Episode 3: Illicit Distilling & A Separation In Styles of Whiskey

July 15, 2022


In Episode 2, we discussed how the course of Irish whiskey forever changed with the passing of the 1661 laws and the subsequent delineation between those that were legally allowed to distill and those that weren't and how this 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 we’re going to dive into one of the most popular styles of whiskey in Ireland through the 17th and 18th century - malt whiskey. Before pot still whiskey took over the world, a different style of whiskey ruled the Irish Whiskey world, but it’s not a story that can be told without its cousin, poitin. 

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

What we learn about in this episode

  • The different meaning of malt whiskey in the 18th century
  • Illicit distilling on the Inishowen Peninsula
  • Poitin's influence on the evolution of Irish whiskey
  • The concentration of malt whiskey production in the North of Ireland
  • The gradual shift from peated Irish whiskeys to unpeated styles
  • The divergence of the evolution of poitin and Irish whiskey
  • The rise of the gentleman distiller
  • The differing emerging styles of whiskey around Ireland
  • The emergence of Dublin as Ireland's whiskey powerhouse 
  • The laying of the groundwork for Irish whiskey's global boom


The history of malt whiskey in Ireland before the 20th century is the history of peated malt whiskey in Ireland, full stop. - Fionnán O'Connor


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Here is a short clip of our conversation:




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