The fight­ing Ir­ish spirit

Jame­son Ir­ish Whiskey brand am­bas­sador Kieran Crowe takes us through a crash course in Ir­ish whiskey’s check­ered past, its re­cent resur­gence, and why it dif­fers from Scotch. By John Lim

Time Out Kuala Lumpur - - Music & Nightlife -

There’s more to Ir­ish whiskey than be­ing spelt with an ‘e’. While Ir­ish whiskey and Scotch share a sim­i­lar his­tory, each has evolved to de­velop its own char­ac­ter­is­tics. For starters, Ir­ish dis­tillers don’t use peat to malt the bar­ley – ‘We tend use our peat for more im­por­tant things, like keep­ing our houses warm,’ said Kieran – re­sult­ing in an all-round pleas­ing whiskey. Scotch, par­tic­u­larly those from the Is­lay and Camp­bel­town, take pride in their peatsmoked aroma and flavour that hit you the sec­ond the drink is poured. Ir­ish whiskeys are dis­tilled dif­fer­ently from Scotch. Pop­u­lar Ir­ish whiskeys like Jame­son use a com­bi­na­tion of malted and un­malted bar­ley, as op­posed to the Scot­tish malt whiskies, which is made from 100 per­cent malted bar­ley. ‘The rea­son for this is not about taste, but sur­prise, sur­prise, taxes,’ said Kieran. ‘When Ire­land was a Bri­tish colony, they put a tax on malted bar­ley, so to pay less tax, we use a por­tion of un­malted bar­ley.’ As an un­in­tended re­sult, most Ir­ish whiskeys have a bright, spicy fresh­ness con­trib­uted by the un­malted bar­ley. Ir­ish whiskeys are also triple-dis­tilled – as op­posed Scotches, which are com­monly twice-dis­tilled – re­sult­ing in what the Ir­ish say is a smoother dram.

Ge­og­ra­phy has lit­tle in­flu­ence over taste.

Un­like Scotch, the whiskeys pro­duced across the Ir­ish prov­inces of Ul­ster, Mun­ster and Le­in­ster don’t carry a dis­tinc­tive taste at­tached to a par­tic­u­lar place. ‘In Ire­land, each dis­tillery will make three to four types of whiskey that are rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent. The only re­gional vari­a­tion can be found in the west, in Con­nemara, which pro­duces peat,’ said Kieran. Ir­ish dis­til­leries al­most dis­ap­peared. Un­til the 20th cen­tury, it was Ir­ish whiskey that reigned supreme, not Scotch. When the 21st cen­tury rolled around, that per­cep­tion flipped be­cause of sev­eral rea­sons. First, Ire­land was banned from sell­ing its goods to the Com­mon­wealth na­tions when it gained in­de­pen­dence in 1921. Sec­ond, the Pro­hi­bi­tion came about soon af­ter, and Amer­ica (then the big­gest mar­ket for Ir­ish whiskey) had stopped im­port­ing the spirit, turn­ing in­stead to Scotch that was smug­gled from Canada. Com­bined with a ris­ing de­mand for Scotch af­ter World War II, Ir­ish whiskey reached its nadir dur­ing the mid20th cen­tury when there were only three work­ing dis­til­leries in 1963, down from a high of 1,200 dis­til­leries dur­ing the 1780s. But the good times are back. ‘ World­wide in­ter­est in whiskey is grow­ing, and in­ter­est in non-tra­di­tional whiskey from coun­tries like Ja­pan, Tai­wan and Ire­land is rapidly ris­ing. Peo­ple want to branch out into new whiskeys,’ said Kieran. That sen­ti­ment bears out in the num­bers: In 2015, the Ir­ish whiskey ex­port in­dus­try was val­ued at €300m, up 220 per­cent since 2003, and Ir­ish Food Board Bord Bia es­ti­mated that Ir­ish whiskey ex­ports will dou­ble in vol­ume terms by 2020 com­pared to 2015. There’s more to Ir­ish whiskey than Jame­son. Although Jame­son is the most well-known Ir­ish whiskey, there are sev­eral un­der­rated Ir­ish whiskeys worth try­ing out. The Red­breast is a pot still whiskey (ie, made with 100 per­cent bar­ley) that’s rich, warm and sweet, while Paddy leans on the lighter side, with plenty of bright flo­ral and ce­real notes. And if you’re plan­ning on mak­ing an au­then­tic Ir­ish cof­fee, Pow­ers Whiskey is the tra­di­tion­al­ist’s favourite as its spice and caramel char­ac­ter com­bine well with cof­fee.

World­wide in­ter­est in whiskey is grow­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.