Irish Whiskey 101: A History and Tasting Guide

  
Irish Whiskey 101: A History and Tasting Guide

Tastings Pt. 1:

With the exception of Greenore, which is made solely of corn, Clontarf has the highest grain content of any Irish whiskey in the market. “Ninety percent grain and ten percent pot still,” Baker says, pouring. “This is very light, very sweet . . .” Light and uncomplicated, it tastes like a whiskey fitted for cocktails – and so it is. “We use this in our Irish coffee on the first floor,” Baker says. “It really lets the coffee flavor come through.”

Next up is something familiar to just about every drinker. “Jameson whiskey is the leader in the Irish whiskey market,” Baker says. “A lot of that has to do with the Midleton Distillery opening in the seventies.” Loads of tradition, innovation and plain hard work go into that distillery in Cork. It’s the source of pride as well as whiskey, and Jameson’s drinkers reap some flavorful rewards from the work. “Jameson is seventy percent grain and thirty percent pot still,” Baker says. “This is still sweet, light . . . a little more flavor.”

As she pours, Baker notes that, “Jameson Black Barrel was released a few years ago . . . This is sixty percent pot still and forty percent grain.” It’s almost the polar opposite of the daily Jameson. “This has a much more robust flavor.” Black Barrel earns its label with its barrels. “They’ve charred these bourbon barrels intensely. You taste the vanillins.” The pot still contributes fattiness. Sweetness comes from the grain whiskey.

“All Jamesons,” Baker says, “are all chill-filtered.” A beat later, she continues. “If you have any spirit that is non-chill-filtered below forty-four percent, you’re going to get cloudiness when you add ice. That’s because of the remaining esters.” It isn’t bad – any more than cloudiness in olive oil is bad – but it isn’t attractive. “At forty-six percent, you do not have to chill-filter.”

That brings us to Powers. “This is also sixty percent pot still and forty percent grain.” If you want to know what Irish whiskeys a bartender chooses, then take note. “This is my go-to,” Baker says, smiling with the memory of drinks gone by and glasses yet to come. “I get off work and I like to have a cider and a Powers.” It is a rich, warm, welcoming drink. “There are subtleties to this,” Baker says. “There’s the fatness, the creaminess. The honey and vanilla come through. It’s got a spice to it. It has more of a burn. It has a little bit more of an ABV, so it’s a little bit hotter. This is what we use in the Irish coffees on the second floor. On the first floor, we use the Clontarf, which is accessible to all people, whether they have an experienced palate or not.”

5/8

Photo via Flickr 

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