There are many rivalries within the British Isles. From football derbies to the correct pronunciation of words (we’re looking at you, scone), we squabble and spar over the most trivial of topics. But, there is one of these spirited discussions that overshadows all others.
It’s Scotch versus Irish. Whisky versus whiskey. One nation’s proudest and most potent drink pitted against another’s. It may be a spirit of two nations, but each think their whiskey – ‘e’ or not – is best.
So, maybe it’s because it’s almost St Patrick’s Day, or maybe it’s because we’ve been reaching for a couple of drams ourselves, but here it is: Irish whiskey is what you should be drinking. And, if you don’t believe us, here are some experts to tell you why.
Irish Whiskey is distilled three times, rather than the Scotch two
“Generally, Scotch whiskies are distilled twice, whereas Irish whiskey is distilled three times,” reveals Colum Egan, Master Distiller at Bushmills. “We distil our whiskey in 10 copper pot stills, which are relatively small with tall, slender necks to produce a much smoother spirit that is our signature house style.
"Irish Whiskey needs to be aged in wood for a minimum of three years and bottled at no less than 40% ABV..."
“And, when it comes to ageing,” he adds, “Irish whiskey must be matured for at least three years, compared to just two years for Scotch whisky. As a result, Irish whiskey tends to have a more mellow style than Scotch whisky. At Bushmills, we only use malted barley which is unpeated. This means it’s dried with hot air rather than peat fire, which frees it from the smoky flavour sometimes found in Scotch.
In fact, overall Irish Whiskey has stricter rules to up the quality, and looser rules to up the variety
“Irish whiskey was formalised by The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980,” explains Ronan Collins, Brand Ambassador for Jameson Irish Whiskey. “Put simply, it needs to be distilled to no higher than 94.8% ABV, aged in wood for a minimum of three years and bottled at no less than 40% ABV.
Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition
Bushmills Black Bush
“But the ageing process in wood is not limited to Oak,” he adds. “Unlike Scotch, this really opens a world of playful experimentation. As such, Irish whiskey is hugely exciting because it lends itself to more subtle and sophisticated flavours – it can really add that unique feel to a cocktail.”
It feels more current than dated Scotch
“It was a category not really represented to the extent of Scotch and American,” says Ciarán Ó Dubhthaigh, on why he decided to open Irish Whiskey bar The Sun Tavern in London. “Along with the renaissance happening in Ireland, it all felt very current and something to shout about. We are getting back to what we are decent at – making the world’s number one drink!
"It’s the people’s drink, and they find it very approachable..."
“It is different from any other spirit in the sense that it was the initial spirit to become whiskey as we know it today – while at the same time being very diverse and approachable. It’s the people’s drink, and they find it very approachable – the range and the stories. There is an Irish whiskey for everyone – you just need to discover it!”
It is the fastest growing spirit in the world
Since 1990, Irish Whiskey has been the fastest growing spirit in the world. “It is at the heart of many occasions and celebrations, and it resonates with consumers,” says Colum Egan, of Bushmills.
“And diversity and innovation in the industry is making it more popular than ever,” he continues. “Whether it’s new products from established brands or new producers hitting the market, diversity will only make the Irish whiskey category more accessible around the world and that’s something to be celebrated.”
“And who doesn’t love the Irish?” adds Jameson’s Ronan Collins. “At the heart of Irish culture is its people, who are internationally known for being welcoming, warm and funny – even if I do say so myself. And, once tasted, Irish whiskey is the same!”