Ireland and Scotland are two of the biggest and well-known Whisky / Whiskey producers in the world. And since they are neighbors you might think they do the same thing. But there are some pretty fundamental differences in how they make the Whisky / Whiskey.
Whisky or Whiskey
The first and most obvious difference is the spelling. Whisky from Scotland is always written without the E, while the Whiskey from Ireland is written with an E. While it’s hard to say where the extra E came from, the extra E means a lot for the Irish.
As well as spelling, there are some big differences in how Whisky is produced in Ireland and Scotland. Scotch is typically made from malted barley and other grains. They use a copper pot still and it will need to mature for a minimum of three years. Irish Whiskey is typically made from unmalted barley and other grains. They also use a copper pot still and it also needs to mature for three years.
It looks like the only difference is the barley right? No, when you look a bit further they change quite a bit.
Distillation and Malting
Here we will see the bigger difference.
Scotch is normally distilled twice and is made completely from malted barley. While the Single malts dominate the Whisky market the blends are also popular. They are made from a mixture of malted grains, all with some barley.
Irish Whiskey is normally triple distilled. This will give that smoothness that most people remember with Irish Whiskey. The mixture will also be made up of a combination of grains, not just barley.
This difference is the distillation process makes sure Whisky tastes different then Whiskey. Of course, there are some exeptions here. The distillery Auchentoshan in Scotland is using triple distillation, while Kilbeggan in Ireland is using the double distillation method.
The Irish also have an extra category of malt, the Single Pot Still. This means that the whiskey is made from both malted and unmalted barley. This grew out of a tradition of using unmalted barley, as malted barley was taxed.
Both countries are using copper pot stills, but even there is a difference. There are a lot of types of stills in Scotland, while the Irish are using the pot still that is smaller than their Scotland cousins.