Photo: PK Read
Not knowing much about Irish whiskies, I took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring during our trip to Ireland last week. The first dram recommended to me by the friendly bartender at the Porterhouse Temple Bar in Dublin turned out to be my favourite.
For all its mild aroma of soft grain and vanilla, Green Spot Single Pot Still was strong – it had a note of mint and oak, and managed to remain smooth and warm. An excellent introduction to the world of Irish whiskey.
Irish whiskey is unique in that it is almost always triple-distilled, as opposed to the usual double-distillation process of most single malt Scotch whiskies and bourbons. Another distinctive trait is the Irish use of unmalted barley in addition to the malted barley used in single malt Scotch. Unmalted barley contains less sugar, thus adding less sweetness to the final product.
The ‘Single Pot Still‘ style of whiskey, which originates from a single distillery, is defined by these two elements of triple distillation and the barley mix. Whiskey makers began cutting malted barley with green barley in response to high taxes placed on malt during the 18th century, and the practice held over into the 20th century, even as Irish whiskey’s popularity was overshadowed by blended Scotch whiskies.
Because spirits like single malt Scotch, Irish whiskey and American bourbon are so closely with their place of origin, I’m always interested in where distillers source their grains and just how ‘local’ the overall production really is.
Cistercian Dunbrody Abbey (1182) beyond Barley Field, County Wexford, Ireland
In the case of Irish whiskey, at least according to Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, 90% of the malting barley used in the country is locally produced through a local division of Boortmalt, a large European malting company that is a subsidiary of French agricultural cooperative Axereal.
These days, the tasting experience of a local product that feels entirely bound to a specific place – in my case, the delicious Green Spot I had on a warm spring evening, to the sounds of excellent live local music in a Dublin pub – is often the result of a larger network of industry that extends far beyond national borders.
Green Spot is produced for Mitchell & Son of Dublin, by Irish Distillers at the Midleton Distillery, Cork, Ireland. As far as I can tell, almost all Irish whiskey is produced in three main distilleries: Midleton, Bushmills and Cooley‘s. However, there are plans to open (or re-open) up to sixteen new distilleries in Ireland over the next few years – Irish whiskey is on the rise.
There’s a nice little video on how Green Spot got made here. My favorite quote? Green Spot “isn’t just a whiskey that you throw around and drink at midday…” Indeed.
Fields near Lough Corrib, Ireland
Photo: PK Read