Mention whisk(e)y and most think Scotch, or bourbon. And while Australia is starting to make a few decent spirits and Japan has an impressive tradition, there’s one other important distilling nation worth looking at closely – Ireland.
Irish whiskey has its own special heritage, rules and flavour. Business Insider asked
Siblings Jack and Stephen Teeling from The Teeling Whiskey Company are part of a new generation of Irish distillers, but it runs in the blood, with their father founding the Cooley Distillery, in 1987. The pair have now opened a new the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years, not far from where ancestor Walter Teeling first fired up the stills in 1782.
If you get the chance to swing by, don’t forget to try their version of the notorious Irish spirit Poitín. Teeling also makes a single grain Irish whiskey, a rum cask whiskey, and 21YO, 26YO and 30YO single malts. You’ll find them at Dan Murphy’s.
Business Insider asked them to explain what makes Irish whiskey so special. Here’s their beginner’s guide to Irish nectar. Sláinte!
What is Irish Whiskey?
There are two things that set Irish whiskey apart from other whiskies;
1. It must be distilled and matured on the island of Ireland
2. It must be made from three ingredients only; grain, water and yeast
The temperate climate and unspoilt countryside in Ireland are perfect for the natural ingredients vital to good whiskey- golden barley and pure water.
The Teelings have being crafting Irish whiskey since 1782 when Walter Teeling ran a distillery on Marrowbone Lane in The Liberties of Dublin. At this time there were over 37 different distilleries in Dublin alone centralised in the industrial engine room of the city: The Liberties; the Coombe, Newmarket and Smithfield.
During the 19th century, Dublin whiskey became globally recognised as the premier whiskey in the world and some of the largest distilleries of the time emerged from these smaller operations in Dublin’s Liberties. The remains of many of these can still be seen to this day, however in 1976 the last Dublin distillery shut down with production moved to Midleton, Cork.
Political turmoil and economic catastrophe in the early 20th century including Ireland’s own War of Independence and Civil War, American Prohibition and trade wars with Britain, led to literally dozens of Irish Whiskey distilleries closing over a 20 year period.
Single Malt, Single Grain or Blended Whiskey?
Single Malt: Distilled only from malted barley in traditional copper pots and originating from one distillery only.
Single Grain: Produced in tall, column shaped stills, known as Column or Coffey stills, and distilled from either maize or wheat, with a smaller proportion of malted barley.
Blended: Whiskeys distilled in pot stills and column stills and blended together after maturation. In Ireland, this can be made up of; malt and grain, pot still and grain or pot still, malt and grain whiskeys.
Whiskey should be drunk from a tulip shaped glass, such as a nosing glass, that will concentrate more of the aromas towards the nose, therefore enhancing the experience.
Flavours of Irish Whiskey
Irish whiskey will have hints of pepper, aromatic oils, spice, fruity notes. An Irish whiskey may also feel smooth, light, heavy, oily or sharp, depending on the style and age.
For first time drinkers
There are four traditional ways to drink whiskey; neat, on the rocks, with water or in a cocktail. For first time whiskey drinkers, it’s best to sample the whiskey neat, to get the full smell, taste and colour of the liquid.
Temperature: Usually drunk at room temperature. this is the best way for the whiskey to breathe and the aromas will filter through as a result.
Nose: When nosing, be careful not to breathe in too quickly or too much, otherwise the alcohol may affect your nose.
Taste: On your first sip, let the whiskey flow around and in your mouth and let it linger before letting it flow gently down your throat. Many of the aromas detected by the nose may be present. New flavours can also become apparent.
Finish: After the whiskey is swallowed, it can be – short or long, intensive or light, dry, malty or sweet. Generally, the older and better the whiskey, the longer and more complex the finish.
Ice and Water: Adding a little water or ice will often open up the nose of a whiskey, enabling the drinker to pick up the more subtle flavours and aromas.
Food and whiskey
It is popular to drink whiskey alongside cheese and chocolate. Beef and cured meats are also great too.
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