March 5, 2009
“It sloeth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth fleume, it abandoneth melancholy, it relisheth the hart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickeneth the spirites...truly it is a souveraigne liquor, if it be orderly taken.” People all over the world associate whiskey with the Irish, though many do so in a stereotypical way. The reality is that Irish whiskey is a large part of Ireland's rich history and culture. The distilling of this whiskey is a scientific and very regulated process that began over eight hundred years ago. The production of Irish whiskey is a historical part of Irish culture, which has since become a part of its economy.
The origin of Irish Whiskey, or fuisce and uisce beatha in Gaelic, can be dated back to the seventh century when missionary monks arrived in Ireland. It is said that the Irish Monks acquired the techniques of distilling from traveling in the Mediterranean countries. The monks then learned to distill perfumes for other uses and "uisce beatha", a Gaelic term meaning, “water of life”, for medical purposes. Irish Monks first distillates were composed primarily of grape and fruit brandy. The Irish then decided to modify the distilling techniques they learned from the monks into a drinkable remedy.
The Irish considered the distilling of whiskey to be their birthright. When Tudor kings gained English control in Ireland in the 1500s, they began having casks filled with barley-based whiskey shipped in for the Irish to distill. Other regulations came in 1661 with the introduction of the excise tan on whiskey. This led to the immediate cease of the production of poteen, which is the Irish version of moonshine. The result was a major conflict between the “Moonshiners” and the Excisemen that enforced the collection of the taxes on whiskey. However, it did not affect the growth of the distilling industry.
In 1781, the UK government...