Episode 1: The Birth of The Spirit That Would Become Whiskey

June 30, 2022


The year is 1280 and as the medical men of Europe begin to travel and share their learnings, word begins to spread of this rudimentary yet miraculous process called "distillation". It's the beginning of the storied journey of the spirit we now call Irish whiskey. Within 40 years, word has spread to Ireland and is committed to paper for the first time. Ireland and the world will never be the same. 

In this first episode of The History of Irish Whiskey, covering the period 1280-1661, historian Fionnán O'Connor shares the origin and evolution of this process of distillation through the products and customs created as a result. 


What we learn about

  • Where distillation originated
  • How it arrived to Ireland
  • The first herb-based distilled spirits
  • The introduction of barley, oats and wheat to brewing, initially
  • The predominantly dairy-oriented landscape of Ireland in the 1300s-1600s
  • The rise of a tradition of hospitality in Ireland
  • The feudal world of the Gaelic Chieftains and its role in the evolution of the spirit
  • The pivotal role The Battle of Kinsale played in 1601 in the development of whiskey
  • The fall of the system of Chieftains and Earls in Ireland
  • The patents that lead to the first charter in the world for distilling in Ireland in 1608
  • The hints of the beginnings of what will become "distilleries" in the late 1600s


When we talk about where whiskey came from you're talking about groups of people or the spread of ideas as much as anything" - Fionnán O'Connor


The famous Red Book of Ossory (excerpt) where we find the first recorded mention of Aqua Vitae in 1324


Listen to Episode 1 now


Read the transcript of our chat


Are all episodes free?

The first episode of our seven-part podcast series is available free to listen to on any device from anywhere. The remaining six episodes of the series will be available on storiesandsips.com to members of the Stories & Sips Whiskey Club, with a new episode released each Friday. 

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Here is a short clip of our conversation:


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