A Journey Through Irish Whiskey

 

Sampling the Flavors of Ireland

Irish Whiskey – a golden nectar imbued with the culture and history of the Emerald Isle herself. Few beverages are as synonymous with their country of origin as Irish Whiskey. There is no doubt that the Irish are filled with pride for their whiskey, just take a look at the dozens of folk songs, books and myths that have sprung up around the amber liquid.

Now, pour yourself a glass and let’s embark on a journey through the rich heritage of this iconic spirit. Just remember, it’s spelled “whiskey” here, not “whisky”!

Whiskey barrels
Image courtesy of Thomas Thompson

The Origins of Irish Whiskey

Irish Whiskey, or “uisce beatha” in Gaelic, meaning “water of life,” has a storied past dating back over a thousand years. Legend has it that Irish monks first distilled it in the 12th century, deriving techniques from their Mediterranean travels. 

This makes Irish Whiskey one of the earliest distilled drinks in Europe—compare that to Scotch Whisky which wouldn’t appear until 1494!

The Distilling Process

The art of making Irish Whiskey, and it is an art, is a blend of tradition and precision. Distilled from malted barley, the process can vary, but there are a few key stages.

  1. Malt Preparation: Barley grains are soaked in water and then allowed to germinate. This stage is crucial for converting starch into fermentable sugars.
  2. Mashing and Fermentation: The malt is ground into a grist, mixed with hot water, and stirred. This “mash” releases sugars, which, when cooled, is fermented by adding yeast. This step transforms the sugary liquid into a low-alcohol brew called “wash”.
  3. Distillation: Irish Whiskey is typically triple-distilled in copper pot stills, a method that makes it remarkably smooth. The distillation process increases the alcohol content and extracts the desired flavors.
  4. Aging: The spirit is aged in wooden casks, often previously used for sherry, bourbon, or port, which gives it unique flavors. By law, it must age for at least three years, but many distilleries go well beyond this minimum. Interestingly, this law first came about in 1915, when Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom. Once the Irish Free State was founded, the law changed to five years, before being reduced again to three years in 1969.
Image courtesy of Joost Crop

More Than Just a Drink

In Ireland, whiskey isn’t just a beverage; it’s a symbol of hospitality and warmth. From lively pubs to quiet evenings at home, sharing a dram of whiskey is a gesture of friendship. It’s deeply intertwined with Irish history, from the highs of global fame in the 19th century to the lows during Prohibition and the subsequent decline. Today, there’s a renaissance, with Irish Whiskey regaining its international reputation for excellence. Here are just a few of the distillers making waves around the globe.

Jameson Whiskey: You don’t mess with perfection. Founded by John Jameson in 1780, this Dublin-based whiskey has been going strong for almost 250 years.

Teeling Whiskey: Don’t be turned off by this single grain from Dublin. These expert distillers pack a lot of favor into every small batch.

Tullamore Dew: This triple-blended Irish Whiskey is both smooth and versatile. It’s a great choice for mixed drinks or to enjoy on it’s own!

Walsh Whiskey: Double up on fun with Writer’s Tears and The Irishman, two modern whiskey brands that are quickly gaining notoriety for their high-quality and warm flavor.

Waterford Whiskey: Anyone care to enjoy a single malt whiskey in their Waterford Crystal? Now that’s a combination we can’t pass up.

Whiskey barrels being stored
Image courtesy of Daniel Vogel

Pairing Irish Whiskey with Classic Irish Meals

The true beauty of Irish Whiskey is in its versatility, especially when paired with food. Here are a few of our favorite dishes that beautifully complement the flavors of Irish Whiskey.

Corned Beef and Cabbage: This hearty dish pairs wonderfully with a smooth, light Irish Whiskey. The whiskey’s vanilla and caramel notes complement the savory beef.

Dublin Coddle: A bowl of warm stew and a glass of aged, peaty whiskey is comfort food at its best. The whiskey’s smoky undertones enhance the stew’s flavors.

Hot Irish Whiskey Sausage: A Tommy Moloney’s speciality, these sausages are a match made in heaven with a glass of spicy, robust Irish Whiskey. The whiskey’s spice and the sausage’s richness create a harmonious balance.

A Taste of Home with Tommy Moloney’s

Irish Whiskey is more than just a spirit; it’s a journey through Ireland’s history, culture, and culinary delights. Whether you’re sipping it neat, pairing it with a delicious Irish meal, or enjoying it in Tommy Moloney’s Hot Irish Whiskey Sausage, you’re partaking in a tradition that’s as rich and warm as the whiskey itself.

So here’s to Irish Whiskey – a timeless spirit that continues to bring people together, just like the warmth of an Irish welcome. Sláinte!

Tommy Moloneys