So how instrumental are the Irish to the development and evolution of whiskey? For starters, the word ‘whiskey’ itself comes from the Gaelic uisce beatha, meaning ‘water of life’. The Irish have been distilling whiskey since the 6th Century, making Irish whiskey perhaps the oldest spirit in Europe. In 1608, King James I granted the first distillery license to what would eventually become The Bushmills Old Distillery Company. By the mid 19th Century, Dublin distiller John Jameson was pioneering the use of massive copper single-pot stills that gave his namesake whiskey a consistent flavor and quality. There are now more than 30 distilleries operating in Ireland, making it the fourth largest producer of whiskey in the world behind Scotland, America and Japan.
Irish whiskey is, quite simply, whiskey that has been distilled and aged in Ireland (If you’re into Irish Department Of Agriculture official regulation documents, this one is pretty good). And the four legal types of Irish whiskey – Single Malt, Single Pot Still, Single Grain or Blended – can be as versatile and rewarding as anything from Scotland.
I’m a fan of Powers Irish Whiskeys. Founded in 1791 by a Dublin innkeeper and his son as a single pot distillery, it’s now owned by Pernod-Ricard and remains an iconic Irish spirit. Their distillation process is fairly unique; malted barley is dried in enclosed kilns with no smoke, milled for mash with unmalted barleys and proprietary yeast, then triple distilled. The result is exceptionally rich and rounded flavors with distinctive notes of honey and spice.
Their Gold Label is a blended whiskey made at the same distillery as Jameson’s, and is the #1 selling whiskey in Ireland. It’s packed with flavor, from its burnt sugar and malted barley nose to its crisp cinnamon/clove/apple notes and warm oak & honey finish. A splash of water opens up a nice light grassy taste. It’s a terrific sipping whiskey, with a wallet-friendly price, too.
Powers Signature Release is triple distilled in copper pot stills from a single distillery and aged primarily in former bourbon barrels, with a portion matured in Oloroso (a Spanish sherry) casks. There’s honeyed grains in both its nose and taste, with tingles of spicy fruit, dark coffee and creamy oak throughout. It’s equally delicious neat or on the rocks.
Powers John Lane – named for the Dublin street where the original family distillery operated – is similarly single-pot distilled but aged for 12 years, making it extra smooth with pronounced flavors of green fruits, dark chocolate, chewy raisins and spicy oak. It may be among the best premium Irish Whiskeys you’ll ever taste.
We carry all three – along with many other terrific Irish Whiskeys – at Broadway Dive. Drop in and try one soon. Until then, may you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.