Published on March 01, 2017 by IBMT
They say that “Irish whiskey is like its people: strong, bold, packs a punch, and yet sometimes sweet” (Keith Malone). But what is so special about Irish whiskey? How did whiskey and beer come to be trademarks of Irish culture?
The history of whiskey in Ireland dates back to 1000 AD, when Irish monks returned to Ireland from Mediterranean countries with the new practice of distilling perfumes to make liquor. Whiskey, meaning water of life, was one of the first drinks to be distilled in Europe, beginning in the 12th century. Whiskey is only considered Irish whiskey if comes from Ireland, has gone through a distillation process to 94.8 or below percent alcohol, and has been aged for a minimum of 3 years in barrels made from wood. That being said, at the time of its first debut in Ireland, the whiskey was not aged in barrels and was often flavoured with fragrant herbs.
The first known record of whiskey production comes from Ireland in 1405. However, in 1608, licensed distillation took off, which paved the way for the Old Bushmills Distillery, a distillery in Northern Ireland, to thrive. Today, it’s the oldest licensed distillation factory globally. However, whiskey production took a major decline in the region when the Crown introduced a tax on all whiskey production in 1661. Luckily, by the 18th century, demand for whiskey grew substantially because of population growth and boredom with imported spirits. Whiskey made a return to the market, now able to profit despite taxes, due to increased demand.
Beer has a similar legend in Ireland. The fertile soil, soft rain, and cool breeze in Ireland made it the ideal spot for producing barley, one of beer’s major ingredients. Irish monks, expert herbalists that they are, produced ale without hops, and flavoured it using herbs, calling it “liquid bread”. Irish beer was red and produced by women called “alewives”, and began being commercialized and sold in Ireland in the 18th century. A man named Arthur Guinness bought a small brewery in Ireland, and thus took off the legend Guinness Beer.
With the success of beer, Ireland also placed taxes on malted barley. Thus, brewers began using roasted barley in their beer, giving it a bitter taste that gave way to the famous beer called Irish Dry Stout. The dryness makes the drinker hungry, and thus differs from other beers that leave you feeling stuffed. In time, Guinness Beer and other international breweries bought out the remaining national Irish ones, limiting the diversity of beer in Ireland and the diversity of Irish styles. Soon enough, however, in the 1980s, Irish craft beers began to take off in Northern Ireland, opening the field for new beers once again.
Ireland is full of rich history, diverse culture, and most importantly, good whiskey and beer. What better place to go if you are looking for a vacation full of history and architecture, Gaelic culture, and beautiful scenery? Join IBMT Tours on a journey through Ireland, finishing your day with a cold glass of Guinness Beer. IBMT does all the vacation planning for you. If you have additional questions or would like to sign up for a trip, you can contact us by phone at (905) 764-9200 or send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.