In last week's post we looked at pot-distilled versus blended Irish whiskeys. Now we'll disucss where Irish whiskey actually comes from.
There are only three major distilleries in Ireland, plus one tiny one at Kilbeggan. In the southern part of the island in Cork is the Middleton distillery, where they make not only Middleton whiskey but also Paddy, Powers, Redbreast, and most notably Jameson. The latter brand sells over 70 percent of the Irish whiskey in the US.
The pot still whiskey from Middleton (they also make column still whiskey for blends) is made from a combination of malted and unmalted barley, which is described by distillers as being a bit oilier in texture than distilled unmalted barley. They call the resulting malted/unmalted whiskeys "pure pot still," as opposed to "single-malt."
Far to the north of Ireland is the Bushmills distillery, where they make their namesake brand. Here they distill only single-malt whiskeys; those made from all malted barley. Bushmills sells both blended whiskies (blended with column distilled spirit from Middleton) and single-malts.
Ireland's third distillery is Cooley. This is both the newest distillery in Ireland and the most innovative. They produce peated (smoky) whiskeys, double-distilled whiskeys (both Middleton and Bushmills distill their pot still whiskey three times), and blends. Cooley also owns the small Kilbeggan distillery nearby.
That's it: nearly all your Irish whiskey comes from three distilleries. Now that doesn't mean we're drinking three whiskeys put in different bottles. The different brands age their spirits in different types of barrels for different amounts of time and blend them in different ways.
It's amazing how much variety there is in the category coming from just three companies.
The recipe below uses the rich pot still whiskey Redbreast as one might in a Manhattan cocktail, and accents it with sweet apricot liqueur and Fernet-Branca, which shows its minty side in this drink. For an Irish twist, Friedman says he uses a small metal cookie cutter to cut the lemon peel into a clover shape for the garnish.
By Andrew Friedman of Liberty in Seattle
2 fl. oz. Redbreast 12yr
.25 to .5 fl. oz. Apricot Liqueur
2 dashes Lemon Bitters
Lemon peel for garnish
Pour a splash Fernet-Branca in a mixing glass and dump it out so that just a few drops remain. Add other ingredients and stir with ice until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.