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An Introduction to Irish Whiskey

Irish Whiskey. The Water of Life. Sunshine held together by water. In gaelic, “uisce beatha” (WEE-sak BAH-ha.) Though it may have much in common with Scotch & Bourbon, this whiskey is quite uniquely Irish.

The legal distinction is simple: It must be distilled from malted cereal grains at or above 94.8%, and barrel aged in Ireland in wooden casks for not less than three years.

Beyond the legal definition, the jargon used to describe whiskey in general is a confusing tangle of historical definitions and colloquial references. Phrases such as “pot still” and “single malt” are commonly used and may lead to confusion, even among Scotch and Bourbon lovers. A thorough discussion of such vocabulary is probably beyond the scope of this essay.

pot stillIrish whiskey is fermented and distilled from a combination of one of more grains, most typically barley. The shape of the still resembles a pot, thus its name. That’s probably because calling it a Hershey’s Kiss Still doesn’t have the same ring to it.

When only one type of grain is used in the pot (typically malted barley) the result is a Single Malt. When a combination of malted and un-malted barley is used, the result is known as a Pure Pot Still. If the distillates from one or more pots are combined, the resultant liquor is a Blend. Red Breast is a noteworthy Pure Pot Still Whiskey, Tyrconnell a favorite Single Malt, and Jameson, Powers and Paddy are some of my favorite “every day” blends. Continue reading An Introduction to Irish Whiskey