The Story Of: Irish Whiskey


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Irish Whiskey was incredibly popular in Britain, with 1200 distilleries existing in Ireland in 1779. Because many of them were unlicensed, the illicit distilleries forced the government to raise taxes on whiskey production. By 1822, only 20 distilleries were legal and the number of illegal distilleries had been reduced to 800.

In 1838, the number of distilleries was reduced yet again as a result of the Total Abstinence Movement, which created an increased competition between Irish distilleries and forced smaller distilleries to shut down. Among the most successful businesses to continue expanding were those of the families Jameson and Powers from Dublin.

Irish Whiskey image via Shutterstock
In the early 1960s, the export of Irish whiskey was virtually non-existent, so the three remaining distilleries joined forces and became the Irish Distillers. This was made up of John Powers & Sons, John Jameson & Sons, and Cork Distillery. In 1975, the new company moved its production to a new distillery in Midleton, which is behind the old Midleton Distillery, and now houses the reception area and visitors center.

Irish whiskey comes in several forms. There is single malt, which is made from 100 percent malted barley distilled in a pot still, and grain whiskey, which is made from grains and distilled in a column still. Grain whiskey is light and more neutral in flavor than single malt, and it is never bottled as single grain. Instead, it is used to blend with single malt to produce a lighter blended whiskey.

Pot still whiskey is unique to Irish whiskey. The designation “pure pot still” refers to whiskey that is made of 100 percent barley, mixed malted and unmalted, and distilled in a pot still. The unmalted barley is what gives the traditional pure pot still whiskey a spicy and uniquely Irish quality. Like single malt, pure pot still is sold as is or blended with a grain whiskey. Redbreast, Green Spot and some premium Jameson brands are pure pot still whiskies.

Encyclopedia Britannica
Irish Times Philly

Check out the winners of the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2012 Irish Whiskey category right here!

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  • Snooth User: Isaac42
    98135 33

    Where does Bushmill's fit in?

    Oct 04, 2012 at 1:33 PM

  • And there is Paddy's and Clontarf, both very good Irish whiskey. Can't seem to find them anywhere in Colorado. Used to be able to get Clontarf at Pueblo Discount Liquors in Pueblo but not anymore. Guess I need to go to Ireland to get a good Irish whiskey.

    Oct 04, 2012 at 3:05 PM

  • Snooth User: lynwooda
    317164 4

    My question exactly. The oldest in Ireland? Unmentioned?

    Oct 04, 2012 at 3:05 PM

  • Snooth User: Isaac42
    98135 33

    I drank a lot of Paddy's when I was in Alaska. I went up there to play bass for a band. Played for a week or so, then the club brought in another band, and we were unemployed. There wasn't much else to do, other than drink!

    Oct 04, 2012 at 3:14 PM

  • Snooth User: GJamesJr
    1035244 16

    How can an article about "The Story Of: Irish Whiskey" omit all mention of Bushmills. Really? Ridiculous.

    Oct 04, 2012 at 4:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Svet24
    1029935 5

    Erin Smith. I buy it here. They deliver it to the U.S..

    Oct 05, 2012 at 4:50 AM

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