Whisky Magazine Issue 102
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Joel Harrison is a drinks writer who regularly contributes to Whisky Magazine and other publications, including The Wall Street Journal India. A judge on the World Whisky, IWSC and Spirit Masters Awards, he cofounded award winning whisky blog Caskstrength.net and runs a creative marketing consultancy helping to debunk the whisky category for new drinkers
Whenever I host a Scotch whisky tasting, the one question that I can guarantee will always be asked is: “I like Irish whiskey. How is it different to Scotch?” After offending both sets of Celts with a couple of golden-oldie jokes on the matter, the serious answers come out to play.
The challenge comes when finding a consistent way of promoting Irish whiskey as a category. With just four working distilleries across the entire island, each with their own style of production, it is hard to put your finger on exactly what Irish whiskey means from a flavour and production perspective. Explaining the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch is not about amusing anecdotes, but a complex topic with an answer requiring forethought from the teacher and concentration from the student.
For me, these differences are to be celebrated, extolled and promoted.
For the issue is this: from the triple distilled single malt whiskey made in the North at Bushmills down to the multiple output of liquid from the Midleton distillery in Cork using both malted and unmalted barley, with Cooley and Kilbeggan's double distillation sandwiched in the middle, there is no one consistent way to describe the whiskey output from this isle.
As proprietors of the largest distillery in Ireland, the enormous distillation plant at Midleton in County Cork, the role of cheerleader for Irish whiskey has fallen at the feet of Irish Distillers Limited (IDL). Seeing the successful growth and premiumisation of sin...