Brief Introduction to Irish Whiskey
Growing up in Ireland and living in Scotland has given us a unique perspective on these two great whiskey traditions. Excellent whiskeys (or whiskies in Scotland) can be found in both countries, but where-as Scotch is all pervasive and can be found all around the world, most people would be hard pressed to name an Irish whiskey other than Jameson. We feel this is such as shame, as Irish whiskey really is just as good, if not better. Whiskey was first produced in Ireland, and the whiskey making tradition goes back almost 1000 years, with the world’s first reference to distilled drinks anywhere in the British Isles coming from the Bushmills area on the North coast of Ireland just a few mile across the water from the Scottish island of Isla as and close to the site of where the Bushmills distillery sits today.
View of Isla from the North Coast of Ireland. The white buildings in the distance are the Lagavulin distillery.
From the 16th to 20th Centuries, Irish whiskey was by far the world's most popular, with anecdotal evidence of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Tsar Peter the Great of Russia being fans of the Irish tipple. Scotch only really coming to dominate following the end on prohibition in the USA. The whiskey industry in Ireland had a tough time in the 20th Century, and almost died out due to a perfect storm of politics, wars, prohibition in the USA (traditionally biggest market for Irish whiskey) and competition from cheaper blended Scotch. In more recent times, starting from the establishment of the Cooley distillery in the 1980's, the whiskey industry in Ireland is undergoing something of a renaissance, with new distilleries opening every year.
Teeling Distillery in Dublin. Most Irish Whiskey is triple distilled, imparting a smoother flavour.
The traditional style of Irish Whiskey is called Single Pot Still (or Pure Pot Still in times of yore) and is something of a tax dodge. In the 17th to 19th Centuries, the British imposed a tax on malted barley. To get around this, the canny Irish distillers added a portion of un-malted barley, and much to their surprise, this turned out to make amazing whiskeys! The Irish built upon this and started adding different grains to their whiskey, such as rye, oats and wheat, with each imparting a distinctive character. This innovative approach to mash bills (recipes) along with the traditional approach of distilling 3 times makes for whiskeys with outstanding flavour and texture, but with a smoothness that is hard to find in any other style of whiskey. Sadly, many of the recipes that made Irish whiskey so popular throughout the centuries were lost with the decline of the industry, but the new generation of distillers have set about re-creating some of the famous old recipes, as well as inventing new ones. In fact, these days Ireland can really be considered to be the innovation capital of whiskey making today, with new distilleries not confined by old rules that can restrict Scotch and bourbon and turning out some great stuff.
Map of Irish Distilleries. Ireland has gone from 3 distilleries in the early 1980's to around 30, with another 30 or so in the works. It seems the World can't get enough of Irish Whiskey!
So, how can we in Singapore get to try some of the great Irish whiskeys? The answer is not many places. The biggest markets for Irish whiskey are traditionally the USA (40%), UK (25%), Europe (35%) and the rest of the world.....(0%). We think that is a real shame for whiskey lovers in the rest of the world, and in Singapore especially as we're certain they would love the unique style of whiskey from Ireland, if only they had a chance to try it!
We started Original Whiskeys with this in mind. Our aim is to scour the island of Ireland and bring Singapore the finest award winning whiskeys, imported direct from Ireland, for your delectation and delight. We're sure you'll love the unique whiskeys taste of Irish Whiskey but no matter what you're drinking, let’s all raise a glass and salute whiskey, the drink we all know and love, sláinte! (Cheers!)