The Distinctive Elements of Irish Whiskey
What’s in a name? Or, a letter, in this case? Plenty. The nuances and differences between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky are significant enough that they merit their own spellings. Actually, this is only due to the different translations of the same Gaelic phrase, “uisge beatha (meaning “water of life”),” and the similarities between the two outnumber the differences. Both are matured in copper pot stills for a minimum of three years and then aged further in solid oak casks – commonly those previously used for bourbon or sherry, which results in similar flavor profiles between the two.
But the differences that exist are notable and feed the friendly rivalry between producers and those who feel strongly about sipping one versus the other. There are a couple of differences that those in the know can taste: the distillation process and type of barley. Traditional Scotch whisky is distilled twice, while Irish whiskey is distilled three times. This extra layer for the Irish version typically results in a smoother finish on the palate with notes of vanilla. And while barley is the key ingredient of both, Irish whiskey today contains a blend of malted and unmalted barley and other grains and Scotch whisky uses primarily malted barley.
Historically, Irish whiskey hit the scene first, made by Irish monks since the 15th century. Originally, the spirit was made from both malted and unmalted barley and other grains; it was a later malt tax that compelled Irish producers to use unmalted barley exclusively. When the efficient column still was introduced in the 19th century, Scotland ramped up efforts to produce its own version of what was the most popular drink at the time and quickly out-produced Ireland’s distillers. The Irish War of Independence and the United States’ Prohibition period put a proverbial cork on the growth of the Irish whiskey industry for several years, though today, it has bounced back in a big way, with most of the current whiskey produced in, yes, Cork.
Perhaps the best-known Irish Whiskey producer in the world is that started by John Jameson in 1780. Today, visitors can explore the heart of Jameson’s creation at distilleries in Dublin and Cork and sip a bit of history as they learn about the process. Experiences to both locations are offered aboard Crystal Serenity’s August 13, 2021 voyage through the Emerald Isle. In the meantime, brew one of our favorite Irish whiskey concoctions and picture yourself in the Bistro of your favorite ship or warming yourself from the inside out as you sail along the Irish coast.
Crystal’s Irish Coffee
2 oz. Jameson Irish Whiskey
2 tsp. raw sugar
Freshly brewed dark coffee of your choice
Top with fresh whipped cream
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