The Origin and Types of Irish Whiskey


1. The Origin

There is an ongoing debate whether the water of life (uisge beatha) was first produced in Ireland or Scotland. Either way, Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whisky started similar, but developed differently over time. The history of Irish Whiskey has ups and downs. Nowadays Irish Whiskey is recovering and becoming popular again.

Very old pictures of the Old Bushmills distillery
The Old Bushmills distillery

2. Types of Irish Whiskey

The 'best' Irish Whiskey is produced the same way as Scotch. Single Malt Irish Whiskey is produced from only malted barley and is distilled on copper pot stills.

Due to the introduction of taxes on malt, many distillers in Ireland started to replace some of the malt with other grains like corn, wheat and unmalted barley. This lead to the rise of grain whiskey. Grain whiskey is usually distilled on column stills, because they offer a cheaper and continuous production. 

Blended Irish whiskey contains malt and grain whiskey. The higher the malt ratio, the better the whiskey.

Compared to Scotland, Ireland has another type of whiskey - Single Pot Still Whiskey. This whiskey contains malt and grain whiskey, but both have to be distilled on pot stills only.

A section of an Irish column still with watchglasses
A Irish column stills at cooley
A Irish pot still at Teeling
A Irish pot still at Teeling

3. Availability of Irish Whiskey

Due to the history of Ireland there are a lot of Blended Whiskeys and only few Single Malts. Best known are Jameson, Tullamore, and Bushmills.

Single Malt Whiskeys are produced at Bushmills in Northern Ireland and at Cooleys in the Republic of Ireland. Single Pot Still Whiskeys are part of the production at the New Midleton distillery, where not only the famous Irish Blends Jameson, Power's, and Paddy are produced.

Some Irish whiskeys
Some Irish whiskeys