Irish whiskey was first produced in the mid 16th century. Initially distillation was a secret process, known only to monks during the middle ages, until Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in 1541. After this point Irish whiskey became increasingly popular, until Scotch whisky overtook it at the beginning of the 20th century. It is only in the last decade that Irish whiskey has made a comeback.
Irish whiskey has a different taste to Scotch whisky, due to the malting process used. Unlike many whiskies from Scotland malted barley in Irish whiskey is dried in closed ovens, so no smoke comes into contact with the barley. After the barley has been dried, the grains are mashed and then put into fermentation, where yeast is added to turn the sugar in the mash into alcohol. Irish whiskey is often distilled three times, helping to give it a smooth taste. It is then put in to barrels and left for at least two years to mature.
There are two big name brands within Irish whiskey – Jameson, by far the most popular Irish whiskey on the market, has a smooth and spicy taste, closely followed in by the light and almost fruity tones of Bushmills. However less well known brands such as Knappogue demonstrate how Irish whiskey can be full of interesting flavours.
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