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Devil is in the Details: How Scotch Whisky Triumphed Over Irish 'Whiskey' With Time

The real McCoy in the spirit world is Irish whiskey (Hope you have noted the spelling. The whisky that comes from Scotland doesn’t have that ‘e’ unlike that in Irish whiskey).

Manu Remakant |

Updated:December 30, 2018, 1:41 PM IST
Devil is in the Details: How Scotch Whisky Triumphed Over Irish 'Whiskey' With Time
Representational Image (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ The Beast Smoke House)
News18 Tippling Point For most of you out there, the best of whisky is Scotch. You are ready to pay through your nose for a bottle, any brand, coming right from Scotland. But mark this.

The real McCoy in the spirit world is Irish whiskey (Hope you have noted the spelling. The whisky that comes from Scotland doesn’t have that ‘e’ unlike that in Irish whiskey).

When the Celts taught the Irish the precious methods of distillation in the 6th century, the Scots were reeling in the darkness about a drink they would one day become most famous on. By the late nineteenth century, the Irish had perfected the art of distilling grains and had already sent the expertise across the Irish seas to lands like Scotland.

Then how did the Scots trumped the Irish in latter’s game?

Well even at the beginning of the twentieth century, Ireland ruled the whiskey world. Then, they were suddenly hit by two misfortunes.

One. The Irish civil war and the enmity with Britain that ensued cost Ireland a fortune. The trade embargo enforced by England suffocated the trade and eventually dried out Irish whiskey from the Continent.

Two. The US, where the Irish whiskey was doing a roaring business around the beginning of the last century suddenly went dry as prohibition was declared in the country. While Scotch whisky managed to sneak across the Canada-US border as bootleg to satiate the thirst of Americans, Irish whiskey found it too cumbersome and risky a business and was totally holed in.

For the first time in history, Scotch which took birth by taking a leaf out of their cousin, became the word of excellence in the world of whiskey.

So apart from the spelling what are the major differences between the two - Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey?

Unlike those single malt whiskies from Scotland which come double-pot distilled, Irish whiskeys are triple distilled. This extra distillation helps Irish whiskey gain its characteristic smoothness and mellowness. Moreover Irish whiskey doesn’t use burnt peat or turf to lend that smokey flavour which is common in Scotch whisky.

In the world of Irish whiskeys, the most popular name is Jameson.

Ironically John Jameson who bought the distillery in 1805 from his wife’s uncle, was a Scotsman. Established in Dublin in 1780, the distillery has been making the spirit which is a unique blend of column-still and pot-still whiskeys. The dram is distilled from both malted and unmalted barley. Though unmalted barley was initially used to evade the tax imposed by the British on malted grains, it was what that eventually gave the signature taste to Jameson whiskey.

The flagship bottle from the company is Jameson 12 Year Old.

Squirt some water or throw a single piece ice on it and taste the drink. What hits you first will be the distinctive aroma of apricot and honey. If you want your dram a little more complex, try Jameson 18 Year Old. Aged in sherry wood casks and finished in bourbon barrels, the vintage speaks to your tastebuds in many dialects.

Or taste the robust limited edition Jameson Black Barrel Select Reserve is so unique that it is distilled one day each year. It is crafted by blending grain whiskey is with vintage and rare pot-stilled whiskeys. If you want to know how casks contribute to the taste of whiskey, try the full flavoured Cooper’s Croze, from Jameson. Virgin American oak, seasoned bourbon and Iberian sherry casks, you are in for a long ride through the wood.

Sip it slowly teasing out its complex aromas one by one.

Though whiskey from Ireland faced a major setback at the turn of the 20th century, it is now making a major comeback to the market. Jameson is still the most popular name in the spirit world.

So remember, the name is Irish Whiskey, whiskey with an ‘e’, unpeated, triple-distilled, and unmalted.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
(Get detailed and live results of each and every seat in the Lok Sabha elections and state Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim to know which candidate/party is leading or trailing and to know who has won and who has lost and by what margin. Our one-of-its-kind Election Analytics Centre lets you don a psephologist’s hat and turn into an election expert. Know interesting facts and trivia about the elections and see our informative graphics. Elections = News18)
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