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Scotch vs. Irish.

In a head-to-head battle of the whiskeys, you'll find that both are winners.

In Scotland, it's whisky. In Ireland, ifs whiskey. But the differences--and similarities-between two of the finest whiskeys in the world are greater than whether they spell their names with or without an "e."

For one, there are their highly distinctive tastes--the gentle, light and delicate taste of Irish; the clean, gusty, smoky and peaty taste of Scotch. Different from other whiskeys, with birth dates that stretch back into the dim recesses of history, Irish and Scotch are civilized, sophisticated drinks to be enjoyed slowly and pondered as one might a well-aged Cognac.

Both whiskeys, Irish and single malt Scotch, are distilled, by the centuries-old, slow, traditional pot still method. Most blended Scotch is done by the more modern and faster continuous still method. Both whiskeys are made from two of the same basic ingredients--barley and water. But after that, Scotch and irish go their separate ways.

The differences between the two are reflected in their individual aromas and tastes and the way each is made. While both use barley and water, irish is distilled from a combination of malted and unmalted barley if it is a single malt, and from a combination of malted barley and other grains if it is a blend.

Another difference is that the barley used to make irish is dried in smokeless kilns, while the barley used for Scotch is dried over peat fires, which adds to the whiskey's assertive taste. The third difference is single malt Scotch is distilled twice, while Irish is distilled three times. Irish's extra distillation accounts for much of its light taste because distillation tends to extract flavors, leaving a pure, smooth distillate.

Making A Reputation

It seems odd then, that Irish has long had a reputation in this country as a coarse, harsh, rough drink. That misconception came about during Prohibition when producers of bootleg, inferior whiskey, gave real irish a bad reputation. In the nearly 50 years since Prohibition's repeal, as Scotch gained in popularity here, Irish had to reestablish itself. Now, finally, both seem to hold places of honor and respect among America's knowledgeable whiskey drinkers.

There remains one discernible difference, however: The years of Irish's bad fortune took a toll on its distillers, and many eventually closed. Currently, there are only five irish whiskeys available in the United States: Bushmills, Black Bush, a special and more expensive version of Bushmills; John Jameson; John Jameson 1780, a 12-year-old whiskey; and the very expensive Midleton Very Rare, which sells for about $100 a bottle.

In contrast there are more than 100 Scotch whiskys imported into the United States. There are the well-known blends such as Dewar's White Ladel, Johnnie Walker Red and Johnnie Walker Black, Grant's, Black & White, Chivas Regal, Cutty Sark and Haig & Haig, and single malt brands such as Glenfiddich, Glen Moray, Glenmorangie, Laphroaig and Balvenie.

While Irish and Scotch are both to be enjoyed by themselves, irish takes more readily to mixed drinks. In fact, most Americans have not experienced Irish whiskey neat but rather as an Irish coffee, a fact the irish find strange. Why, they muse, would anyone want to mar such wonderful whiskey with coffee? Why, indeed.
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Title Annotation:whiskey
Author:Fried, Eunice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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