Dia duit! [Hello in Irish]
For the last six days I have been in Ireland staying with my mother’s uncle’s wive’s sister’s daughter Grace, whom just happens to be Irish and live in the city of Dublin. Thank god through the power of facebook and a family reunion that took place a few years ago we have stayed in touch and when the opportunity arose to travel out here before my return to the states I quickly hopped on board.
Initially the plan was to spend a few days in Dublin and make our way down to Kerry. However the plan fell through a bit and we made way our way to Grace’s parents’ home in the country called Carlow [which I will post photos for later].
My day in Dublin consisted of a hefty booze tour, there for I will tell you the difference between Scotch, Irish whiskey and American Whiskey. The most valuable take home I have to share with you from my trip.
Irish whiskey, Scotch and American whiskey typically [despite the fancy outliers of the three] have one thing in common, they are all made from malted barley (or some sort of malted grain, corn, rye, wheat, etc), water and yeast.
[Malted Grain]: Malted Barley for example is a germinated cereal grain of barley. To achieve this, the cereal seeds are covered in water to provoke germination than upon germination the seeds are halted from further development with hot air. This process is called “malting”. This is the critical process that turns the cereal’s starches into sugars which makes it all so wonderful and possible to make fermented booze.
However stepping back a few steps it is through the malting process that defies the main difference between scotch and whiskey. Any one who has ever tasted scotch can agree that there is an undoubtably smokey taste in scotch that you don’t see in Irish or American whiskey. This is because the malting process of whiskey is achieved using a smokeless heating method, as scotch is not. There for when the germinated cereal seeds are being dried for a scotch whiskey the smoke from the drying technique is absorbed by the cereal (usually barley or rye) and infused into the ultimate product.
[Grist]: After malting, the dried malt is than grinded in a mill. The flour produced from this is called grist. The grist than mixed with water and brewed. It is through brewing that the cereal starches become sugars. This mixture is called wort and in order to produce the maximum amount of wort, brewing is repeated 3-4 times usually.
Now yeast is added to ferment the mixture. After fermentation the mixture is at about 8% alcohol content. At this point in the process, the we have essentially completed the same beginning steps it takes to make beer. The difference being whiskey will be distilled without altering the mix and to make beer hops will be used to perfume the mix.
[Distillation]: Now we come to the process that differentiates Irish and American whiskey. Basically the simple science behind Distillation is that alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water. So a distill is heated at the precise in between that allows the alcohol to evaporate and separate from the water and the remainder of the wort. American whiskey is usually distilled once, scotch is usually distilled twice, and Irish whiskey three times, and this my friends is why irish whiskey is so smooth.
[Aging]: After distillation the concoction is actually colorless at this point. The color comes from the aging process, in oak casts, in which whiskey must be aged for a minimum three years. I am not too entirely sure of all the differences of the aging process between american whiskey, scotch and irish whiskey however I do know often Irish whiskeys are aged in old spanish brandy barrels, which gives whiskeys such as Jameson their nice coloration.
Often whiskeys are mixed in the aging process and by law the whiskey’s age must be defied as the youngest whiskey in the barrel. So even if 99% of the barrel was a 15 year whiskey and a 1% was a three year old whiskey, the entire batch would only legally be allowed to be called a three year old whiskey.
Hope this answers a bit the difference between Scotch, Irish whiskey and American Whiskey my friends. Have a merry Christmas! Or as the irish say it Happy Christmas 🙂