Sunday, January 9, 2011


A bit about Whiskey

If you were to believe all you heard or read concerning the beginning of whiskey, you would be none the wiser. This is because of lost recordings of the facts over the centuries which has given us a whole host of dates relating to “the beginning” in different countries, different centuries and by a varied style of people. Here are some examples,

1174, apparently discovered by the soldiers of King Henry ll while invading Ireland

15th Century, John of Gaddesden of Oxford, a physician, mentioned the word whiskey in one of his publications as a tool used for healing
1494 Scotland, mentioned in the exchequer rolls by order of the king to have viii bolls of malt produced by Friar John Cor
1556 Drogheda Ireland, an act of parliament passed in this year confirms that aqua vitae (whiskey) is “now universally used through the realm of Ireland”

The list goes on, but, sometime in the 13th century, distillation was discovered (or rediscovered) and brought to every corner of the world by Spanish monks. This inevitably led to experimentation with a wide variety of ingredients by different nations and eventually to the discovery of whiskey.

The “E” thing
There is no great mystery as to why some whiskeys are spelled with an “e” or without an ”e”. It is simply down to the fact that that you could spell your whiskey any way you wanted. Cork Distilleries usually spelled theirs without “e” whereas the big Dublin boys (Jameson & Powers) spelled theirs with the “e”.
Early in the 1960`s John Power & Son realised that the only way for the Irish Whiskey market to continue was for a merger with Jameson & Cork Distilleries. This happened in 1966 and since then all Irish whiskey was spelled with an “e”.. Another mystery solved! Now lets look at the tools quickly and move on to making whiskey
The tools
Water & Barley, Copper, Wood, Yeast

Water is the single most important ingredient of the whole process. It is used in no less than 6 different stages throughout Whiskey production, and if you have been in Ireland for a few days now, you may have noticed that Mother Nature is very generous when it comes to supplies. Barley, as a result of our rainy climate is also in abundance and not just in spring. A winter strain has been produced to enable distilling to continue all year round, this is not how it was done traditionally. So in effect if it wasn’t for our poor weather( or good if you are a distiller) you might not be reading this right now.

The ideal metal for use because of its resistance to corrosion, its ability to last for decades, its cleansing properties during distillation & I dare say a thing of beauty once polished and in full working order. After all if you were to walk into any distillery, surely your first glance would be the huge shining stills. In terms of cleansing properties, the copper reacts with sulphur traces in the product to produce copper sulphate, which is removed at a later stage.


Probably one of the most essential pieces of equipment when it comes to the making of whiskey due to its flavour enhancing properties. Only barrels that have already held alcohol for a period of time are suitable for the maturing of whiskey, because of the over powering effect of new wood. You will notice how the wood flavours the whiskey when you read tasting notes that mention sherry undertones, fruitiness, spicy oak and so on. But whiskey has only been matured in wood for the last 100 years, and before that was drunk straight from the still. When tasting the whiskey you might be able to guess what barrels the whiskey came from by the colour of the spirit i.e. Ruby from Sherry wood, Golden from Oak & Pale from Bourbon.

Usually bought locally, the yeast is added to the fermenting part of the process. Some distillers believe different yeasts produce different results, but this is too hard to prove. It is however, true with beer making.

The Making

The three main ingredients used for the making of whiskey are water, barley & yeast. Each of Ireland’s three distilleries has their own water & barley source.

Midleton Co Cork; water is sourced from the Dungourney River and barley is sourced from nearby Kinsale & Cappoquin in Co Waterford.

Old Bushmills Co Antrim; water is taken from the stream that runs under & around the distillery itself and the barley comes from a malting company.

Cooley Co Meath; water here is collected from while the peated malt used here is sourced from the open market in either Ireland or Scotland.

Now that we have the bits we need we can start the task of making whiskey.
The ingredients go through 7 different procedures before being sold to the open market.

Malting Mashing Fermenting Distilling Maturing Vatting & Bottling


The barley is steeped in fresh water to cause germination that will provide us with natural sugars for the making of whiskey. This wet barley is dried in a closed kiln by heated air that is produced by a fire that burns smokeless fuels. If this fire were to burn peat or turf, you would taste it in the whiskey (this is how its done in Scotland).


Next the barley is ground into a flour type product called “Grist”, where it meets with hot water in a container known as a “mash tun”. The water is drained off and the process is repeated twice more with the water from the final mashing (the wort) being use in the next batch to encourage continuity between the batches. Mashing causes the starch in the grain to turn into sugar.


The water that has been drained during the mashing process is now put into fermenting containers and mixed with yeast. The yeast & wort begin to react with other and when all is done we are left with a liquid that has approximately 9% alcohol by volume. This liquid is a crude form of beer.


This liquid is now boiled in a copper still, where the alcohol will rise before the water due to a lower boiling point. After the separation, the liquid is re-distilled a second time and a third if in Ireland. Twice distilled in Scotland, and single distilled in America.

How to Taste Whiskey

Tasting can be very simple or very complicated, depending how experienced with whiskey you are. While one person experiences one thing, another person will experience something completely different. There are hundreds of different smells, tastes, and aromas & because all our senses work uniquely, we will all come to different conclusions. The best way to taste whiskey is to try several seperate glasses of course!
You will need;

A stemmed glass preferably, or any one big enough to get your nose in(The Celtic Whiskey Shop can provide you with the recommended style)

Water for diluting (optional)
Water for rinsing your mouth
Several types of whiskey

Firstly pour the whiskey into your stemmed glass. This allows your hand to warm the whiskey slightly and release the aromas

Swish the whiskey around the glass and watch as it settles. The longer the whiskey sticks to the sides of the glass, the stronger it is. Also look at the colour of the whiskey to determine age & type of wood used. Whiskeys matured in port or sherry cask are described of being ruby in colour. While bourbon wood matured whiskeys are golden.

Another swish then get your nose into the glass. Don’t sniff too much or for too long or you might miss what your looking for. Note what you smell before you move on to tasting.

At this point, adding water is optional. Do what ever you feel comforable with. Most people selling you whiskey will be horrified at this act of vandalism, but just remind them that this is how the experts believe they achieve the most from the whiskeys.

While sipping the whiskey you should take in some air as you would when wine tasting. This further releases some of the properties and allows you deeper in the whiskey. For those of you brave enough, allow some whiskey to pass over your gums. Strange we know, but believe it or not, you actually have taste buds in this part of your mouth

Lastly swallow. The longer the taste holds in your mouth the better the quality, the shorter the poorer obviously.

Remember to take note of the whiskeys you have tasted. From this you will know the type of whiskey you like, and it will make life easier when you go to the bar or the off license.

It wouldn’t be right for us to tell you what you should taste, honey, sherry citrus etc, because thats all part of the learning experience, and as we have already explained everybody finds something different, so we‘re not going to. If you would like to know more you would have to engage in what we like to call “market research”, that is to say buy some whiskey.

That’s really all were going to tell you about whiskey, but more information can be found in our books behind the bar, or the staff can help you decide what to drink. We hope you enjoy exploring the world of Irish Whiskey and we hope it starts here in The Bull & Castle.


Name Style Abv % Price
Michael Collins   Single Malt 40 6.10
Kilbeggan Blend 40 4.10
Kilbeggan 15yr First Release 40 11.50
Tyrconnell Single Malt 40 5.20
Tyrconnell Sherry Single Malt 46 7.80
Tyrconnell Bourbon Single Malt 46 7.80
Connemara Peated Malt 40 4.10
Connemara Cask Strength 58.8 6.40
Connemara 14 yr Single Cask 46 11.50
Greenore Single Grain 40 5.80
The Irishman Pot still blend 40 4.20
Tullamore 10yr Single Malt 40 10.00
Writers Tears Pot still blend 40 5.50
Knappogue Castle Single Malt 40 6.00
Lockes 8 yr Single Malt 40 5.10
Jameson Blend 40 4.00
Powers Blend 40 4.00
Paddy Blend 40 4.00
Jameson Gold Reserve Very Rare Blend 40 10.00
Green Spot Pure Pot Still 40 4.60
Redbreast 12yr Pure Pot Still 40 5.50
Redbreast 15yr Pure Pot Still 46 12.00
Jameson 18yr Pure Pot Still 40 13.00
Midleton VR Very Rare Blend 40 13.00
Redbreast 1970`s Original Pot Still 40 28.00
Bushmills Blend 40 4.10
Black Bush Blend 40 4.50
Bushmills 10yr Single Malt 40 5.80
Bushmills 16yr Single Malt 40 9.00
Bushmills 21 yr old Single Malt 40 12.00
Auchentoshan 10yr Lowland 40 5.85
Edradour 10yr Highland 40 6.30
Bowmore 12yr Island 40 7.35
Bowmore 15yr Island 40 9.85
Bowmore 18yr Island 40 6.30
Laphroaig 10yr Islay 40 6.30
Lagavulin 16yr Islay 43 8.40
Glenmorangie 10 yr Highland 40 5.20
Glenkinchie 10 yr Lowland 43 5.20
Highland Park 12 yr Islands 40 5.50
Bruichladdich 14 yr Islands 46 6.40
Tobermory 10yr Isle Of Mull 40 5.50
Suntory 12 yr Japan Single Malt 43 7.50
Woodford Res USA Bourbon 45.2 5.50
Wild Turkey 8 yr Bourbon 50.5 5.75
Bourbob Bulleit Bourbon 40 4.85
Makers Mark Bourbon 45 4.55
Crown Royal Canada 40 4.50

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