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Categories of Irish Whiskey: The Legal Definition & Classifications

The legal definition of Irish whiskey is governed by both Irish law and European Union regulations, specifically the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 and Regulation (EC) No 110/2008.

According to these regulations, Irish whiskey must adhere to the following criteria:

1. Geographical Origin

Must be produced on the island of Ireland (either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland).

2. Ingredients

Made from a mash of malted barley, with or without whole grains of other cereals.
Water and yeast are the only other permitted ingredients. The use of enzymes for starch conversion is allowed but they must be natural (not synthetic).

3. Distillation

Distilled to an alcohol content of less than 94.8% ABV (Alcohol by Volume).
The whiskey must be distilled in such a way that it retains the aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used.

4. Aging

Must be matured in wooden casks, such as oak barrels, for a minimum of three years. The casks must be stored on the island of Ireland.

5. Alcohol Content

Bottled at no less than 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).

6. Additives

No additives are permitted except for plain caramel coloring (E150a).

7. Labelling

The labelling must comply with specific rules that prevent misleading information about the origin, age, and production process.

The 4 Different Types of Irish Whiskey:

1. Single Malt Irish Whiskey

  • Made from 100% malted barley.
  • Distilled in pot stills at a single distillery.
  • Typically distilled three times, but can be distilled twice.

2. Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

  • Made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley.
  • Distilled in pot stills at a single distillery.
  • Distillation usually occurs three times.
  • This style is unique to Ireland and reflects traditional Irish whiskey-making practices.

3. Single Grain Irish Whiskey

  • Made from a mix of grains, typically including corn or wheat, in addition to malted barley.
  • Distilled in column stills at a single distillery.
  • Often lighter in flavour compared to pot still whiskeys.

4. Blended Irish Whiskey

  • A blend of two or more of the above whiskey types (single malt, single pot still, and/or single grain).
  • Blending allows for a balance of flavours and styles, making it the most common type of Irish whiskey available.
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