Episode 2: Crackdowns, Control & Very Little Craic

July 8, 2022


The course of Irish whiskey history forever changed with the passing of the 1661 laws. The immediate delineation between those that were legally allowed to distill and those that weren't led to a parallel above-ground and below-ground distilling industry.

In the years that followed, a continuing series of legislation changes, acts and heavily enforced crackdowns prompted distilling ingenuity and creativity amongst both camps of distillers in Ireland. In this episode of The History of Irish Whiskey, we share some of these new approaches adopted to ensure that distilling could continue, whether legal or not, we discuss the birth of the distillery and the first use of the word "whiskey".

And we examine the circumstances that lead to whiskey becoming more commonplace throughout the island of Ireland as we cover the period from 1661 all the way up until the early 1800s.  

Irish Whiskey Historian & Co-Host, Fionnán O'Connor, dives deep into Ireland's whiskey past.

What we learn about

  • The outlawing of poitin
  • The much-maligned first alcohol taxes in Ireland
  • The arrival of the excise officer to an unwelcoming country
  • The rise of the (now) illicit distiller
  • The first static distilleries in Ireland
  • The unavoidable tax bills and live-in excise man
  • The converting of Ireland to a market town economy
  • The centralizing of distillery and spirit production in Cork, Dublin & the midlands
  • The first commercialization of whiskey as a business, not a medicinal product
  • The focus on maturation and wood for the first time
  • The rise in alcohol consumption in Ireland to alarming levels
  • The introduction and use of the word "whisk(e)y" for the first time.
  • The introduction of the famous 1785 Malt Tax and the rise of pot still whiskey production
  • The arrival of the first recgonizable "brand" names to Irish whiskey


It's the beginnings of the idea of a distillery that the excise man can go to some physical place and knock on the door. You need to have a physical place that you go and you say, it's time to pay your excise tax, so we start seeing the roots of whiskey but also distilleries as brick and mortar establishments. - Fionnán O'Connor


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Here is a short clip of our conversation:



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