by Stephen Dafoe
While green beer may be a staple of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, it is by no means the best the Emerald Island has to offer in the way of beer or whiskey.
Local liquor stores carry varying inventories of Irish whiskies and beers, and this article is intended to give you some basic information on Irish whiskey and the different types available.
In the middle ages, the term aqua vitae (water of life) was used to described distilled spirits.
For those acquainted with whiskies, this can certainly be true – for others, not so much.
What separates Irish whiskey from Scotch, apart from country of origin, is that peat is almost never used in the malting process. Those familiar with the woody and smoky flavour of some scotches, particularly those from the Islay region of Scotland, will find Irish whiskies typically a little smoother.
John Jameson, who was originally from Scotland, developed the triple distilled process in 1780. His name can be found on what is probably still Ireland’s most familiar brand of whiskey.
The triple distilled process gives a smoother taste than the double process used for scotch.
As with Scotch, Irish whiskey must meet certain requirements to be called Irish whiskey.
1/ It must be made in Ireland
2/ It must be made from a mash of malted barley. Other cereal grains can be added.
3/ It must be produced at no more than 94.8% alcohol by volume.
4/ It must be matured in wood casks, often oak. The casks can be no larger than 700 litres.
5/ It must be matured for a minimum of 3 years.
6/ It must be bottled at no less than 40% alcohol by volume.
There are four types of Irish whiskey: single malt, pot still, grain, and blended.
Single malts are made from 100% malted barley and come from one distillery.
Pot still whiskies use a minimum 30% malted barley and 30% unmalted barley. The whiskey is distilled in a pot still. Like single malts, single pot whiskey comes from one distillery.
Grain whiskey contains a maximum of 30% malted barley, which is combined with other unmalted cereals like wheat, corn and barley.
Blended whiskies blend two or more of the other styles: malt, pot still, and grain whiskey.
Brands – Single Malt
Bushmills 10 is a whiskey that has in the past won the Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey in the World at the World Whiskies Awards.
The Tyrconnell is a moderately priced double distilled single malt available locally.
Knappogue Castle Whiskey is a triple distilled single malt that uses only malted barley. The whiskey is aged in bourbon oak casks for 12 years.
Brands – Pot Still
Green Spot, manufactured by Mitchell and Sons Wine Merchants, is one of the only pure pot-still whiskey brands produced in Ireland.
It is a triple distilled product made from a blend of 7- 10-year-old single pot still whiskeys. The product is finished n oak or sherry casks.
The name green spot comes from the days when they painted coloured dots on the barrels to mark the batch.
Brands – Blended
Jameson whiskey, perhaps the most commonly known, is a blended whiskey that mixes the pot still and grain process whiskies.
Jameson Crested is a more upscale blended Irish whiskey that used older Jameson with pot still that has been aged in sherry casks.
Kinahan’s Small Batch is, as the name suggests, blended in small batches from the company’s collection of aged whiskeys. The product is finished in American oak casks and bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.
Brands – Grain
Teeling Single Grain whiskey in one of a small number of Single Grain bottlings in the world. This particular one is finished in Californian red wine barrels, giving the whiskey a fruity note. It is slightly higher than the minimum ABV at 46%.
There are, of course, many other Irish whiskeys on the market. The product described in this article are all available in Morinville at Liquor on Main on 100 Street.