Erin Go Thirsty: An Irish Whiskey Primer

As early as the 12th century, long before Guinness brewed its first batch of highly distinctive Irish stout, the people of Ireland were sipping on uisce beatha, or the “water of life.” In fact, Irish Whiskey is one of the first distilled spirits to be produced in Europe, and it is believed that monks brought the techinque of distilling back from their missionary travels during the Crusades. Indeed, records of whiskey production in Ireland predate Scotch whisky by about 90 years. Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day, we’ve put together our own guide to Irish whiskey so you can sip and celebrate in style. Sláinte!

In the 1800s, Irish whiskey was the most popular spirit in the world, and Ireland was teeming with distilleries. However, a series of developments at home and abroad formed a cocktail just powerful enough to decimate the industry — famine, the war for Irish independence, WWI, Prohibition in the U.S, and WWII, during over 150 distilleries were destroyed. By the late 20th century, there were only four distilleries left in the nation. Yet, Ireland is known for nothing else if not its spirit of perseverance. Irish whiskey is now on the rise again. 

Irish Whiskey From The Greene Grape

So, what IS Irish whiskey? And why isn't it "whisky"?

At its most basic, Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged on the island of Ireland. It must be made from a mash of barley (malted or unmalted), distilled three times to a proof no higher than 94.8% ABV, and aged in barrel (new or used) for a minimum of three years.

As for that mysterious "e"? It generally tends to refer to grain-based spirits distilled in Ireland, Great Britain, and the U.S. 

While Irish whiskey is typically blended and unpeated, none of these are set in stone. Irish whiskey producers have experimented with creating single malts, peated whiskies, adding other grains, and even changed from being exclusively pot-distilled to also using a mix of column-and-pot-still. This leads to whiskies that can showcase notes ranging from heather, herbs, and grass to fruit, honey and toffee.

Ready to explore? Check out our Irish Whiskey Collection below and then try our take on the classic Emerald Cocktail. 

Ballyhoo Port Cask Irish Whiskey

Ballyhoo is a limited-edition release from Connacht Whiskey Distillery composed of a 4-year-old single grain whiskey which has been finished in the finest red Tawny Port casks from the Douro Valley region of Portugal. This finish imparts a delicate sweetness on the palate, giving a perfect blend of plums, cherries and baking spices. 

The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey

Sean Muldoon & Jack McGarry have won accolades for their bar, The Dead Rabbit, including World's Best Bar. After dealing with a fire recently, they're back at it, and this whiskey celebrates the 5 years they've been at their Manhattan space, through better and through worse. A unique blend of Irish malt and grain whiskey, gently rested in fine seasoned Bourbon casks, and finished in small, new American oak barrels. This whiskey has depth and character with lingering notes of bourbon vanilla sweetness. 

Powers Irish Rye Whiskey

The world’s first 100% Irish rye whiskey is here! This new expression from Powers balances the earthy, peppery character of rye with the sweetness from seasoned American oak cask-aging. Rich, warming aromas of burnt orange, toffee banana, freshly baked rye bread, and charred oak tantalize the nose. While robust spices, candied ginger, caramelized apples with brown sugar, sweet cereal, and red licorice notes can be found on the palate.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

A blended Irish whiskey of the best pot still and fine grain whiskeys that are then triple distilled, which gives it its signature smoothness. Aged in oak casks for a minimum of 4 years, this whiskey has light floral aromas peppered with spicy wood and sweet notes. On the palate, there is a perfect balance of spicy, nutty, and vanilla notes with hints of sweet sherry and exceptional smoothness. The finish is smooth and lingering, making this a great sipping whiskey on the rocks or neat.  

Emerald Cocktail

2 oz Irish whiskey 
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Bennett Cocktail Bitters
Orange peel or St. Agrestis Amaro Soaked Cherry, for garnish


  1. Combine the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass. Fill the remainder of the glass with ice.
  2. Stir for about 30 seconds, or until the sides are frosted and the mixture is chilled.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish as desired with an orange peel and/or a cherry.