I have said it many times that Irish whiskey has an important role within the whisky world and is long overdue the respect it should be given. Once considered as one of the worlds finest whiskey products it has long since fallen from grace, but that is changing.
Over the past few years the Irish whiskey scene has started to come alive again with the old tradition of whisky bonders and new distilleries emerging, new techniques being pushed and old traditions welcomed back.
But is this enough ?
The history of whiskey in Ireland is long and many would have you believe whiskey was produced in Ireland before Scotland, something the Scots will strongly deny of course..
It is easy to trace Irish heritage way back to when Irish whiskey was once a major contributor to the infrastructure and backbone of the Irish economy. Records date back to somewhere in the early part of the 1400s but it wasn’t until around the 1600s that Irish whiskey became an industry rather than the illicit underground way to gain an income.
Proudly boasting the oldest licensed distillery in the world ( Bushmills ) Ireland can and should be proud of the fact they in theory were the original producers of whiskey as we know it! Records do seem to show that it was in fact producing whiskey some 90 years or so earlier than Scotland ! But as we know records can be lost ! Or so we are told..
The use of distilling was also used to produce medieval tonics for medicinal purposes before sometime in the 15th Century when the distillation process as we know it was brought into the monastery’s of Ireland and early forms of distilling for other purposes were recorded.
The monks are believed to have passed on the early knowledge of distilling and history again tells us that ” aqua vitae” was indeed enjoyed by many. It is then believed somewhere between 1536 and 1541 Henry V111 gave orders to dissolve the monasteries forcing the monks and the art of distilling out into the public domain, distilling was now done in the homes and farms and by those who had the knowledge of distilling passed on by the monks.
The monks also had to find a way of surviving on their own, they made whisky although the spirit was not aged at this point and was drunk by most at an undiluted strength.
Moving on into the 1600’s the first licensed distillery was the old Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland, the distillery was granted the first license on the 20th April, 1608 by King James the 1st, with many of the distilleries in Scotland becoming legit in the 1800’s. The production of whisky has taken many turns since 1608 and with taxes forced upon the industry in 1707 with the emergence of the ” Acts of Union” and later the ” English Malt Tax” in 1725 which forced so many of Scotland’s distillation process to either cease or go underground it’s a far cry to the massive market it is today..
So why is Irish whiskey lagging behind the rest of the world in the whiskey / whisky economy ? Well in theory it is actually one of the fastest growing market these days, although it is still a long way to go before it matches that of its rivals . The fact that Irish whisky can still be split down into three categories, Single Pot still whiskey, Single malt Irish whiskey and Grain whiskey still causes a little confusion.
Pot still whiskey is where people seem to get confused, this is though a rather simple sideward step to the single malt whisky we all know, the only real difference is the use of both malted and unmalted Barley. The use of unmalted Barley came into use when the distillers became a little disgruntled to the taxes added to malted Barley in the late 1700s early 1800s.
What is interesting though is the fact Grain whisky / whiskey which was thought up in Ireland but dismissed vigorously, before being forced over to Scotland where it was embraced, is today becoming a big part of the whisky industry in general.. The introduction of the coffey still around 1830 by Aeneas Coffey changed the way whiskey / whisky could be produced with its continuous production instead of the batch style of production with typical pot stills.
What is now obvious within Ireland is the passion to revive the traditions of making Whiskey and that is very evident with all the new distilleries and on the Southwest coast of Ireland one such distillery is doing just that…
A family run distillery with a farming background that can be traced back 9 generations is now diversifying into the world of whiskey and using their own locally grown barley to make whiskey in the ways of old.
Three copper pot stills take pride of place within the distillery and pay homage to the triple distilled traditions of Irish Whiskey..
Double cask – Clonakilty
Region.. Southwest Ireland
Cask.. Initially matured in ex Bourbon casks before being finished within American Virgin oak and toasted and re-charred ex-red wine European oak casks
Nose.. Fresh wild flowers and hints of damp hedgerows laden with summer fruits burst out of the glass along with honey, soft malty undertones and freshly peeled apples.
Palate.. Light with lemon drizzle cake, ginger biscuits and a soft bite from bitter dark chocolate.. Add some honey and impressions from freshly mown grass, custard cream biscuits and a gentle poached pear note that can be found lurking in the background.
Finish.. Gentle spices linger
Thoughts.. This is one of those typical light Irish drams that i love.. Very easy drinking and bursting with flora, fruity aromas / flavours that just entice you in for more.
Note.. This whiskey was not distilled by the distillery but has been matured on site.