The art of distillation was brought to Ireland by the monks
It was probably the Moors in Spain who imported the distillation, and adapted the concept of the alembic to create the pot still so renowned in Irish whisky…
Fairley: The Early History of Distillation tells that Albucasis (1100 A.D.), a doctor from Cordoba, wrote the exact description of the apparatus used in the distillation of wine, rose water and vinegar. From Spain, knowledge of distillation spread to France and gradually spread as domestic art continued in private mansions and religious houses. They produced “l’eau-de-vie du vin” for use as medicine.
According to an article in The Irish Times, the first written record of whisky dates back to 1324, confirming even the appearance of whisky 170 years earlier than in Scotland. The word is mentioned in the book Red Book of Ossory, a medieval manuscript written in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Since then, Ireland has evolved in whisky production, with greats such as Jameson born in 1780 and Powers in 1791, both in Dublin. However, the industry was divided into two strands: the creation of numerous distilleries and the production of illegal alcohol known as Poitin. A clandestine alcoholic beverage known as the moonshine of Ireland.
But factors such as the Temperance movement -Temperance Movement- founded by Fr Theobald Mathew brought negative consequences to the industry. The movement consisted of opposition to alcohol consumption and although it did not last long at least 150000 people were part of the movement. Despite this, the 19th century in Ireland saw the birth of many distilleries, with places such as Drogheda, Derry and Belfast standing out as important centres of production.
And just like the Irish distillery boom, their numbers fell until by 1980 only two whisky distilleries survived. Today the number is 20, compared to a Scotland that has closed at least 130 distilleries. Another 20 distilleries, four of them in the north, are either in the pipeline or under development.
The future looks good, however, for these new distilleries such as St James Gate in Dublin that should have their first whiskey ready by 2020.
Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.