A Quick Guide to Irish Whiskey Blends

Irish whiskey is a rich and diverse style, encompassing many grains, techniques, and flavors. The whiskey often hits its apex through blending with this rich palette—and right now might be considered the golden age of Irish blends.

An Irish Whiskey Blend for Every Taste

If you want to get deep into the fundamentals of Irish whiskey, check out Instant Expert. For a quick-and-dirty summary of the different whiskeys that go into blends, and where they typically originate, use this guide.

The Four Types of Irish Whiskey

Legally, Irish whiskey can fall into one of four categories.

Single Malt

  • Grain: 100% malted barley
  • Distilled in: pot still
  • Made at: a single distillery
  • Flavor profile: Smooth, sweet, and malty

Single Pot Still

  • Grains: at least 30% malted and 30% unmalted barley
  • Distilled in: pot still
  • Made at: a single distillery
  • Flavor profile: Spicy and distinctively mouth-coating

Single Grain

  • Grains: whole, unmalted cereals with up to 30% malted barley
  • Distilled in: column still
  • Made at: a single distillery
  • Flavor profile: Sweet, light, with floral top notes

Blended Irish Whiskey

  • Grains: any
  • Distilled in: pot and/or column stills
  • Made at: a single distillery or multiple distilleries
  • Flavor profile: Varies, but generally smooth, mellow, and silky.

A blend is mixture of two or more styles of Irish whiskey. There are no specific names to differentiate between blends made from malt and grain, pot still and grain, malt and pot still, or even malt, pot still, and grain.

Who Makes What

For the latter half of the 20th century, Ireland’s whiskey distillers could be counted on a single hand, and even today, most blends originate from Midleton, Cooley, or Bushmills. As more new distillers get up and running in Ireland, and as their whiskey matures, that will begin to change over the next decade. Many new Irish distilleries have copper pot stills for making single malt or single pot still whiskey, but prefer to source the grain whiskey for their blends. When looking at the components of a blended Irish whiskey, you may be able to deduce the sources given the limited number of distilleries that currently offer mature whiskey for blending.

Bushmills—Offers triple-distilled single malt whiskey.
Cooley—Offers double-distilled single malt and single grain whiskeys.
Great Northern—Offers single pot still, single malt, and single grain whiskeys.
Midleton—Offers single pot still and single grain whiskeys.
Walsh Whiskey—Offers triple-distilled single malt, single pot still, and single grain whiskeys.

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