A Guide to Irish Whiskey

Among the things Ireland is known for is the whiskey. Irish whiskey is the fastest-growing spirit globally since its resurgence in the 1990s. In this Irish whiskey guide, find out the history of Irish whiskey, the different types, and more.

What is Irish Whiskey?

Irish whiskey is whiskey produced in Ireland, both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. But then, it must conform to the 2014 Department of Agriculture’s technical file for Irish whiskey. The technical file has requirements that any whiskey produced in Ireland should meet before being labeled and marketed as Irish whiskey.

History of Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is among the oldest drinks in Europe, dating back to the 12th C when Irish monks came back with distillation techniques from the Mediterranean countries.

While it is believed that whiskey was produced hundreds of years ago, the oldest known records of whiskey production in Ireland is in the 1405 Annals of Clonmacnoise, where a clan head is reported to have died after “taking a surfeit of aqua vitae.”

Types of Irish Whiskeys

There are different Irish whiskeys classified depending on the grains used and the distillation process.

(I) Single malt Irish whiskey – This is a whiskey made from malted barley and is distilled in a pot. On the market, you will find double or triple distilled single malt Irish whiskey.

(II) Single pot still whiskey – Also known as Irish pot still whiskey, this is a blend of malted and unmalted barley and is entirely distilled in a pot.

(III) Grain whiskey – Produced with a variety of grains, grain whiskey is produced from continuous distillation in a Coffey still or column instead of a pot. Grain whiskey is more neutral in taste and lighter.

(IV) Blended whiskey – This is a popular type of Irish whiskey and is a mixture of the above styles. It’s produced by combining grain whiskey with either single pot still whiskey or single malt whiskey, or both.

Whiskey Distilleries in Ireland

While there were over 1,000 distilleries, in the 18th and 19th centuries, in 2019, there were 32 operational distilleries in Ireland. Many of these have been established just recently and have not yet aged their whiskey for sale. There are several other distilleries still under construction.

Irish Whiskey Industry

Even though Irish whiskey’s popularity had gone down, today, the industry is blossoming. According to a 2019 report by the Irish Whiskey Association, over 135 million Irish whiskey bottles were sold in 2019, translating to around $890m in export value.