Irish Whiskey Rules!

Introduction

Irish whiskey is on the rise! But there are strict rules on labels and definitions. This iStill Blog post clarifies what’s what in Irish whiskey and how you, as a craft distiller, can comply. Spoiler alert: it is more than just the geographical indication of it being made in the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland. You know what? As a little extra side-dish, this post also explains how iStills can help you out make even better Irish whiskey, both consistently and efficiently.

Categories of Irish whiskey

There are basically four labels of Irish whiskey:

  • Irish whiskey;
  • Pot still Irish whiskey;
  • Malt Irish whiskey;
  • Grain Irish whiskey.

Let’s see what the requirements are, to meet a certain label. The law distinguishes between brewing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. Since the requirements for fermentation and maturation are the same for all categories, we’ll deal with those first, so that we can focus on the actual differences between categories a bit further down the road.

Geographical Indication (all categories)

All categories of Irish whiskey must be produced on the island of Ireland.

Fermentation (all categories)

For all Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, and grain Irish whiskey:

  • Fermentation takes place by yeast and natural enzymes only;
  • Fermentation takes place at the same site where brewing and distillion happen.

Maturation (all categories)

For all Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, malt Irish whiskey, and grain Irish whiskey:

  • Maturation takes place in wooden casks no bigger than 700 liters;
  • In a tax warehouse for a minimum time of three years.

So far, it is easy: fermentation and maturation are the same for every category. From here onwards, we’ll zoom in on what differentiates the various categories, and focus on brewing and distillation.

Irish whiskey

In order to call your whiskey Irish whiskey, these are the brewing requirements:

  • The mash bill contains malted cereals with or without whole grains added;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled.

Making Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can mash, ferment, and distill Irish whiskey;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Pot still Irish whiskey

To label your spirit as Pot Still Irish whiskey, here’s what’s required for brewing:

  • The mash bill contains at least 30% natural, raw, non-peated malted barley;
  • And a minimum of 30% unmalted barley;
  • A maximum of 5% other unmalted cereals like oats or rye
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a copper potstill.

Making pot still Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as pot still Irish whiskey, use one or more of our copper stills;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger iStill  with a smaller one or by using one iStill, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Malt Irish whiskey

Do you want to make malt Irish whiskey? Here’s what’s required for brewing:

  • The mash bill is made from 100% natural, raw, peated or non-peated malted barley;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a potstill.

Making malt Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as malt Irish whiskey, use our potstill design;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Grain Irish whiskey

Do you want to make grain Irish whiskey? Here’s what’s required for the brewing phase:

  • Mash is made from maximum 30% natural, raw malted barley and other whole cereals;
  • The enzymes in the malt enable the saccharification;
  • Synthetic enzymes are not allowed;
  • Brewing, fermenting, and distilling take place at the same site.

Distillation:

  • Must be distilled at less than 94.8% ABV;
  • Must be double or triple distilled;
  • In a column still.

Making grain Irish whiskey with an iStill:

  • All iStill equipment can be used to mash and ferment;
  • If you want to label your spirit as grain Irish whiskey, use our standard column design;
  • Double or triple distillation is achieved by combining one bigger still  with a smaller one or by using one still, first for stripping and then for finishing.

Summary

Due to the number of categories and the various rules, there can be some confusion on how to make which category of Irish whiskey. This article explains the do’s and don’ts and creates clarity.

The various categories of Irish whiskey all have the same requirements when it comes to fermentation and maturation, It is in the brewing and distilling processes, that they differ.

The iStill product portfolio of stills, fermenters, and mashers is there for you, as an Irish craft distiller, to use and create better spirits in a more controlled, fully repeatable way.

For Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey, all you need is a standard iStill. Malt Irish whiskey is made on an iStill with potstill column lay-out. For pot still Irish whiskey, we have our special operations department building you a specific copper still.

For more reading on the GI of Irish whiskey, see: WebPage

What’s next? A clear and unbiased interpretation of the Scottish whisky rules.

Pot still Irish whiskey iStill 5000 …

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