The History of Irish Whiskey. A Seven-Part Podcast Series
5 glorious hours of advertising-free whiskey history for your listening enjoyment
We often tell wonderfully romantic stories about the origin of Irish whiskey. We mention monks and perfumes, we invariably try to get one over the Scots by claiming whiskey’s true provenance in Ireland and we speak proudly of world whiskey domination at one point in time.
But, of course, with 800 years of ups, downs, ups again and a few more downs, the truth is far more complex than a few easily relied upon stories. In an effort to map out the history of Irish whiskey once and for all, to tie loose fragmented pieces of a greater story together and to see could the arc of Irish whiskey’s journey be committed to paper (or even audio), Irish whiskey fan Barry Chandler and the far more qualified Irish whiskey historian, Fionnán O’Connor sat down with a few drops of whiskey in hand to discuss the people, places and products of almost eight centuries of the spirit that we call Irish whiskey today.
The History of Irish Whiskey Podcast is the result of their chat.
Fair warning, this well intentioned linear history has a habit of finding a rabbit hole to explore, a side anecdote or three to share but I think what we’ve ended up with is an entertaining, educational journey through the whiskey centuries that could only be enhanced with a drop of the good stuff in a glass while you listen.
Each of the seven podcast episodes covers a specific period in the evolution of what became Irish whiskey. With almost 5 hours of insightful commentary, discussion and anecdotes to listen to over the full season as well as show notes and a full transcript of each episode if you prefer to read rather than listen, we hope you’ll have all the tools you need to dive deep into the gloriously colorful history of Ireland’s favorite spirit.
How To Listen
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 to members of the Stories & Sips Whiskey Club here and on their favorite podcast players with a new episode released each Friday. You can find more details on our model and accessing all areas here:
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.
Membership of the Whiskey Club is open to whiskey fans around the world who want to dive deeper into the world of their favorite spirit. The Whiskey Club is and always will be advertising-free with members paying for the running of the Club and choosing the direction we take with content, whiskey releases and events. This allows us do two things – avoid taking any money/sponsorships (and therefore influence) from whiskey companies and just as importantly, it ensures we can pay each and every contributor to storiesandsips.com.
We pay all our writers, tasting notes contributors, cocktail recipe makers, podcast hosts/collaborators as well as the salary of a full time employee (not Barry!) who manages all content, social media, communication and member support.
We believe that free content deprives talented and experienced contributors of their right to be paid for their experience, time and impact and believe in a model where everybody wins. It's our belief that if something is worth listening to, reading or watching, it's worth paying for.
Membership of the Stories & Sips Whiskey Club costs just $20/month with no minimum subscription period and in addition to membership fees supporting our contributors, it gives you access to a growing library of behind-the-scenes distillery videos and events, the chance to participate in exclusive Club whiskey releases, Club cask programs and virtual events with the leading distillers, blenders and makers from the world of Irish whiskey.
Episode 1: The First Mention of the Spirit That Would Become Whiskey
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 evolution of this process of distillation through the products and customs created as a result.
Episode 2: Crackdowns, Control & Very Little Craic
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.
Episode 3: Illicit Distilling & A Separation In Styles of Whiskey
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.
Episode 4: Bigger Stills, Bigger Sales & The World Discovers Irish Whiskey
In this episode we examine the eventful period from the passing of the 1823 Excise Act to the late 1880s, a period that saw the first Irish Whiskey boom, the establishment of distilleries like Midleton Distillery in Co. Cork with the world’s largest pot stills, the troubling potato famine and the fateful abstinence movement combined with the world suddenly realizing the quality and flavor of Ireland's whiskey.
Episode 5: Aeneas Coffey & The Terror Of The Column Still
One man changed the course of Irish whiskey forever and he never even had his name on a bottle. More whiskey is produced in Ireland and Scotland today because of this man than any other character throughout history. He was the bane of the Jamesons, the Powers and the Roes yet it is his enduring invention that gives us the Irish whiskey industry we know today.
In this episode we meet Aeneas Coffey and his eponymous, history-shaping apparatus, a device that helped the Scots overtake their Irish counterparts on the road to whiskey domination.
Episode 6: The Near Disappearance of Irish Whiskey & The Bold Move That Saves It
The column still is now legal, yet widely ignored. Prohibition changes the face of the whiskey industry globally, tariffs and trade wars add a further nail in the coffin and the world discovers Scottish malts. A new century sees the near decimation of the Irish whiskey industry and a rethinking of how it operates if it is to survive at all.
Distilleries close, distilleries merge and one company makes a giant bet on the future of Irish whiskey.
Episode 7: The Cooley Effect & The Rise of Single Pot Still Whiskey, Again.
In this final episode we chat about the critical period between the mid 1980s and today - a period that, through some International involvement and an entrepreneurial entrant, gave us a very interesting end to the 1980s with the addition of the first independent distillery to the island in a generation - Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth, a former potato alcohol plant owned by the government that was acquired by John Teeling and converted into an Irish Whiskey distillery.