Irish Whiskey 101: A History and Tasting Guide

  
Irish Whiskey 101: A History and Tasting Guide

Irish Whiskey History 101:

Those who know history will be better able to appreciate drinking it.

By the end of the 1600s, distillation had long been underway around the world. On one local level, though, things were about to undergo some stringent changes. 1725 saw the establishment of the English malt tax, a law that didn’t stop at the English borders. In Scotland, distillation either stopped or went underground. Some people attribute the word “moonshine” to that era – smoke from stills being harder to see at night – but the word predates those sly stills by a century and a half. At any tax-evading rate, the Scots took their stills into hiding, and the Irish took to making their whiskies in pot stills, with unmalted grains.

1822 saw the invention of the Coffey still, a continuous still. The Scots were relatively quick to adopt this new technology, and there was mass production of Scotch whisky. In Ireland, Baker says, “There was a lot of bickering . . . about whether this was the appropriate way to make whiskey.” Pot stills and old-school craft won out.

For more than a century – clear through the 1900s – Irish whiskey was respected, appreciated and very popular. The blow that dented Irish whiskey sales was a political act. “Because of the Troubles between the Irish and the English, there was a blockade on export, and then American Prohibition happened.” Prior to Prohibition, “America was the largest market for Irish whiskey in the world.” Welcome, Ireland, to a dry new era.

Not that they didn’t have an escape hatch. One was offered to them. They didn’t take it. “During Prohibition,” Baker says, “Al Capone traveled to Ireland to talk with them about bootlegging and Irish whiskey. The Irish said, ‘We’ve got enough troubles going on right now. We’ve got this blockade and we’re fighting . . .’ There were a lot of things happening politically in Ireland, especially in the North. They said no.”

The story doesn’t end there. “Al Capone went to the Scots . . . The Scots started sending Scottish whisky through Canada, and Al Capone and his cronies started distributing it through the United States. And that’s why the American palate leans towards Scotch, because that’s what was available to them.”

Not much changed “until Barry Crockett started producing for Midleton in the 1970s” and Irish distillers started working together to rebuild the market.

In short, if you don’t give good Irish whiskey a serious try, you’re stuck in the past. Prohibition is over, the blockade has been lifted, and the Troubles are over. It’s time to rediscover the delights of Irish spirits, malted and not.

4/8

Photo via Flickr

Recent Articles
Inside Look: Campari's Stylish North American Headquarters in New York
Behind the Bar: Liana Oster of Dante
Pabst Blue Ribbon Launches Blue Ribbon Whiskey in Select US Markets

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Pabst Blue Ribbon Launches Blue Ribbon Whiskey in Select US Markets

Pabst Blue Ribbon Launches Blue Ribbon Whiskey in Select US Markets

PBR has launched their own whiskey. Let's keep an open mind and see what is inside this bottle....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Sep 24, 2019
The Master Sommelier Scandal is Now the Subject of a New Investigative Series

The Master Sommelier Scandal is Now the Subject of a New Investigative Series

There's a new investigative series about one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the wine world....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Sep 13, 2019
Baltimore's Coolest Rooftop Bars for Summer Drinking

Baltimore's Coolest Rooftop Bars for Summer Drinking

Whether it's on warm summer nights or with the briskness of spring and fall evenings, drinking is often at its best when it's al fresco. ...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Jul 31, 2019
SPONSORED
Visit Drink Baltimore on Your Phone
Using Peas to Make Gin Might Lead to More Environmentally Friendly Spirits, Studies Show

Using Peas to Make Gin Might Lead to More Environmentally Friendly Spirits, Studies Show

Scientists may have discovered a more environmentally friendly way to make one of the world's most popular spi...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jul 23, 2019
Drink a Classic Cocktail for a Good Cause During Negroni Week, June 24-30

Drink a Classic Cocktail for a Good Cause During Negroni Week, June 24-30

Negroni Week 2019 is June 24-30, so drink this classic cocktail for a good cause....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Jun 19, 2019
What to Do if Your Uber, Lyft, or Cab Driver Ever Strays From Your Destination or Makes You Feel in Danger

What to Do if Your Uber, Lyft, or Cab Driver Ever Strays From Your Destination or Makes You Feel in Danger

If you're taking an Uber, Lyft, or cab and feel unsafe, there are steps you can take to protect yourself....read more ›

by Nina Starner Jun 19, 2019
Behind the Bar: Kat Corbo of The Study & Winner of Speed Rack 2019

Behind the Bar: Kat Corbo of The Study & Winner of Speed Rack 2019

This time on Behind the Bar, we spoke to Kat Corbo of The Study, who recently won Speed Rack 2019....read more ›

by The Drink Nation May 15, 2019
Where to Drink Outside in Baltimore During Summer 2019

Where to Drink Outside in Baltimore During Summer 2019

Whether it's on the waterfront with seafood and crushes or on a dog-friendly deck with whiskey, outdoor drinking is a staple in this city....read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera May 14, 2019
Boston Beer & Dogfish Head Have Merged in a $300 Million Deal

Boston Beer & Dogfish Head Have Merged in a $300 Million Deal

In a huge move for the American craft beer community, Boston Beer and Dogfish Head have agreed to a merger valued at $300 million dollars. ...read more ›

by The Drink Nation May 10, 2019
Welcome Warmer Weather & Sip These Spring Cocktails in Baltimore

Welcome Warmer Weather & Sip These Spring Cocktails in Baltimore

With snow and winter winds behind us, it’s time to step into spring. Is there any better way to put a spring in your step than with some seasonal si...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Apr 17, 2019
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close