskey has deep roots in history, dating back to the 1400’s even before Scotch was first discovered. While it had its downtimes, especially during prohibition, it’s since make a resurgence, now largely the fasting growing spirit globally. 

While its exact point of origins are still debated today, the very first distillery of Irish Whiskey was Old Bushmills Distillery in Ireland, still in operation to date! Now, there are several popular distilleries, new and old, some of the most notable we’ll discuss shortly. 

Irish whiskey has come a long way. As a smooth and desirable spirit, its roots in history will likely last for centuries to come.

Popular Irish Whiskey Distilleries 

As it stands, and suggested by the Irish Whiskey Association, there are a total of 32 operative whiskey distilleries in Ireland, with more under development as we speak.

While not all of these distilleries have been in operation for a long period of time, many of them new and not yet offering fully-aged whiskey to date, there are several that are quite popular and well-known within the whiskey community.

Although some are more established than others, the following is a list of the five (5) most popular, notable distilleries of Irish whiskey in Ireland: 

  1. Old Bushmills Distillery 
  2. Jameson Distillery Midleton 
  3. Jameson Distillery Bow Street, Dublin, Ireland 
  4. Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery 
  5. Dingle Distillery  

As mentioned, Old Bushmills Distillery was the first ever Irish Whiskey distillery. As such, this list wouldn’t be complete without it. Since the rise in popularity of Irish Whiskey, brands like Jameson have taken over! Two of the most prominent Jameson distilleries are as suggested; Midleton and Bow Street.

Next is Tullamore D.E.W., the second largest Irish Whiskey producer in the world. Finally, Dingle distillery, a new Irish Whiskey Distillery in Ireland, however, it wouldn’t be accurate to suggest that it’s up & coming. In fact, it happens to be one of the most popular distilleries in all the land. Why? Likely because of its proximity to several pubs and bars, however, also because of its charm and beauty. 

While we’ve certainly missed a number of key distilleries, above are some of the most prominent. Have you ever take a tour or a whiskey distillery?! If not, I highly suggest that you do! 


A Final Word on Whiskey 

Irish Whiskey has had its battles in history, however, it’s come out the other end on top, and for good reason. Just as there’s a spirit to accommodate all pallets, so too is there an Irish Whiskey available for everyone. 

From single malt, triple distilled, and aged from 3-30 years, and offered and varying price points from cheap and affordable to expensive and exclusive, Irish Whiskey is truly the peoples spirit. 


Stay Gold

About Todd Smidt

Todd is a man of simple tastes: traveling, words, whiskey, & dad jokes. He enjoys first-rate banter, long walks along the coast, High West, and Vonnegut. He spends his free time traveling the world, drinking whiskey, and writing about it.

One response to “A Complete Guide to Irish Whiskey

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