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What is Irish Whiskey?

Exploring Irish Whiskey


What is Irish Whiskey?

Former pot still from the Old Midelton Distillery, County Cork, Ireland

Lance J. Mayhew
Updated February 26, 2014

People frequently ask bartenders, "What is Irish whiskey?", and while the answer isn't simple, a broad look at the Irish whiskey category is essential to understanding the category. Irish whiskey was the most popular whiskey category in America prior to Prohibition and with a surge of interest in Irish whiskey again, it may soon return to its dominant place as America's favorite style of whiskey.


Irish whiskey is one of the most popular forms of whiskey in the world. Soley a product of Ireland, the rules for the production of Irish whiskey date back to 1880. The two major components of the laws are as follows;

  • spirits described as Irish whiskey shall not be deemed to correspond to that description unledss they have been obtained by distillation in the Ireland from a mash of malt and cereals.
  • spirits described as Irish Pot Still whiskey shall not be deemed to correspond to this description unless they have been obtained by distillation solely in pot stills in Ireland from a mash of cereal grains such as are ordinarily grown in Ireland.


Traditionally, Irish whiskey is triple distilled in copper pot stills versus the usual practice of double distillation for Scotch whisky. Additionally, Irish whiskey is generally not exposed to peat smoke as are many Scotch whiskies.


There are three whiskey distilleries left in Ireland;

Irish Whiskey Classifications

  • Single Malt
  • Single Grain
  • Single Pot Still (formerly Pure Pot Still)
  • Grain
  • Blended

Flavor Profile

Irish whiskies can generally be described as light and fruity with evident cereal grain notes.

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