Irish whiskey differs from Scotch for its triple distillation, which gives a much smoother taste and, for many, a more delicate and fruity flavor. The difference also translates to the name. In Scotland, it is referred to as whisky while the Irish spell it whiskey. The main ingredient for whiskey production is barley, combined with rye, oats, and wheat, and each distillery uses the proportions they deem appropriate to develop and uphold their style. After fermentation and distillation, the liquid rests for at least seven years in barrels that previously contained sherry.
One of the most significant differences from Scotch whisky is that malt in Irish whiskey is baked—using coal to avoid leaving any trace of flavor—while the Scots use peat, which adds its distinctive smoky notes. Moreover, what makes Irish whiskey so unique is the fact that–in addition to malted barley–it uses at least one raw cereal in its distillation.
Although many distilleries have closed their doors in recent years, you can still find a few that continue producing high-quality whiskeys in the Emerald Isle.
Located in the rugged Antrim coast, in one of the most imposing and serene landscapes of the Irish Ulster, the Bushmills Distillery has been legendary since 1608, when it began producing the famous whiskey of the same name. Within its broad range of proposals, we find especially noteworthy the limited edition Bushmills 21-Year-Old Single Malt, a unique distillate that matures in bourbon and sherry casks for 21 years. During the last two years, the aging takes place in barrels that previously contained the best Madeira wine. The result is a whiskey of dark golden color, with aromas of spices, raisins, nuts, wood, vanilla, and caramel, with an elegant hint of spicy dried fruits and a certain balsamic ending reminiscent of mint.
The Kilbeggan distillery, located less than an hour’s drive from Dublin, holds the license to distill the world’s oldest Irish whiskey, is one of Ireland’s oldest dating back to 1757. Its finest product is the 21 Year Old Kilbeggan, a complex limited edition whiskey selected by the master blender, Noel Sweeney. This blend is aged in several different barrels that were previously used to age Bourbon, Port, Sherry, and Madeira. This procedure contributes to its complexity and remarkable character, providing mild aromas with hints of lemon zest, honey, walnuts, hazelnuts and malted barley, sweet notes of cereal and the distinctive smoky notes of peat. Its taste is slightly sweet, well-rounded with honey, malt and mild spices, toasted oak and the spicy ending usually found in the best Irish whiskeys. ■