Both the Irish and the Scots would have you believe they were the pioneers in whisk(e)y -making and laying claim to the birth of 'Uisce Beatha' - 'water of life'.
It is a recorded fact that monks travelling back from the Mediterranean around 1000AD brought with them the knowledge to distil perfumes and from where the method was then 'tweaked' to produce a drinkable spirit.
The Early Years.
The earliest established Irish distillers were Bushmills in 1608, located in Northern Ireland, whilst Scotland's first was Glenturret and was not up and running until 1775.
The Irish Whiskey industry boomed during the 19th century and was doomed to almost complete failure and obliteration from a combination of the American Prohibition era, which was Irish Whiskey's largest market with sales of 12 million cases. The industry further suffered due to the The Irish War of Independence, where exporting Irish goods was made near impossible when the British Government of the day, banned their exports to all commonwealth countries, which left a mere handful of distilleries still operating.
During the 1970's Irish Distillers operated the only two distilleries left in Ireland, Bushmills of County Antrim in the north, and Midleton of County Cork in the south before their being bought by Pernod Ricard who began global campaigns for whiskey brands, particularly, Jameson from the Midelton distillery and has since rocketed the fame and sales of Irish Whiskey as the fastest growing spirit in the world and the hope that, once again, the heady days of 12 million case sales per year will follow again soon.
More distilleries have since been established and/or re-opened, and there are many new releases yet to come, as while the spirit may have been distilled, the minimum ageing time of three years has yet to be met. Look out for Blackwater, Dingle, Glendolough, Teeling and Tullamore.
There are distinct types of Irish whiskey; blended, single grain; made from un-malted grains and continuously distilled, single malt; made entirely from malted barley and, by far their most famous and unique expression are single or pure pot-still whiskeys which are produced from a mix of malted and un-malted barely.
All Irish whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years.