The word whiskey comes from the Irish phrase uisce beatha, or “water of life,” and the Irish are typically credited with being the first whiskey distillers. Just like their neighbors in Scotland, the Irish distinguish malt whiskey from grain whiskey.

Scotch and Irish whiskey are different in several ways. One is that Irish malt is very rarely smoked over peat, meaning it lacks the smoky, savory components of peated scotch. Another is the existence, in Ireland, of a category called pot still whiskey, which is made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley. That “green” barley contributes an added dimension of flavor that sets pot still whiskeys apart both from scotch and other Irish whiskeys.

Irish whiskey must be made in Ireland or Northern Ireland. In terms of taste, Irish whiskeys vary widely, from grassy to grainy to bourbon-like (more on that in a minute).

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