I recently returned from a trip exploring Ireland’s Ancient East with friends. It was good times and we saw lots of interesting castles, learned lots about Ireland’s history and had the pleasure of visiting Tullamore for an Irish whiskey tasting. There we took the Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey tour in their bonded warehouse. Before we go any further, let’s learn a little more about Irish whiskey.
Origins and history
Of all the alcohol produced in Ireland, there is no spirit more representative of it than Irish whiskey. The word ‘whiskey’ itself has its roots in Irish Gaelic, as it is an Anglicization of uisce beatha, which means ‘water of life’.
Knowledge of distillation was brought to Ireland in the early 12th century by monks, who then used it to produce one of Europe’s first alcoholic beverages from a blend of malted and unmalted barley.
Irish whiskey was one of the most popular forms of alcohol in the world before an economic downturn crippled the industry. This was largely due to Prohibition in the United States starting in 1920, and the subsequent outbreaks of the Irish War of Independence and Civil Wars.
With Irish whiskey enjoying a resurgence in popularity since the late twentieth century, expansion plans and the opening of new distilleries are underway that will boost capacity of this spirit in the years to come.
What is Irish Whiskey?
There are several things that make Irish whiskey distinct from other spirits, and thanks to legislation passed in Ireland in past years, there are a set of rigid guidelines that define what is Irish whiskey and what is not. According to Irish law, Irish whiskey must:
(a) be distilled on the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland included)
(b) have an alcohol concentration equal to or less than 94.8%
(c) have an aroma derived from the malted and/or unmalted cereal grains used to distill it
(d) be aged in wooden casks for three years that do not exceed 700 litres in capacity
(e) be labeled as a blended whiskey if the finished product consists of two or more separate distillates
Now that we’ve covered some basics, back to the tour. It was solid times and our gregarious guide led us through the entire process as well as informed us on the history of Tullamore DEW, including how it got the DEW at the end of its name. What the D.E.W stands for is Daniel E. Williams who started out at the bottom working his way to the top and in the process made a whiskey so distinctive that it was only fair for it to bear his intials.
Tullamore DEW has a long history and only recently has it begun producing it once more in Tullamore. Production moved away from the town in 1950 and in 2014 having built their new state of the art distillery, they moved back to where it all began in 1829. Besides visiting the distillery, the town of Tullamore itself is also quite interesting. The Grand Canal runs right through it and next to the bonded warehouse; it’s no surprise as to why the warehouse is located where it is…
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the distillery and at the end, like most tours you get to do an Irish whiskey tasting. We tried three different varieties and most people had their favourite. I too had my own favourite which was the blended 12 year but quite liked all of them. Something interesting is that in blended whiskeys, the year on the bottle is of the youngest in the blend. If it’s a blend of three with 10,12 and 15 year old whiskey it’s still labeled a 10 year.
If you enjoy spirits, whiskey in particular and are visiting Ireland, I highly recommend you visit a distillery to do some Irish whiskey tasting. Distillery tours are a great way to spend an afternoon and the perfect preamble to an evening out and about on the town with a solid pub meal in the mix for good measure.
In closing, I’d like to thank the fine people at iambassador and Tourism Ireland for creating, managing and sponsoring this campaign. That said, all thoughts are my own as they always have been and always will be.