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Irish Whiskey is thriving in the US (reaching over $1.3 billion in sales in 2021) and The New York Irish Whiskey Festival comes to market to celebrate classic favorites while showcasing the innovative startup brands that represent the energy in the category.

The New York Irish Whiskey Festival features a plethora of brands aimed to herald the dynamic category and highlight its versatility from whiskey drams to award-winning craft cocktails.

Irish whiskey is one of the world's great styles of whiskey yet people frequently ask bartenders, "What is Irish whiskey?" and while the answer isn't simple, a broad look at the Irish whiskey category is essential to understanding this style of whiskey."


Irish whiskey is always spelled with an 'e' in the word whiskey. Unlike Scotch and many other whiskeys of the world, you will always find that whiskeys from Ireland use this spelling.

Irish whiskey was the most popular whiskey category in America prior to Prohibition and with a surge of interest in Irish whiskey again, it may soon return to its dominant place as America's favorite style of whiskey.

Irish whiskey has a distinct flavor profile that can generally be described as light and fruity with evident cereal grain notes. It is an ideal whiskey for cocktails including the popular Irish Coffee.


Irish whiskey is one of the most popular forms of whiskey in the world. Soley a product of Ireland, the rules for the production of Irish whiskey date back to 1880. The two major components of the laws are as follows:

  • Spirits described as Irish whiskey shall not be deemed to correspond to that description unless they have been obtained by distillation in the country of Ireland from a mash of malt and cereals.

  • Spirits described as Irish Pot Still whiskey shall not be deemed to correspond to this description unless they have been obtained by distillation solely in pot stills in Ireland from a mash of cereal grains such as are ordinarily grown in Ireland.

Irish Whiskey Distillation and Aging

Traditionally, Irish whiskey is triple distilled in copper pot stills versus the usual practice of double distillation for Scotch whisky. Additionally, Irish whiskey is generally not exposed to peat smoke as are many Scotch whiskeys.

By Irish law, all whiskeys must be aged a minimum of three years in barrels.

Irish Whiskey Classifications

  • Single malt Irish whiskey is made from 100% malted barley by a single distillery in a pot still.

  • Grain Irish whiskey is particularly light in style. Made from corn or wheat, grain whiskey is produced in column stills.

  • Single grain Irish whiskey has the same characteristics of grain whiskey, only a single grain is used in the distillate. 

  • Blended Irish whiskey constitutes 90% all Irish whiskey production.

  • Single Pot Still (formerly Pure Pot Still) whiskey is a blend of both malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still. Pure Pot Still is a style of whiskey unique to Ireland.

  • Potcheen or Irish moonshine distillates don't meet the age requirement to be labeled as Irish whiskey. Similar to American white dog, this is new make of spirit that has seen little to no time in the barrel. 

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