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A Beginner’s Guide To Irish Whiskey Tasting

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Do you want to be one of those sophisticated people who know what makes a good Irish Whiskey? Well, you’ve got good taste. Drinking whiskey is an acquired taste. At first, many people don’t appreciate the time and effort it takes to get a good dram, but once you start to get past the initial strength of whiskey.

Ireland is home to some of the most revered whiskies in the world. They’re distinct for their smooth taste, which is due to most of them being distilled at least three times. Out of the different types of whiskies, Irish whiskey is also one of the most approachable drinks because it is usually unpeated.

For beginners who want to get into tasting and learn to appreciate a good Irish whiskey, this article will give you everything you need to know. So, cheers to the start of Irish whiskey tasting.

What are the different types of Irish whiskey?

A good place to start is to know the different types. There are four main types of Irish whiskies:

  • Blended Irish Whiskey
  • Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
  • Single Malt Irish Whiskey
  • Single Grain Irish Whiskey

1.    Blended Irish Whiskey

Blended Irish whiskey makes up the largest portion of the Irish whiskies. This type of whiskey combines different types of whiskey and can be blended into any number of distilleries. In this process, they craft a uniquely flavoured whiskey. The challenge with this type of whiskey is that the blender needs to create the most consistent blend every year.

2.    Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Single pot still Irish whiskey is only legally produced in Ireland. It has a unique taste and texture which is notably spicier and thicker than the other Irish whiskies largely due to the distilleries combining malted and “green” unmalted barley using a single pot still.

3.    Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Single malt Irish whiskey is made purely from malted barley from a single distillery. It’s essentially the same as Scotch whisky, but the flavours are distinctly smoother due to the difference in climate, the casks used for ageing, and most notably, it is distilled three times. he flavour profiles can differ significantly due to differences in climate, distilling practices, and the types of casks used for aging.

4.    Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Out of the different types of Irish whiskies, single grain Irish whiskey is the rarest. Single grain Irish Whiskey can be made from various grains but can only be distilled in a column at one distillery. The result is a much lighter Irish whiskey with a more neutral taste.

What are the common terms to know when whiskey tasting?

When you’re starting to get into drinking whiskey, you may hear a few terms that may catch you off guard because they are unique to the taste of whiskey. Here are some common terms to know when comparing different Irish whiskies:

  • Nose: When people talk about a whiskey’s nose, they are referring to its aroma or smell.
  • Palate: This is how the whiskey tastes on your tongue, which could be sweet, sour, bitter, salty or umami. The flavours of whiskey could be fruity, spicy, or smoky.
  • Body: When talking about the body of Irish whiskey, we refer to the feel of the weight and texture of the whiskey in your mouth. Light-bodied whiskies feel thin and watery, while full-bodied whiskies feel heavy and oily.
  • Finish: The finish refers to a whiskey’s aftertaste, which can be described as long, short, harsh or smooth.
  • Complexity: When talking about the complexity of Irish whiskey, people are referring to the number of different flavours detected. Complex whiskies have various flavour notes, and a simple whiskey have only a few.
  • Balance: This is used to describe how well the different flavours are integrated. An unbalanced whiskey has flavours that are more dominant than others. On the other hand a well-balanced Irish whiskey will have all of its flavours in harmony.

How to taste Irish whiskey?

Now, on to the fun part, here’s how to go about tasting Irish whiskey.

  1. Get a tasting glass, like a copita-style glass, but any other glass will do.
  2. Pour out some room-temperature whiskey for optimum flavour; anywhere from 20 to 40 ml should be sufficient. A warm whiskey might make some flavours too strong, and if it is too cold, the flavours may be restricted.
  3. Look at the colour of the whiskey. The amber colour of the whiskey comes from the aging process – the darker the whiskey, the longer the aging process, generally.
  4. Now, bring the glass to your nose and smell the whiskey to analyse the aromas.
  5. Next, swirl the whiskey around the glass and look for the whiskey legs (how the droplets run down the side of the glass.
  6. Take a sip and allow the whiskey to coat your tongue, the front of your mouth and the inside of your cheeks. Let it linger there a little before swallowing to analyse the palate.
  7. Swallow the whiskey, and you’ll get a decision on its finish.
  8. Take some time to reflect on what you’ve just tasted.
  9. Repeat the process and enjoy your Irish whiskey tasting.

The most enjoyable way to do a whiskey tasting is to do a blind tasting. To do this, you’ll pour your drinks, then close your eyes and swap the different glasses around.

Final Thoughts

Once you get the basics, Irish whiskey tasting becomes more and more enjoyable every time. It becomes easier to identify the feel and flavours of the whiskey and you’ll talking about it like an expert in no time.

Mick Pacholli

Mick created TAGG - The Alternative Gig Guide in 1979 with Helmut Katterl, the world's first real Street Magazine. He had been involved with his fathers publishing business, Toorak Times and associated publications since 1972.  Mick was also involved in Melbourne's music scene for a number of years opening venues, discovering and managing bands and providing information and support for the industry. Mick has also created a number of local festivals and is involved in not for profit and supporting local charities.        

Mick Pacholli
Mick Pachollihttps://www.tagg.com.au
Mick created TAGG - The Alternative Gig Guide in 1979 with Helmut Katterl, the world's first real Street Magazine. He had been involved with his fathers publishing business, Toorak Times and associated publications since 1972.  Mick was also involved in Melbourne's music scene for a number of years opening venues, discovering and managing bands and providing information and support for the industry. Mick has also created a number of local festivals and is involved in not for profit and supporting local charities.        
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