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Irish whiskey

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Irish whiskey is whiskey made in Ireland.

Key regulations defining Irish whiskey and its production are established by the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, and are relatively simple (for example, in comparison with those for Scotch whisky or American whiskey). They can be summarised as follows:

Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged in the Republic of Ireland or in Northern Ireland.

The contained spirits must be distilled to an alcohol by volume level of less than 94.8% from a yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains (saccharified by the diastase of malt contained therein, with or without other natural diastases) in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavour derived from the materials used.

The product must be aged for at least three years in wooden casks. If the spirits comprise a blend of two or more such distillates, the product is referred to as a "Blended" Irish whiskey.

There are several types of whiskey common to Ireland, including those referred to as Single Malt, Single Grain, and Blended Irish Whiskey. However, in contrast to the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 does not actually contain a definition of the terms "Single Malt Irish Whiskey" or "Single Grain Irish Whiskey" or specific rules governing their production, so the exact definitions of these terms may not be clearly established. The meaning of such terms can vary substantially from producer to producer. For example, some Scottish whisky that could have been considered "Single Malt" prior to 2009 was distilled using continuous stills, and there is an American whiskey marketed as a "Single Malt" that is made from rye grain. Both of these practices would violate the 2009 Scotch Whisky Regulations definition of "Single Malt Scotch Whisky" but may not be prohibited for "Single Malt Irish Whiskey".

The word whiskey is an Anglicisation of the Goidelic branch of languages including Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx as "uisce beatha" which translates as "water of life". (The Craythur is a modern Irish term for whiskey.)

Most Irish whiskey is distilled three times, while Scotch whisky, apart from Auchentoshan, is distilled twice. Peat is rarely used in the malting process, so that Irish Whiskey has a smoother finish as opposed to the smokey, earthy overtones common to some Scotches. There are notable exceptions to these "rules" in both countries; an example is Connemara Peated Irish Malt (double distilled) whiskey from the independent Cooley Distillery in Riverstown, Cooley, County Louth.

Although Scotland sustains approximately 90 distilleries, Ireland has only four (although each produces a number of different whiskeys): economic difficulties in the last few centuries have led to a great number of mergers and closures. Currently those distilleries operating in Ireland are: New Midleton Distillery (Jamesons, Powers, Paddy, Midleton, Redbreast, and others, plus the independently sold rarity Green Spot), Old Bushmills Distillery (all Old Bushmills, Black Bush, 1608, Bushmills 10-, 12- and 16- and 21-year-old single malts), Cooley Distillery (Connemara, some Knappogues, (the '94 was by Bushmills) Michael Collins, Tyrconnell, and others) and the recently reopened Kilbeggan Distillery, which began distilling again in 2007 and released samples of its still-maturing spirit at 1 month, 1 year, and 2 years worth of aging in 2009 as "The Spirit of Kilbeggan." Irish Distillers' Midleton distillery has been part of the Pernod-Ricard conglomerate since 1988. Bushmills was part of the Irish Distillers group from 1972 until 2005 when it was sold to Diageo. In addition to the 4 distilleries, there are a number of independently owned Irish Whiskey brands, such Tullamore Dew and The Irishman. The Irishman specialise in re-creating some of Irelands lost whisky treasures such as Potstill whiskies.


Irish whiskey comes in several forms. Most Irish whiskey contains alcohol continuously distilled from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley and other grains. This mixed-grain whiskey is much lighter and more neutral in flavour than the type called single malt, and most such mixed-grain whiskey is blended with single malts to produce relatively light flavored blended whiskey. However, there are a few Irish whiskies made from 100% malted barley and distilled using pot stills. Such a whiskey, when produced by a single distillery, is called a single malt whiskey.

It is possible Irish whiskey may be one of the earliest distilled beverages in Europe, however such theories have no foundation as the first evidence for the distillation of whiskey in written sources dates from the 15th century (see Distilled beverage). The Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the oldest surviving licenced distillery in the world (it received a licence from James I in 1608), although production of whiskey didn't commence at Bushmills until the late 18th century. A statute introduced in the late 16th century introduced a viceregal license for the manufacture of whiskey.

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