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Issue 109 - Style & Substance

Whisky Magazine Issue 109
February 2013

 

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Style & Substance

Ian Wisniewskiasks, what is a pot still Irish whiskey and how does it differ from malt Irish whiskey?

Malt Irish whiskey is produced from malted barley distilled either two or three times in a pot still. Pot still Irish whiskey is produced from a combination of malted and unmalted barley, and distilled in a pot still (typically) three times. These differences promote two distinct styles of whiskey, and together with other vital factors such as the choice of casks and length of aging, each distillery also has its own individual house style.

The tradition of using unmalted barley to produce pot still Irish whiskey began in the 18th century, prompted by the introduction of a tax on malted barley.

Consequently, adding some unmalted barley enabled distillers to use less malted barley, and therefore reduce their tax liability.

The proportions of malted to unmalted barley vary, which promotes different styles of spirit (regulations stipulate a minimum of 30 per cent malted barley). Including some malted barley is of course essential, as the process of malting the barley (ie. allowing it to germinate) also triggers the release of enzymes, which perform a vital role during mashing, driving the conversion of starches in the barley into sugars.

“Higher proportions of malted barley typically result in more prominent malty, biscuity notes. Higher proportions of unmalted barley promote more fruity notes, while also giving the whiskey a more creamy mouthfeel, and a mouth-coating finish compared to the relatively drier finish of malt whiskey. We can accentuate these differences through...

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