Irish whiskey is a distilled beverage produced in Ireland with a distinctive taste. It’s made from malted barley, water and yeast, which gives it its characteristic flavours of malty sweetness with notes of honey, vanilla or caramel. The best Irish whiskey is usually aged in old bourbon or sherry barrels for at least three years before being bottled. Irish whiskey is something special—and here are some reasons why:
It’s smooth compared with Scotches and bourbons.
Irish whiskey is usually aged in stainless steel barrels rather than the more porous oak barrels used for Scottish and American whiskeys. This means that there’s less interaction between the liquid and the barrel, which produces a smoother flavour with less of a woody taste.
There are quite a few types of Irish whiskey.
The Irish whiskey category is broad, covering a wide range of whiskeys. It’s made up of many different types, including the following:
- Single malt Irish whiskey is made the same way as Scotch whiskey: distilled in copper pot stills at least three times. The difference is that it must be aged for at least three years (and often longer) but does not have to be all from one distillery.
- Single-grain Irish whiskey is similar to a blend of malted and unmalted grains, including corn or wheat, but it must be distilled in copper pot stills like its smoky counterpart. This process results in the best Irish whiskey ever made.
- Blended Irish whiskeys are a combination of malted and unmalted grains distilled using either pot stills or column stills (the latter being more common). They’re then matured in oak casks for at least three years before being bottled and ready for sale. Pot-stilled versions are less common today than they were centuries ago because they don’t age as well as other styles due to their lower alcohol content. Most distillers prefer column-distilled versions because they’re easier to store and ship worldwide.
You can only age Irish whiskey in any old barrel.
Irish whiskey has a distinct flavour. You might be wondering why this is the case, especially since many Irish whiskeys are aged in barrels from America. This is because American steel barrels impart a spicy flavour to the whiskey, which is perfect for those who enjoy a smoky spirit.
Irish whiskey can be aged in American barrels for up to 30 years! Because of its long ageing process, most of this type of alcohol has an amber hue—and it can also cost up to $1 million per litre (that’s about 30 times more than your average bottle).
Price of Irish whiskeys
Generally, blended whiskeys are less expensive than single-malt whiskeys (and they’re more approachable). If you’re new to Irish whiskey, it’s worth trying a few of the most popular blends before diving into the world of single malt.
In general, blended whiskey is made from grain and malt whiskies aged in barrels for at least three years. The grain component is typically distilled twice, while the malt portion is distilled three times. This short process is the reason for blended whiskey’s lower prices.
If you’re new to Irish whiskey, blended whiskey is the best place to start. They’re often less expensive than single malts and can offer a great introduction to Irish whiskey. Blended whiskeys are made from a blend of single malt and grain whiskeys—from different distilleries, no less! They can even include other spirits, such as brandy and wine. Blends are typically lighter in flavour than single malts, making them easier to drink (and less expensive).