Ireland has a rich and storied history when it comes to its famed whiskey. Born from the process by which perfumes were distilled by 12th-century Irish monks, Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world. However, due to stepped-up commercial production (and competition) around the world (and political turmoil in the country), Ireland's signature spirit suffered a huge setback. The 1990s saw a great revivalist movement for the drink, which today is growing faster than any other spirit in the world. So, as the days blend together in this seemingly endless lockdown, why not take the time to learn about the history, tradition, and production of the ‘Water of Life’ from the comfort of your own home?
Apart from being an integral part of the country’s history, Irish whiskey also attracts as many as a million tourists a year who come to visit distilleries and learn more about their favourite firewater. Though a physical visit is not possible right now, many famous distilleries are offering virtual tours of their premises.
Jameson, the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey, offers a brief tour of their facilities in Dublin where visitors are shown a presentation on how their world-famous whiskey is made. The tour also takes you to a tasting bar where visitors have the opportunity to become a “Qualified Irish Whiskey Taster” with a complimentary glass of Jameson. While the virtual tour is short, it serves to whet the palate for when a trip to the historical facility is possible.
Or go on over to the Bushmills’ website and read about the history of the world’s oldest licensed distillery, operational since 1608. Learn about the connection with the village it’s located in, and Bushmills’ dedication to making quality, single-malt whiskey through all the hardship that the Irish whiskey industry went through. As their master distiller Colum Egan says, “We’re not good because we’re old, we’re old because we’re good.”
Among the more recent entrants into this world is Teeling, who seek to innovate upon the traditions of Irish whiskey through new methods and techniques. By hand-selecting unique barrels and grains and employing modern, global techniques, they attempt to provide a new way of looking at Irish whiskey for future generations of whiskey drinkers.
There’s a lot to be known about the traditions of Irish whiskey and the ins and outs of how it’s made. Taking some time to explore the finer details of the drink may add a whole new layer to the experience of sipping that traditional tipple.