Ireland isn’t just the master of dark stout and curvy liqueurs, it’s also the king of whiskey makers. Possessing very different processes to its scotch and bourbon cousins, there’s an awful lot more to the drink than first meets the eye. To help connoisseurs-in the-making navigate the bar at the magnificent Ashford Castle or the nearby Lodge at Ashford Castle, we’ve compiled 15 lesser-known facts about Irish whiskey – the water of life!
- Known for being more mellow than bourbon and more affordable than Scotch, due to it’s triple distillation, Irish whiskey ‘goes down the hatch’ more easily.
- Irish whiskey is made by blending pot-stilled malted, unmalted and corn-based whiskey. The malted one is dried in a closed kiln, away from fire and smoke (differentiating it from the whiskies over the Irish Sea).
- Possessing a delicate sweet, toasty, honey-like flavour, Irish whiskey is known for being smooth, warm and slightly sweet.
- If you want to be considered a savant, do not ask for an Irish whiskey with ice (i.e. “on the rocks”). Requesting anything that detracts from the flavour is viewed as the act of a philistine in this neck of the woods.
- Irish whiskey’s so popular that it’s been continually increasing in American volume and sales for the last 15 years.
- Irish whiskey has not been quite as big as Scotch historically for two main reasons. First, the Irish war of independence shut whiskey off from the British export market just as it was taking off. Second, the US’ prohibition laws also put paid to the idea of marketing it to America, too.
- To legally be considered Irish whiskey, it must have been distilled and matured in Ireland for a minimum of three years.
- Licks of flavour are best achieved in Irish whiskey by maturing the whiskey in bourbon, sherry, rum or wine casks.
- Popular nicknames for Irish whiskey include “The Brown” and the “Water of Life” (which is what whiskey means in Gaelic).
- The stereotype about Irish whiskey that admittedly has a bit of credibility is the view that Scotch whisky is heavily peated and remarkable mostly for its smokey, earthy flavours. Irish whiskey, on the other hand, is viewed as a much smoother, caramel-ish fixture.
- A common misunderstanding about Irish whiskey is that Scottish whisky is distilled twice, whereas Irish is distilled thrice. There’s simply too much variety in both nations to make such a clear-cut judgment.
- Until recently, there were only eight main distilleries in the Ireland, however, the number has increased as more and more people get involved in the craft.
- The oldest Irish distillery still in use is the Bushmills distillery, which had a licence from the British Crown to distill as far back as 1608.
- If you want to impress, drink Jameson’s Rarest Vintage Reserve. As expensive as it sounds, this blend packs ripe grain, rare pot still whiskeys, and is aged up to 23 years.
- One last thing… don’t take the labels too seriously because, unlike in Scotland, Ireland does not seek to govern the rules of production for single malt or single grain whiskies, leaving distilleries to define them.
If you fancy raising a glass and toasting “Slàinte!” with friends and family, why not book a room at the five-star Ashford Castle or its sister-property The Lodge at Ashford Castle, overlooking Lough Corrib.