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May 7, 2007 02:54 PM

Single Malt Irish Whiskey?

As a casual Scotch whiskey drinker, I’ve come to appreciate the vast variety of single malt scotches and uniqueness of each distillery. It’s fascinating how different they can taste based on the region where they were produced.

I noticed a single malt Irish whiskey the other day. Do single malt Irish whiskeys vary in flavor as much as Scotch whiskeys?

I was under the impression it was the smoke used to dry the grains that give scotch it’s unique flavor whereas the grains for an Irish whiskey were dried using “dry” heat (not smoke).

Any insight is greatly appreciated.

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  1. The easiest malt to get your hands on is Bushmill's, but there certainly are others, and *yes* they can vary considerably.

    Keep in mind the peat smoke is what makes Scotch whisky unique; it is not what makes one single malt uniquely different from another. there are a wide variety of factors that go into that, and those same factors come to play in the production of Irish malts.

    1. There are only three legal distilleries that have been producing whiskey; Middleton, Bushmills and Cooley.

      Bushmills makes prretty much only malted whiskeys, but I have never had a peated Bushmills, although one may exist. I will not claim to be a huge fan of Bushmills products.

      Cooley makes what some have called scotch in Ireland. It's whiskeys use all malted barley and the malt is dried over peat. Connemara is one of its brands, has a smokey flavor and is so light it seems to float over your tongue. I have not had many of the other Cooley brands (, but Connemare is wonderful either regular or cask strength.

      Middleton makes the most commonly known brands,. Jameson, Powers, etc. And it makes two wonderful whiskeys that few have heard of. To drink Irish whiskey in the traditional sense, one would need to drink a Middleton product, BECAUSE not all of its barley is malted. Traditionally, Irsh whiskey used both malted and unmalted barley in the mash, and the whiskey made from such a mixture is called POTSTILL. If you want to drink potstill, which you should try if you enjoy other whiskeys, then find some Red Breast ( or some Green Spot ( These last two brands are my favorite whiskeys in the world. Green Spot is not imported into the U.S. and, when I last asked, was imported into Ontario and no place else in North America. Luckily, I should be able to visit Mitchell & Son in a few weeks to get some more for me.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Captain

        I have been searching for unique Irish brands and have had very little luck. In addition to Bushmills (not so great) I have tried Jameson's 12, 18 (OMG) and 24 years, Powers, Tulamore Dew (not bad) and even RedBrest, which was not a s good as the Jameson. Do you know of other brands available in the US that are worthwhile? Does the good stuff get exported from Ireland? What brands?

        1. re: hungrylawyer

          My Irish uncle swears by Tullamore Dew, saying that Jameson and Bushmills are exported by the British and we shouldn't support them. Just his rather old-school take on things.

          1. re: mojoeater

            Loast i knew, both brands were owned by the Irish Distillers Group, which was owned by a French company. Not sure this is still the case.

            However, there are only three legal distilleries on the Island making whiskey. So, it's either Irish Distillers Group or the Cooley Distillery.

      2. I don't pretend to by an expert on Irish whiskey, but my sense is that the strength and focus of Irish whiskies is (or at least has been) on blends rather than single-malts. I have tried Bushmill's single-malt, but I am not sure I prefer it to Bushmill's Blackbush, which is a VERY good blended whisky.

        1. Not an answer to your question but I have been chatting with several people in the field and from what I have heard you can expect to see a very large increase in Irish single malts over the next few years. Smoky or not, and made with varying ratios of grains, and long aged as well as less so.

          Actually, expect to see an increase in premium spirits across the board. All the spirits companies and distilleries companies are going to be creating and releasing new, premium spirits like crazy; and digging into their aged stocks to put together limited release and special editions treats.

          1. Don't feel like beginning a new thread, but wanted to post about some irish whiskeys I recently tasted, just to share some info. I was at dinner this weekend and sat with a couple; he liked Irish whiskeys, she was from very close to the Cooley Distillery. Neither had heard fo any of Cooley's products or Green Spot.

            I went to WhiskeyFest a few weeks ago, and tasted just about everything offered by the Cooley distillery. The most distinguishing feature of every sinlge whiskey they made is how light it is, in texture. Drinking them feels as if they came along with a spary of Pam, so the whiskey could simple slide right across your tongue. there is an oilyness, but not heavy one. The whiskey is light and seems to slide right on over your taste buds. At the same time, none of them are devoid of flavor.

            The most inexpensive product is Tyrconnell, which you can find for about $30 a bottle. It's light and smooth and clsoe to a lowland malt in it's flavor. Tyrconnell Port Cask is not yet available, but will find it's way into a few shops in the U.S., mostly only those which cater to whiskey afficionados and sell a good amount of Connemara, the more expensive product. The Port Cask adds some sweetness.

            Connemara and Connemara Cask Strength are peated single malts. The texture is the same, but the peat comes through quite a bit. According to something I have read, it has less smoke than a Scottish single malt. A small percentage of what an Islay would have, for example. But you taste the peat jsut as much and is you were drinking nad Islay. The peat presents an unusual contrast with the texture.

            Greenore was one I had not heard of before. It is different. Instead of making a whiskey with barley, Greenore is a grain whiskey. Also, it was aged mostly in used bourbon barrells. It must also draw less flavor than bourbon would from the barrell, but that flavor does come through.

            Red Breast and Green Spot are still the favorites, but these Cooley products are also nice whiskeys.