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Issue 94 - All in the Mash

Whisky Magazine Issue 94
March 2011

 

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All in the Mash

Iorwerth Griffiths explores a particularly Irish style

Pot still whiskey is a style particular to Ireland. In fact it is currently unique to a single distillery, albeit one of the most complex plants in the entire industry: Midleton, County Cork, the home of Jameson.

The key to this style of whiskey is the mash bill. Unlike malt whiskey, pot still whiskey uses a proportion of unmalted barley in the mash together with malted barley. This gives it a unique flavour and came about due to a tax on malt in the late 18th century leading Irish distilleries to use other unmalted grains in their mash to reduce their tax burden.

As well as using unmalted barley, the Irish distilleries of the time used other grains. A small proportion of oats (around 10 to 15 per cent of the mash bill) were used by many including the old Midleton Distillery and Locke's, Kilbeggan while the old Tullamore Distillery had a mashbill made up of malt, barley, wheat, oats and rye.

Traditional pot still whiskey is a very oily, robustly flavoured product. The distinctive characteristics come not only from the mash bill but also from the spirit cut which tends to be rather lengthy for economic reasons and contains a lot of heavy fusel oils.

Irish pot still whiskey was the dominant style of whiskey in the world, but history dealt a number of blows. This resulted in the remaining distillers in the Republic of Ireland joining forces rather than compete in a shrinking market. In the early 1970s production was concentrated in a new multipurpose plant at Midleton. While...

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