Ireland produces a lot of great whiskey, from beautifully balanced blends to surprisingly complex single grain whiskeys. Yet for some superfans of Irish whiskey, single pot still will always be the Emerald Isle’s brightest jewel.
Single pot still is robust, it’s complex, and it’s the only kind of whisk(e)y** that can exclusively be made in Ireland. It’s as Irish as a Donegal sweater — and as thick and warming as one, too.
(**Note — we add an “e” when talking about whiskey from Ireland.)
Whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or just continuing your never-ending exploration this March, we’re giving Drop Collective members a chance to ask Midleton Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman a question about Irish whiskey this month — see the end of this article for details. And in the meantime, with some single pot still …
Single pot still: What you need to know
It’s labelled “single” because it’s made at a single distillery. The “pot still” part comes from the fact that the whiskey is distilled in a traditional copper pot kettle (like single malts, bourbons and some Canadian whiskies).
What’s unique for pot still whiskey is the mash bill. It’s at least 95% barley, and at least 30% of the barley must be malted — in other words, soaked and allowed to germinate, and then toasted in a kiln to bring out toasty and nutty flavours.
But the rest of the barley that goes into the still is left “green” or unmalted. This is where single pot still differs from single malt. And it’s where the real fun begins. This handy cheat sheet should help you keep it all straight …
Irish whiskey: the cheat sheet
Most people find the green barley gives single pot still a “bigger” flavour than other Irish whiskeys. You also get some bright, sharp fruity overtones like lemon, apple and pineapple. All in all, these whiskeys pack a wallop. Which makes them ideal for cocktails, too. Try a Redbreast old fashioned and see for yourself.
Speaking of old-fashioned, all Irish whiskey was made this way until the 1950s or so. The style’s been making a comeback recently, thanks in massive part to Redbreast and Green Spot, two brands from the New Midleton Distillery in County Cork.
A few great Irish whiskeys are making some seasonal appearances in Canada for March. At The Drop Collective, a little red birdie tells us there’s something especially special in store this year …
Redbreast 27 Year Old arrives in Canada
There’s no better way to fall under the spell of single pot still Irish whiskey than with the oldest permanent expression in the Redbreast range, now arriving in Canada.
Redbreast 27 starts with ripe and exotic fruits on the nose — mango, blood orange, pineapple — along with aromatic, oily herbs and woody spices. Rich and ripe on the palate, it evolves to cherry menthol, nutmeg, toasted oak and more.
This is a complex and special whiskey that really shows off not only the huge flavours that are characteristic of single pot still Irish whiskey, but also the beautiful balance of fruit and wood that a master distiller can achieve by employing a mix of ex-bourbon, sherry and ruby port casks.
Speaking of master distillers …
Ask Kevin (Redbreast Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman, that is)
We’re giving Drop Collective members an exclusive opportunity to throw some burning Irish whiskey questions at our man at Midleton, Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman. Pop a question in the comments section on our Instagram and get ready for some straight talk about Irish whiskey — .