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Us three be the living, liquid proof that our makers, the Irish, were the first to make uisce beatha, aka aqua vitae, aka the water of life... or in the layman's terms: Whiskey!
Seems like an easy question for some, doesn't it? "Where does Whisk(e)y come from? The liquor store!" Alas, for others... it's not tha' simple or frivolous.
There be stories of Irish monks bringing the art of distillation from Arabia, stories of Vikings who settled down to nurture the craft in Scotland, stories of this and that... a few (those unversed in the historical facts) even claim that no other than Robert Burns and Oscar Wilde exchanged a few heated words in the attempt to settle the matter for good. Now this be fact or fiction we still be willing to brawl it out for the cause because we ARE The Fighting Irish.
What’s in a Name? When you’re an Irish Whisk(e)y, quite a lot. And no, your eyes aren’t playing games with ya’ — there’s definitely an "e" in there. See, it was purposely thrown in there so people wouldn’t confuse them with those vowel-dropping Scots.
So how does Irish Whiskey stack up against Scottish Whisky? While they’re both distilled from barley, the Irish like to use both malted and unmalted barley in a mash. And there’s a tale to be told there. See, when Ireland was run by Britain over 100 years ago, they decided to tax malted grain. Being the rebellious sort, the Irish began sneaking unmalted barley into their mash. Little did they know that it’d really up the ante on their Whiskey. And tee off the Brits.
Also: The Scots distill their Whisky twice. But the Irish give theirs an extra go for a total of three distillation rounds. That makes for a smoother, less assertive and fresh dram. Apparently good things do come in threes.
Alright, enough with tha’ history lesson. Let’s get on with introducing you to our rabble rousin’ three: The Irishman 12 Year Old, Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey and Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey Holiday Edition.
Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo. Now, let’s rumble.
1) Irish Whiskey saw a huge decline in the 20th century. You can thank U.S. Prohibition for that. Apparently, Americans were huge fans of the sweet, mild and gentle Irish tipple — they kept 160 distilleries humming with business. But by the time the 80s rolled around, only two were left.
2) Today, there are over 30 distilleries in Ireland already up and running or in the process of being built, making Irish Whiskey one of the most dynamic Spirit categories out there. We’re suckers for a good comeback story.
3) Ireland has a proud history of producing great fighters — boxers to be exact. One of their finest: Mike McTigue, the light heavyweight boxing champion of the world from 1923-1925. His 1923 bout against Battling Siki went on for a grueling 20 rounds before McTigue was proclaimed the winner. After a forced retirement at age 38, McTigue went on to run a successful bar in Long Island.
4) In the U.S., Irish Whiskey sales have jumped by over 500% since 2002. It’s the fastest growing category in the Spirits industry. There’s some news to raise your glass to.
5) There are three general Irish Whiskey varieties: ‘grain Whiskey’, mostly derived from corn, ‘malted barley Pot-Still-Distilled’, and ‘Pure Pot Still’ (or ‘Single Pot Still’ as it’s now officially known) — a combination of malted, unmalted ‘green’ barley distilled in copper pot stills.
6) The Battle of The Alamo, one of America’s most iconic stories of fight and might, was fought by a strong contingent of Irishmen. In fact, the Irish tricolor is one of seven international flags flown at the site to acknowledge their contributions.
7) The Buena Vista Café in San Francisco has served over 30 million cups of Irish Coffee to customers. Here’s the recipe: heat together 4 parts of coffee and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar in a pre-heated, clear-stemmed glass. Then, when the sugar dissolves, add 2 parts of quality Irish Whiskey, stir and then wait for the brew to still. Over the backside of a hot teaspoon, pour the lightly whipped fresh cream (neither stiff or runny), capping the mix below.
An un-aged American Whisky is often called “white dog.”