There’s a reason whiskey is the drink of choice for St. Patrick’s Day. Did you know the word whiskey is an anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic term “uisce beatha,” which means “water of life?” If you didn’t, you’ve come to the right place, as we’re here to talk all thing whiskey, just in time for the big day.
Here’s a statement to kick things off: rum is the most diverse spirit of them all. There, we said it. From drinking it neat to enjoying it in cocktails and mixed drinks, no spirit delivers as well as rum. “I’ve been screaming from the rooftops for the past 20 years about diversity in rum!” says Mark Wyatt, owner of the Rum Bar, in Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia’s oldest rum bar.
First of all, unlike Scottish whisky, Irish whiskey is spelled with an “e.” The difference between them isn’t all in the spelling however, as there are some key flavour and distillation distinctions that set the Irish stuff apart.
Irish whiskey is distilled three times, whereas Scotch is only distilled twice. The third distillation gives Irish whiskey a noticeably lighter feel and a smoothness that is different from its Scottish counterpart.
When it comes to ingredients, Irish whiskey is made with a mix of raw and malted barley, whereas Scotch is made entirely with malted barley that is often dried through peat-smoking. This smoking process imparts a characteristic peat flavour in the Scotch, something that the lighter Irish whiskies typically don’t have.
But that’s enough on process, let’s get down to the fun part. Which Irish whiskey should you enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day?
The original Jameson is perhaps the best known Irish drop on the market, so it’s a great place to start for newcomers. This Irish legend is usually best served on ice or with ginger ale and a wedge of lime.
For something a little different, there are the Jameson Caskmates varieties. Caskmates IPA is finished in Irish Pale Ale barrels, taking on hop and citrus flavours. Caskmates Stout has notes of coffee, cacao and subtle hops that come from the stout barrels it’s finished in. Try each in a Boilermaker, matching them to their beer varieties.
From Ireland’s oldest distillery, Bushmills is a blend of triple distilled whiskey that’s mixed with a lighter grain whisky. It’s an approachable drop with a rich and warm taste complemented by notes of fresh fruit and vanilla.
Try it on the rocks and appreciate the mellow flavours or shake it up in your favourite whiskey-based cocktail and appreciate the quality it adds.
A top-shelf Irish whiskey, Writers Tears not only has a great name, but it’s got the taste and profile to back it up. Much like other Irish whiskies, it’s light with a subtle sweetness. Made with a blend of single pot and single malt whiskies, it has soft honey notes and an incredibly smooth finish.
Much like with a good Scottish single malt, this whiskey is best enjoyed neat or with a couple of ice cubes, so you can better appreciate the subtle flavours.