The story of Irish whiskey is a testament to the fiery spirit and resilience of the culture that created it. The drink's characteristic balance of sweet and spice makes it an excellent choice on St. Patrick's Day and any day of the year.
What defines an Irish whiskey? Generally, Irish whiskeys are triple-distilled and unpeated, lending to their reputation as being lighter and less harsh on the palate than their Scottish counterparts. Aside from various technicalities, Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged in the Emerald Isle to be called as such. However, the requirements are less stringent than those for bourbon or Scotch, allowing for a generous spectrum of flavor profiles, from bright and fruity to full and smoky.
Old, New Flavors
Hailed as the water of life ("uisce beatha") by the monks who first distilled it, Irish whiskey rose to its heyday in the late 19th century, when it reigned as the most popular spirit in the world. However, due to a series of misfortunes, its heavy pour slowed to a mere trickle until just two distilleries were left in the whole of Ireland.
In recent years, Irish whiskey has again surged, especially in the U.S. Although the standbys of Jameson (a registered trademark of Irish Distillers Limited) and Bushmills (a registered trademark of Old Bushmills Distillery Limited) lead the way in the U.S., smaller labels from newer distilleries are offering a range of flavors and price points.
How to Drink It
Irish whiskey is a popular choice for shots and cocktails due to its smooth and drinkable nature, but many selections — especially long-aged, premium labels — have rich complexities that benefit from a slow sipping experience. Try adding a splash of water to help open up the full bouquet of flavors in a tumbler of whiskey neat.
Irish whiskey can be a delicious base for all manner of cocktails, from classic to craft. Experiment with these drink ideas to discover how Irish whiskey can inspire your taste buds. Sláinte!Irish Cream Coffee
Opt for a creamier, decadent take on the perennial pick-me-up by mixing a shot of Spice Islands® Irish Creme Liqueur into a hot cup of coffee. Top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and sprinkle with Spice Islands® ground nutmeg.
Whiskey GingerA popular cocktail for good reason, the crisp fizz of ginger ale or ginger beer complements the mellow bite of a shot (or two) of your favorite Irish whiskey. Crush or stir in a dash of Spice Islands® Crystallized Ginger for an extra kick of flavor that really makes this drink buzz!
Anne Delatte is a freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys covering food, drink, and culture in South Louisiana and beyond and has written for area publications and national sites including Apartments.com and Marriott Travel. Anne lives and writes in New Orleans.