Here we recount Irish Whiskey best tasting practices along with some historic tales. Since we couldn’t actually go to Ireland, we decided to bring Ireland to us. We traveled through Zoom to learn about Irish Whiskey. Our host, John, began the session with introductions and asked everyone what they would be drinking during the tour. John sampled Jameson Black Barrel, The Legendary Dark Silkie, and Powers John Lane. Likewise, the whiskeys we tasted are shown above. Further, one of the participants was tasting Slane Irish Whiskey.
John lives in Galway, the western most town in Ireland. During normal times, John guides people through Irish pubs for tours of food and Irish Whiskey and beer. John also shares his knowledge of Irish History.
Slane, History of St. Patrick
We begin in Slane, historically the religious center of Ireland and now a center for rock n roll. Traditionally, Slane was the seat of the High King of Ireland. During this time, the Irish were Pagans. When Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland, he needed permission from the High King to preach Christianity. When he arrived, a Pagan festival was taking place. Hence, no fires could be be lit for 24 hours. Of course, Patrick lit a fire. Afterwards, they brought him before the king for a battle of philosophy. In fact, the king became so impressed with Patrick that he allowed him to preach Christianity in Ireland, and he became the patron saint that we know today.
Slane Irish Whiskey is triple casked with untamed notes of oak and spice.
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Check out our Irish Food Recipes to create a whole Irish experience!
Tasting Irish Whiskey
After the history of St. Patrick, John discussed the methods of whiskey tasting. When tasting whiskey, use a tulip glass where the mouth is smaller than the body. This allows the scent to hover in the glass.
First we looked for the viscosity or the “legs” of the whiskey. This is how much the liquid sticks to the side of the glass. This corresponds with how much the whiskey will linger in your mouth. In Ireland they call this the “tears” of the whiskey.
Next, we focused on the smell. Pull back slightly from the glass to identify scents such as vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch. With that in mind, it is important to smell the whiskey with your mouth open. This allows the fumes to escape into your mouth. If not, you will likely burn your nose with the fumes!
Finally, sip the whiskey. Hold it in your mouth 4-5 seconds for the full taste. John explained that whiskey should never be mixed with water or ice when tasting as it will dilute the full flavor of the whiskey. That being said, he did agree that when drinking whiskey in a hot climate you may want to add ice, or if it is too strong you may add a bit of water to your liking. Slancha! To your health!
Don’t have whiskey glasses? I have included these sponsored links to help you out:
If sipping whiskey isn’t your thing, check out our drink recipes!
History of Irish Whiskey
Centuries ago there were thousands of distilleries in Ireland. Due to two world wars, an Irish civil war, and prohibition in the U.S., the distilleries dwindled down to two, Westcork and Bushmills. Distilleries made 60% of Irish Whiskey to export world wide. They exported most of that to the United States. During prohibition in the U.S., people sold Scotch to Canada, then brought it down to the United States through organized crime. Therefore many Irish distilleries closed. Lately, new distilleries are opening again, and Irish Whiskey is making a comeback.
- Triple casked- 3 types of barrels used in the distilling process, such as; bourbon barrel, virgin cask, and possibly a sherry cask. Each imparts its own unique flavors.
- Blend- either mixed styles or made in several distilleries
- Irish Whiskey- whiskey made using bourbon barrels burned a second time
- Scotch Whiskey- traditionally adds peat to give a smokey flavor
- Triple Distilled- means the whiskey went through the distilling process three times. Most Irish Whiskey is triple distilled causing it to be smooth.
The Myth of the Silkie
One of the whiskeys John was tasting was the Legendary Dark Silkie from Sliabh Liag Distillers. This is a triple distilled peated single malt matured in sherry casks. Then the distillers blend it with a bourbon matured single malt in addition to grain whiskey rested in virgin oak. As a result, this whiskey has a smoky slightly peaty taste. Unfortunately, it is currently unavailable in the U.S.
Long ago, according to Celtic myth the Silkie, a type of sea creature similar to a seal would show itself at the full moon. It would shed its skin and come on land in the form of a beautiful woman. Then it would sing and dance to captivate men. Legend has it that a man so enthralled with the silkie would hide its skin. Then it would force the silkie to marry it and bare his children. Eventually the silkie would find her skin and return to the ocean. This is where we get the legend of the modern day mermaid.
Hopefully you enjoyed this brief sampling of John’s Irish Whiskey Tasting. For your own virtual experience click here. Also contact him for live tours if you go to Ireland in person.
If you plan on going to Ireland and want an authentic place to stay check out Airbnb. I have also included these sponsored links through Get Your Guide to help in planning your trip.
You may also enjoy Tales From Ireland for additional Irish culture.
Donna Emperador is a travel and food blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and cocktails. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time exploring the road to find unique places to share with readers. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.