When you get down to Sctoch and Irish, you need to understand the main difference in what you're tasting, which is usually how peated the drink is. Irish is more subtle than Scotch, I would say. I enjoy it for how you can taste "whisky" in a "pure form", so to speak. It provides a baseline for tasting scotch, perhaps.
I think one difference in what they call a pot still, Admiral, is how much of the process takes place in the still. If I remember correctly, Scotch is usually transferred to the still after the yeast has done it's thing, and Irish all just happens in "the pot". But that may be onfused or just plain wrong.... I'll see if I can find out.
I'm still confused, because in the Irish distilling circles, there still appears to be a distinction between what they call "Pure Pot Still" and "single malt" which is still presumably distilled in a copper pot!
Is the only difference simply that the mash bill for "pure pot still" contains unmalted barley?
Even if it IS just the fact that both malted & unmalted barley are in the mash bill, this would still be made from a single grain, e.g. barley, and so should still qualify as a single malt.
Now if another grain is included in the mash bill, say, maize, then I would understand the distinction.
it is confusing beacause there is no set (legal) definition of what exactly Pot Still whisk(e)y is.
I'll try to clear it up for you.
For a whisk(e)y to be called Pot Still it must at least me distilled in a Pot Still
Traditionally in Ireland, a mix of malted and unmalted barley (as well as other grains) were often used and this can be used to distinguish Pot Still whisk(e)y further.
In the old, old days when Ireland was the leader in the whiskey industry, Pot Still whiskey was the most common product (there was malt whiskey in production also).
It was not unusual for Scottish distillers, making Single Malts to also lay claim to "Pot Still" on their labels using the justification that their whisky was "Pot Still", hoping, perhaps to confuse buyers and blur the differential between the two products.
These days, Cooley from Ireland do both with their Connemara, Tyrconnel and Locke's Single Malts - The labels show clearly Pure Pot Still (No doubt to appeal to customers seeking Irish Heritage) as well as Single Malt (no doubt to appeal to those poor people who insist on only drinking Single Malt).
What is surprising is that Cooley have completely dropped "Pure Pot Still from their new 12 YO Connemara.
To sum up,
If a whisk(e)y is to be a "Single Malt", only malted barley can be used.
If a whisky is a "Pure Pot Still", most likely a mix of different grains (malted & unmalted) have been used.
Remember an argument can be made that all malt whiskies are Pure Pot Still, but not all Pot Still whiskies are Malt whiskies
Jim Murray claims in his book that he's written to Cooley Distillery several times to protes against the use of the term 'Pure Pot Still' on their bottles of single malt, as they are not Pure Pot Still whiskies in the traditional sense and this might confuse a lot of people. Maybe they've finally listened to Jim (or they just got tired of his complaints and gave him his way just to get him of their backs ) as the new Connemara 12 YO doesn't have the term on the bottle.
Anyway, the question of which is the 'better whisk(e)y' is something that every whisky lover should determine for himself I think. There are people who adore Irish, and there are those who look upon them as inferior. Too bad for them, I say. I'm a big fan of Irish, and Redbreast is also my personal favorite, but I also like Scotch whiskies, especially Bruichladdich (I'm not a big fan of the heavily peated whiskies, like Ardbeg or Lagavulin).
Nothing in whisk(e)y is definite!
Is there a "legal" or "scientific" definition of "Single Malt Whisky" and if so, how binding is it accross different national boundaries?
To my mind, if it hasn't been distilled in a Pot Still - its not Malt whisky. Grain whiskies, even if made from 100% malted barley do not qualify. But that's just my opinion.
Vis a Vis S "Single Grain" Prosucts, I have strong reservations about their use of the word "Single". "Single Malt" requires that the contents of the bottle be on one distillery, but also implies a degree of dedication and specialisation - a claim that any commercial grain distiller will find hard to prove, because by and large they make grain alcohol for other purposes too!
And, yes, I know that Middleton in Cork, home of Jameson, Powers et al also makes other alcoholic drinks, but at least they don't sell a Single Malt from there (yet!)
By the way, all this ties in to Whisky Mags desire to push for standard labels.
Some of the points in this forum show just how difficult it will be to implement.
My point is, that Whisk(e)y has evolved over 100s of years, that large, murky, grey areas have built up - but hey - that's whisk(e)y.
Also, the industry has tried to clear up the grey areas over the last hundred years or so, but I'd imagine it's impossible.
One interesting think I heard is that when Cadenheads buy the Lammerlaw whisky, once they remove the cask from New Zealand, it legally stops ageing, even though they keep it in the cask. So each new release, there is an older whisky in the bottle, even though it's still labeled 10 year old, or whatever.
Greenspot is a pure potstill, but it's not written on the bottle. Barry Walsh told Mitchel's they can put this on the label, but they never have. The theory is that they have thousands of labels in stock...
With regard to the '63 North of Scotland, according to Moss & Hume the distillery made malt whisky in their column stills between 1958 and 1960, so that would mean that the '63 NoS really is a single grain and not a single malt.
Do you have additional information that shows the distilling of malt whisky at Strathmore continued after 1960? If so, I'd be really interested to hear!
I had heard from several people that '63 NofS is 100% malted barley. I may have also read this in a periodical about the time of its release. I'm sure I enquired about the matter on the MALTS-L list. I thought Ulf initially questioned this assertion and then later provided supporting information. This was all about 3 years ago. Sorry I don't have more definative information.
The true shame of Irish distilling (and brewing) is that the vast bulk of the country's heritage has been lost forever. Wherever you go in Ireland, it's the same choice of five beers and a small handful of whiskeys. No matter how much you love Irish whiskey, you have to admit that the variety of Scotch whisky far outstrips the Irish. I've often wondered why this is. If you can somehow blame the English, then why wasn't it the same story in Scotland? Anyone here up on the history?
Yes, there is a much wider range of scotch. When you're discussing Irish whiskey on a forum like this, you soon run out of things to say because the range is so relatively small compared to scotch. There's more varieties being produced now, albeit from the same three distilleries.
Reasons for the decline of the industry here are: Ireland went to war with the Union, cutting off the majority of its export market.
The Irish industry generally didn't export to the US during prohibition, while the Scots did. Irish whiskey was badly bootlegged during this period, damaging its reputation.
De Valera capped whiskey exports becaue of the revenue derived from whiskey bought in the home market.
The Scots embraced blended whisky when the Irish were stubborn to do so.
American soldiers stationed in Scotland and the rest of GB got a taste for Scotch, which they took back to the States after the war.
These are generally the reasons given for the decline of Irish whiskey, although there are probably a lot more.
Another real shame is the way the product went for a long time. I had a few Jamesons and Tullamores from the '40s and '50s and they are nothing short of brilliant. For my own tastes, they are the ultimate in whiskey.
It is getting better and there are some excellent ones on the market again. However, they are primarily focusing on whiskeys for mixing etc - the big sellers - so there isn't enough pure pot stills about for those who enjoy the whiskey itself.
Maybe some of this has to do with the historical Irish feeling of being oppressed by the English, and the need therefore to assert their identity. You might think the Scots would feel the same way, but their resistance to Union never had the same urgency as the Irish resistance to domination. The Scots were nominal partners, not so much subjugated as the Irish, and indeed the Union of the Crowns was under a nominally Scottish king. Perhaps most telling is the pattern of emigration in the 19th century. Both Irish and Scots went to both the US and Canada, but it seems that more Scots went to Canada, and more Irish went to the US, in accordance with their respective desires to remain in or depart from the empire.
Or so I muse. I'm sure there's someone out there who knows a lot more about this than I do.
Most of the Irish I know who drink whiskey say nothing about how good it is relative to anything else, they just drink it. Also, most of the Irish I know who drink Irish whiskey dirnk Powers, which is barely available abroad, especially in America.
And Irish-Americans are absolutely nothing like the Irish - and that's not a slur on either.
I think the difference between the Scots and the Irish when they went abroad is that the Irish were ghettoized (if that's a word) and formed communities, whereas the Scottish may have been more likely to mingle with the rest of the communities. I don't know the exact numbers, but maybe many more Irish emigrated also, due to the famine etc.
Anyway, the Scots were originally an Irish tribe, weren't they? I'm no expert, so I could be talking crap. Anyway, Ireland and Scotland are very close, not just geographically. I love Scotland and scotch whiskey.
Yes, the Scoti emigrated to Caledonia from Ireland, mixing with the native Picts. Earlier Pictish carving is distinctly pagan, but there is quite a bit of Christian carving before the culture faded out...3rd or 4th century? I forget. I don't specifically recall whether the spread of Christianity was concurrent with that migration, or came later. Anyone? And then there's the whole question of who started distillation.
The Irish famine was a terrible thing, of course, but the Highland Clearances were no picnic, either. At least the landlords provided transportation in many cases, but the background was agricultural hardship which, if not quite so dire as the Irish famine, was nonetheless pretty grim. I don't know how the numbers compare--it's not really very important, but would be interesting to know. Again, I'm sure there's someone out there who knows a whole lot more about this than I do. Back to the history books....
As an aside, I think the best whisky distilling region of any country is Islay.
I think the scots sell themselves quite well. Afterall, they have convinced the world they invented kilts, bagpipes, golf and whisky - even though they all originated in other places (ok, nobody knows for sure about whisky).
Were there ever any Irish/Scotch blends? That would be interesting.
Were there ever any Irish/Scotch blends? That would be interesting?
Interesting indeed! But how would you market it? You couldn't call it Irish whiskey, and you can't call it Scotch!
Gaelic whisky? Celtic malt?
Actually, you've tempted me to vat something up tonight! I've got a few Irish bottles I'm working through, (Black Bush and Paddy), so I might combine one or both of these with a suitable scotch and see how it goes!!!
I'll let you know tomorrow how it turned out.
I know this is not very imaginative of me, but given the plethora of choices, combinations, and permutations available to me with my two Irish whiskies and 20 or so open bottles of Scotch, I thought I'd keep things simple. (Teachers is the only blend I have in the house at the moment - the rest are malts).
The result? A largely forgettable whisk(e)y that is very grain dominated, spirity, oily and clingy. The battle between the two ingredients is intriguing.....the brittle, hardness of Paddy is dominating the softer, mellower traits of the Teachers. The Paddy seems to dominate the finish also. Any real flavour is effectively invisible, and I'm now crying out for a decent malt with some juice.
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