29 March 2008

Irish Distillers

The Scots and Americans dominate global whisk(e)y. It wasn't always so. Before the World Wars, before doughboys and GIs came home from time spent at British bases, Irish whiskey was more prevalent than Scotch. US bourbon and rye industries suffered terribly under Prohibition, while the Canadians enjoyed a nearly exclusive (illicit) market during those dark days. Across the pond, independence in Ireland was a bleak time for the new nation, and the economy was a shambles. Whiskey-making was hurt by the lack of money just like everything else. A great tradition was reduced to a handful of distillers, and the status of Irish whiskey never recovered. Blended scotches and, eventually, single malts captured the fancy of upwardly-mobile Yanks. We've seen a renaissance in homegrown spirits here in the States, bourbons (and even ryes) are rivaling the fancy malts for attention and consumer dollars. A similar mini-boom is flickering to life in Ireland, whether it sustains itself depends as much on the vagaries of global capitalism as the tastes of a fickle drinking public. Pernod-Ricard is one of the big players, and they own Irish Distillers. These guys include Jameson, and the sublime liquor known as Redbreast. This whiskey is a "single," and "pure pot still" aged for "12 years." Redbreast is scary good: it goes down like candy, but has a sumptuous, satisfying flavor. Apparently this stuff nearly faded from existence, but was rescued in the 1990s, presumably by astute marketers. Regardless, the folks in charge have maintained the quality. This is a world-class drink. I suggest you go out and get some--but be careful, one can inadvertently suck down a pile of it just because it is so fookin' tasty!

No comments: