Irish Whiskey: There’s more here than meets the eye.
Scotch Whisky has a close cousin that is capable of just as much depth and seriousness, but often gets mistaken as the class clown. Too many St. Patty’s day parties with green beer and Irish car bombs have given the unfortunate impression that this is all Irish whiskey is about. This is simply not true. Irish whiskey is smooth and sweet, with a flavor profile that includes honey at the start and vanilla on the finish. It is the most approachable of all the whiskeys, and is often the best introduction to the world of whiskey in general.
The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 put forth a number of guidelines to legally define Irish whiskey that are relatively simple compared to Scotch or bourbon. It must be made and aged in Ireland from a fermented mash of cereal grains. That aging must take place in wooden barrels no larger than 185 gallons for a minimum of three years. There is no regulation as to what kind of barrels must be used, but often they formerly contained Bourbon, Madeira, sherry, and rum, each giving the whiskey different body and a different flavor profile. One of the biggest differences between Irish whiskey and Scotch is the types of grains that are used. Both malted and unmalted barley are common in Irish whiskey, but corn, wheat and rye can also be added to recipes. A whiskey must be labeled as “blended” if it’s been produced from whiskeys from more than one distillery. Most Irish whiskeys are not exposed to peat smoke the way Scotch whiskeys are, so the smokey taste for which Scotch is known is generally not present, although there are a few exceptions to this.
There are a number of sub-categories of Irish whiskey, but there are no real rules to universally govern these distinctions.
- Blends: made from a blend of various Irish whiskeys from different distilleries that include various cereal grains. Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew.
- Single Grain Whiskey: made by a single distillery from a blend of corn, wheat, rye, and barley in any combination. Teeling Single Grain.
- Single Malt: made at a single distillery using a mash of only malted barley distilled in a pot still. Bushmills 10, 16, and 21, Tullamore Dew Single Malt 10.
- Single Pot Still: made by one distillery from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley distilled exclusively in a pot still. Red Breast 12, 15, 21.
The Tipperary is an old Prohibition-era cocktail that first appeared in print in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks in 1916. The original recipe had the ingredients measured in equal parts (1/2 oz each) which made the drink very sweet and viscous. Most newer variations bump the whiskey up to 2 oz and add in the orange bitters to make the combination more appealing to modern palates. The history of the drink’s name varies. Some say it’s named after a small town and county in Ireland; others link it to the 1912 song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” supposedly sung by an Irish regiment during World War I.
2 oz Redbreast 12-year Irish whiskey
1/2 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes orange bitters
lemon twist (for garnish)
Place all the ingredients except for the lemon twist into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long handled bar spoon until very cold (about 30 – 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy!
Tomorrow we’ll talk about a modern Irish whiskey cocktail. I’ll be resuming my Thursday Barlogues next week!