The first written record of Irish whiskey dates to 1405. Today, thanks to the Irish Whisky Act of 1980, it is protected in Ireland by statute law. It must be distilled and matured in wooden casks for a minimum of three years on the island of Ireland. The word whiskey itself is an anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic word ‘uisce beatha’ which directly translates to ‘the water of life’.
HOW IS IRISH WHISKEY MADE?
Malted barley (germinated) and un-malted barley (straight from the field) are milled into a mash. This is achieved by milling the barley and simply adding water, the result is called the mash.
Mashing: using a lauter tun, the solids and the husks are separated from the sweet liquid. This sweet liquid is known as the wort. A lauter tun works much like a large sieve.
Fermentation: The sweet wort is added to the wash back where yeast is added and fermentation begins. The yeast cells eat the sugar in the wort and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is known as the wash.
Distillation: As the wash is heated up in the still, the alcohol boils at a lower temp than the water and it’s vapour rises up the neck of the still over the top into the condenser where it is condensed back down into a liquid. This process is uniquely carried out three times in Ireland. Each distillation brings a higher alcohol content until the
Maturation. After the third distillation the new make whiskey is filled in wooden casks and stored in warehouses in Ireland for a minimum of three years. This is where the spirit starts to get its colour and its distinctive flavours.
Bottling. After the whiskey has reached its maturation age it is bottled and shipped to every corner of the world where it is enjoyed by millions of people every day.
Irish whiskey has had its ups and downs over the last few centuries with some glorious periods when it was more popular than its one true rival Scotch. The good news is that Irish whiskey has been the fastest growing spirit category in the world for the last number of years consecutively. Just 5 years ago, Ireland had only 3 whiskey distilleries, now there are more than 20 with projections for more than 30 by 2020. For now, it’s safe to say the future Is green!