A whisky lover’s nirvana, Irish Whisky is a malty drink with a long history. Once available only in Irish distilleries, Irish Whisky has made its way across the globe. Now stocked along thousands of bar and shop shelves across the world, knowing the ins and outs of this cheery drink can take your whisky experience to the next level.

Irish Whisky History in a Nutshell

Whether you believe it was the Scottish or English who brought whisky-making to Ireland, the tale that rings truest is that missionaries introduced distillation as a means for producing perfumes and medicines. Modifying the process, the Irish applied distillation methods to beer, eventually creating whisky.

By the middle of the 19th century, Irish whisky worked its way up to the number 1 spot for most popular whiskey in the world. However, the Irish War for Independence, the Irish Civil War, the Great Depression, and two world wars eventually took a toll on the Irish whiskey industry, sending it straight to the shadows. By the early 1980s, only two distilleries were responsible for surviving the once-sought-after drink.

Over the years, after the launch of the Cooley Distillery, Irish Whisky made a comeback. Now, over 50 distilleries are in operation or being built.

Types of Irish Whiskey

 According to the Irish Whiskey Act, the main types of whisky include:

  • Pot Still. The traditional still of Ireland, this whiskey is used to make malt.
  • Irish Malt Whiskey. A very similar definition to all types of malt whiskey, this craft spirit is made using malted barley, water, and yeast, and is distilled in a pot still.
  • Irish Grain Whiskey. Made with a mix of malted barley and other whole grains, this whisky is distilled using column stills.
  • Irish Pot Still Whiskey. The most traditional of Irish Whiskey types, its secret hadn’t escaped Ireland until recently. Now, it’s made across the world using a mix of malted and unmalted barley, along with other grains and distilled in pot stills. It must include at least a 30% mix of malted and unmalted barley, as well as a 5% mix of other grains.
  • Irish Blended Whiskey. This drink is a mix of at least two to three different types of Irish Whiskey.

Distilling Irish Whiskey

 Usually triple-distilled, Irish Whiskey is a lighter type of spirit than those that are double-distilled. However, it’s up to a distillery’s discretion to double-distill their spirits if they so choose. Most Cooley whiskies such as Connemara and Tryconnell are distilled only twice.

What’s Up With the “E” in Whiskey?

To distinguish themselves from copycat distilleries using only a minuscule blend of young Irish spirits, some Irish Whiskey distilleries opt to add an “e” to the word. Nowadays, Scottish distilleries more commonly incorporate “whisky” whereas Irish distilleries incorporate “whiskey.”


There is a lot more to Irish Whiskey beyond the e-or-no-e debate. As Irish Whiskey is at the peak of its renaissance, distilleries all over the world are quick to hop on the bandwagon for this delectable drink. Share what your favourite Irish Whiskey is below in the comments.

To purchase craft spirits in Ontario that cater to all types of palettes, sign up for a membership with Whisky Quarterly Ontario! Whether gentle and aromatic or peated and powerful, we’re sure to have a spirit that best tickles your taste buds.