Whisky (usually with an ‘e’ in Ireland and the United States and without one in Great Britain and Canada) has been distilled – and drunk – in Ireland for many centuries.
It is distilled in much the same way as Scotch whisky – in both, barley and malted barley form the base of the spirit. In making Irish whiskey, however, the kiln used to dry the barley has a solid floor and the smoke does not permeate the grain. The spirit produced does not, therefore, have the slightly peaty or smoky flavour characteristic of Scotch whisky.
Almost all Irish whiskey is pot stilled three times, then matured for a minimum of five years before it is sold. In the olden days because of the high taxes on whiskey in Ireland, a great many illegal stills operated, producing an ‘unofficial’ whiskey called by the romantic name of poteen.
Irish whiskey ranges from medium- to full-bodied in flavour and is usually blended at its distillery of origin, although unblended whiskey is also sold.