Irish whisky is whisky made on the island of Ireland.
The word “whisky” is an Anglicisation of the first word in the Gaelic phrase, uisce beatha, meaning “water of life”. The phrase was a translation of the Latin term aqua vitae, which was commonly used to describe distilled spirits during the Middle Ages.
Peat is rarely used in the malting process, so that Irish whisky has a smoother finish as opposed to the smoky, earthy overtones common to some Scotches. There are notable exceptions to these rules in both countries; an example is Connemara peated Irish malt (double distilled) whiskey from the Cooley Distillery in Riverstown, Cooley, County Louth, Pearse Whisky from Pearse Lyons Distillery Dublin, and the as yet unreleased whisky from Waterford Distillery.
Irish whisky was once the most popular spirit in the world, though a long period of decline from the late 19th century onwards greatly damaged the industry. So much so that although Ireland boasted over 30 distilleries in the 1890s, a century later, this number had fallen to just three. Irish whisky has seen a resurgence in popularity since the late twentieth century, and has been the fastest growing spirit in the world every year since 1990.
With exports growing by over 15% per annum, existing distilleries have been expanded and a number of new distilleries constructed. As of August 2017, Ireland has eighteen distilleries in operation, with at least a further sixteen in the planning stages. Only six of these have been operating long enough to have products sufficiently aged for sale, and only one of these was operating prior to 1975.