Often referred to as the pioneers of whisky, the Irish and their famous whiskeys are a staple of the malt world... Read more
Often presented as the pioneers of whisky, the Irish and their famous whiskeys are a must in the world of malt. Ireland has a centuries-old know-how and has been in the midst of a revival for some years... Read more
Often presented as the pioneers of whisky, the Irish and their famous whiskeys are a must in the world of malt. Ireland has a centuries-old know-how and has been in full revival for a few years. A good reason to take a closer look.
Irish whiskey forever first?
Legend has it that Ireland welcomedUisce Beatha (brandy) as early as the 5th century (432) via the evangelisation of the country by Saint Patrick. However, it seems more appropriate to mention 1170, the date on which King Henry II of England, in the middle of an invasion, discovered Irish whiskey. Its consumption seems to have been proven during the battles and it became a national emblem, accompanying the life of the Irish citizens.
Irish whiskey, like the neighbouring scotch, experienced difficult tax collections and a flourishing illicit distillation. Indeed, small stills, which were very numerous, allowed the production of Poteen, an alcohol distilled from potatoes or grains. Initially intended for private consumption, it was banned from 1661 to 1997.
Legal distillation exists(e.g.Kilbeggan) but has not yet become fully established.
As in all historical whisky nations, Ireland at the beginning of the 19th century, which had just joined the United Kingdom, saw the emergence of great empires(Power, Jameson).
The development of the industry was accompanied by technical progress, notably the invention of a column still, the Coffey Still. Aneas Coffey, a former Irish customs inspector, filed a patent in 1830.
A difficult 20th century
The beginning of the 20th century marks the end of Ireland's hold on the whisky world. Previously strong on the international scene thanks to its exports, it is now relegated behind Scotland, while the number of its distilleries is drastically reduced.
This was mainly due to the War of Independence in 1919 and especially to the American Prohibition, during which counterfeits shattered the image of Irish whiskey in the key market of the United States.
After the second world war, the awakening is complicated and it is not until 1966 that three of the four Irish distilleries in activity unite to form UDI(United Distillers of Ireland), soon joined by Bushmills in the 1970s. It is during this decade, in 1975, that the Midelton complex (combining Jameson and Power) is created.
There was then a gradual return of Irish whiskey, with Bushmills and Midelton alone until the arrival of Cooley in 1987.
Between tradition and modernity
Nowadays, Irish whiskey has a variety of faces that recall both its roots and its desire for change.
Triple distillation, which is almost exclusively found in Ireland, is represented by two pillars: Bushmills and Midleton. It is this emblematic style, light and fruity, which still permeates the collective imagination of whisky lovers.
However, the third 'historic' distillery, Cooley, goes against the grain with double distillation and even peaty versions (Connemara).
Another example: Pure Pot Still, the traditional Irish whiskey, was originally made from a variety of grains, thus avoiding the need for the producer to pay high taxes on malt. Nowadays, however, only Midleton has preserved this method, using both malted and unmalted barley, covered by a new name in 2011, " Single Pot Still ".
It is also important to mention that Irish whiskey has, like American whiskeys, many brands which do not correspond to distillery names or which are blends of whiskeys from several distilleries. For instance Connemara, Redbreast, Jameson, Tulamore Dew...
Finally, the Irish whiskey industry is booming, with an upsurge of new distilleries all over the country: Dingle, Kilbeggan, West Cork, Blackwater, Connacht, Echlinville, Glendalough, Great Northern, Rademon Estate, Waterford, Teeling, Tullamore, Walsh Whiskey Distillery... There are now about thirty distilleries. Read less