Independent Irish whiskey expert Kevin Hurley took the floor in the Taste Zone at the show to dispel some fake news about the category.
As former global brand ambassador for Teeling Whiskey Company, Hurley has heard it all when it comes to this booming category, and took the opportunity to set the record straight in a session entitled ‘Everything you know about Irish whiskey is wrong’.
Among these was the idea that there are only a handful of distilleries in Ireland. While it’s true that at one point the country had as few as two distilleries, there were 30 at its height, and it seems likely to return to that number in the coming years, with 20 distilleries in 2017, and 10 more in planning stages.
Anyone thinking that all Irish whiskey is matured in former bourbon or sherry barrels, or even that all of the country’s whiskey production was aged in oak, would find themselves mistaken too. Hurley named a long list of whiskeys that are experimenting with former wine, beer and spirit casks to differentiate themselves, not to mention a few examples making use of acacia wood, chestnut and more.
Even the spelling of the category’s name came into question, as not every distiller makes use of the ‘e’ in whiskey. Regulations in fact allow for ‘whiskey’, ‘whisky’ and ‘uisce beatha éireannach’.
To dispel any doubts about Irish whiskey’s ability when it comes to cocktails, Hurley had enlisted the help of Aaron Wall, general manager of Callooh Callay, who presented his Teanabiccie, made with Dead Rabbit Whiskey, crème de cacao white and more, and garnished with a Hobnob.
One commonly held belief, at least, turned out to be true – that Irish whiskey once ruled the world. Hurley cited factors such as mass Irish emigration, favourable trade routes when Ireland was part of the British empire, and a shortage of grape spirit as a result of phylloxera as reasons for the popularity of Irish whiskey. Similarly, Prohibition and the Temperance movement in Ireland were just some of the factors that ended the category’s reign.