Don Kavanagh is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

Don Kavanagh: That rare old mountain dew

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A pureness within Irish whiskey is enough to warm any heart, says Don Kavanagh.

Jameson's sweet barley flavours make it popular. Photo / Supplied
Jameson's sweet barley flavours make it popular. Photo / Supplied

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I'm a huge fan of whisky.

I'm lucky enough to have visited almost 120 distilleries in Scotland as well as a few in America, but I have to say that I've been really enjoying Irish whiskey again recently.

You'll notice the difference in spelling there; Irish whiskey adds an "e" to the proceedings, although no one is quite sure why. The best explanation I've heard so far is that either the Irish can't spell or that the Scots were too mean to pay for the extra letter to be printed on the label.

Regardless of spelling, the glory of Irish whiskey is in its simplicity. Irish whiskey doesn't need to be heavily malted or peated; it simply reflects the pure, simple sweetness of barley.

Irish tends to be distilled three times rather than twice. Again, the reasons are lost in the mists of time; the Scots say the Irish distil three times on the basis of "third time lucky", while the Irish maintain their kilted cousins are far too careful with their money to splash out for the extra run.

For all the rivalry between Ireland and Scotland over whisk(e)y, it is admitted by all sides that the spirit was invented in Ireland. Even the name, whiskey, is an Anglicisation of the gaelic word "uisce", which means water.

The Old Bushmills Distillery north of Belfast is the oldest licensed distillery in the world, legally making the stuff since 1608, giving it a 403-year legal pedigree and the evidence remains that the locals there were making a fine drop for at least 200 years before that.

Irish whiskey is a sweeter spirit as well, something that endears it to a wide audience. From the sweet barley flavours of Jameson, to the pot-still created wonder that is Redbreast, Irish whiskey retains a subtle sweetness that warms the heart and creates friends from the first mouthful.

If you fancy trying something a bit different in your whisk(e)y, pour yourself an Irish. Whether it's the heroic Bushmills Black Bush or the subtle and sauvignon blanc-like Powers, you'll be making a friend that will stand by you through the years.

* Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

- Herald on Sunday

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