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Whiskey Tasting Tips For Irish Whiskey

Updated on October 3, 2016

5 Simple Steps To Whiskey Tasting

Whiskey means "water of life" and if you are not a regular drinker of the beverage it can be harsh on the senses. So here will we give a non intimidating guide on how to sample the whiskey’s of Ireland with a little basic knowledge.

You will only need this beginning introductions, because as you tour each distillery you will learn more, taste more and experience more. You will get to see the product being produced and the process and really start to understand the craft.

Once presented with the water of life you will want to...

  1. Look at it. The colors are shades of browns that can described as golden, straw, caramel or many, many other terms. The different hues are achieved by the various casks.
  2. Move the liquid around the glass. Swirl it and see how it sticks to the sides of the glass and falls back down. These are called “legs” or “tears” and indicate the alcohol content, plus let you know how it will feel in your month. Slow moving tears will feel thicker.
  3. Ready to taste! Don’t chug or shot the entire drink down. Instead take a small mouthful and swish around and enjoy the different sensations.
  4. The after burn. Swallowing it will cause a burning, just rest for a moment and let it be.
  5. The finish, or aftertaste. There is an after flavor or notes that can dissipate quickly or linger. These are qualities regular whiskey drinkers will remark on and have different preferences.

Tasting Whiskey: An Insider's Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World's Finest Spirits
Tasting Whiskey: An Insider's Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World's Finest Spirits

This is a simple yet astonishingly complete guide. This book covers everything, and at first glance it may seem to be information overload, but as you read on, you can literally feel the writers love for the drink. He shares fun facts, how to’s and buzz words.

Literally every aspect from the grains, fermentation, the casks, and aging. Not only will get a lesson in Irish Whiskey but also Scottish, American, Canadian and Japanese.

A step by step tour guide in the world of whiskey. Not only will you learn how to get past the burn, but the many art forms of this craft drink.


How Whiskey Is Made

Whiskey is made from grains, where as wine is made from grapes.

In a very generic description the grain is fermented, distilled and put into wooden casks to age.

Irish whiskey is always spelled with and E, vs whisky. In order to be classified as Irish, the brew must be made somewhere on the island of Ireland. The alcohol content is monitored and must not exceed 94.8%. The it must be aged for 3 years in their wooden casks to complete the Irish process.

Don’t Be Intimidated By Their Words

You will hear fellow tasters stating the oaky, musty, heaviness, crispness, lightness, hotter, softer or various other languages.

More descriptive words you might associate with the flavors are butterscotch, creamy, peppery, zesty or spicy.

There is no hard and fast rule for the casual enjoy-er. Feel free to relax and take in the colors, smells and burns and give them your own unique opinion.

-The difference between Scotch, Bourbon and Whiskey.

It will seem like one person will order a scotch and another a whiskey. What's the difference?

  • Scotch is scotch whiskey made in Scotland.
  • Bourbon is an American type of whiskey.
  • Whiskey just simple means a fermented alcohol made from grain only. The grain will be either corn, rye, wheat or barley.

- Single malt vs double malt

  • When you hear the phrase single malt whiskey, it means that particular one was made at one single distillery.
  • Blended malt whiskey, is when the product is a creation of two separate distilleries. Blending the two different styles together.
  • Blended whiskey also means, the blending of two types of whiskies.

A Sampler of Irish Whiskey


Jameson Irish Whiskey
Jameson Irish Whiskey | Source

The John Jameson & Son Irish Whiskey distillery was created in 1810. These spirits are created with Irish barley which is all grown and harvested with the county Cork, Ireland.

Jameson is the leading seller in the world for Irish whiskey’s, the the USA being the largest consumer.

At the end of this tour and sampling, we were given a choice of either a shot or a Jameson and ginger, which was whiskey and ginger ale.

Jameson offers a popular small cask specialty whiskey called Black Barrel. This is a blended whiskey, meaning they blend two varieties together to get it's unique taste. It's called Black Barrel because the wooden barrels that the liquid are aged in, are charred and burned first, on the inside. This burning of the wood gives the flavors and it's most unique, bolder deeper, richer tastes.

Currently there is only one tasting tour available in Ireland in Cork at the Midleton Distillery, while the Dublin location is being remodeled at set for a grand opening around St. Patricks day 2017.

Jameson's Visitors Center located in County Cork, Ireland

A markerOld Distillery Walk, Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland -
Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland
get directions

Jameson Distillery and Visitors Center


Tullamore Dew
Tullamore Dew | Source

Tullamore Dew is another brand of Irish whiskey and was first started in the town of Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland.

The phrase Dew is the initials of former head employee Daniel E. Williams or D.E.W. shortened to dew.

Tullamore Dew's Visitors Center in County Offaly, Ireland

A markerBury Quay, Puttaghan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland -
Bury Quay, Puttaghan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland
get directions

Tasting tours and visitors center.


The Kilbeggan Distillery is located on the lovely River Brosna in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, Ireland.

This fine producers can claim it’s fame on is the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland, beginning in 1757! Yeah, that’s old.

Kilbeggan in County Westmeath, Ireland

A markerLower Main St, Aghamore, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, Ireland -
Lower Main St, Aghamore, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, Ireland
get directions

Distillery and visitors center.


Bushmills | Source

This operation is located in Northern Ireland.

A fan favorite for tasting tours, this company gets well over 100,000 tasters thru it’s door each year. Originally they began production in 1784, 27 years AFTER Kilbeggan, just for reference again how long some of the names have been lingering around in some form or another on the isle.

Be sure to check before visiting, as they shut down for routine maintenance once year, but it only seems to limit some access to certain areas, and a tasting and tour are still provided in good standing.

Bushmills in Northern Ireland

A marker2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills BT57 8XH, UK -
2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills BT57 8XH, UK
get directions

Tasting and tours.


The newest family member maybe Dingle Distillery which was launched in 2012, but the first batch is set to be out 2016. As far as I know, it has not been release yet!

If you in Southwest Ireland and hope to time it right stop by, and if nothing else they still are creating fine gins and vodkas. And Dingle is a great place to take the lesser known Ring of Dingle drive and there are plenty of towns, beaches and hiking trails.

Dingle in County Kerry, Ireland

A markerFarranredmond, DIngle, Co. Kerry, Ireland -
Farranredmond, Co. Kerry, Ireland
get directions

Located in Southern Ireland by the popular Ring of Kerry.

Some Final Tips

Some final tips are, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. Drinking and driving is strictly prohibited, but many of the locations are close to public transportation, cabs or walking distance to major city centers.

Enjoy the Ireland, it’s beautiful green countryside, it’s wonderful people, it’s music and heart. And now you are ready to enjoy the art of Irish Whiskey.

Have You Ever Been To A Whiskey Tasting?

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