The first whiskey distillers in the British Isles weren’t Scottish, but Irish. Perhaps the most famed Irish whiskey export, Jameson, was produced at the Bow Street distillery from 1780 until 1975 when it was moved to Midleton Distillery in County Cork.
Though until recently, Irish whiskey had but three operational distilleries, Irish whiskey has certainly amassed a bountiful flavour profile, owing to a richly varied array of production methods. It’s not uncommon for Irish single malt whiskey to undergo double and triple distillation – something that emboldens the flavour.
Irish whiskey has a distinct character and bouquet. Mixing subtle hints of apple and hay and balancing these with vanilla and nutmeg, Irish whiskey has its own distinct character – something that’s recognised across the globe.
There is little historical debate amongst whether Ireland introduced distillation to the British Isles. Ireland was the genesis of whiskey distillation on British shores. It’s believed that using huge pot sills, John Jameson – and other Irish innovators – were able to create a consistent flavour – one that encapsulated Irish whiskey.
Noticing the success that the Irish had, not to have their acumen challenged, the Scottish distillers used political measures to quash the growing Irish influence. This left only one Irish company – Irish Distillers Ltd and just two distilleries: New Midelton in Cork and Bushmills in the far north.
Thankfully, in the decades that followed – thanks largely to the global appeal of Jamesons single malt whiskey – Irish whiskies have become back in vogue. Bushmills and Tullamore Dew are both widely exported.
In 1988, Cooley – one of Ireland’s few independent distilleries challenged the monopoly that Midleton and Bushmills had long reigned over. This is further testament to the renaissance of Irish whiskey – with plans to build several new distilleries in the pipeline today.
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