The poor people of Ireland have seen more than their fair share of conflict over the course of history. Under the English Crown the Irish suffered hundreds of years of brutality as the Brits sought not only to rule the Irish but to exploit them and ultimately to crush their cultural identity. The Irish rebelled against their condition quite often—even following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 granted the Irish a semblance of political independence. I don’t have the time or knowledge to fully expound on the centuries of conflict in Ireland, because I write a post about drinking. So how does Irish history relate to drinking? First off, you should know not to order an Irish Car Bomb in Ireland. That would be like ordering an Afghani IED in an Army canteen. It’s recent history, and the tensions still exist. Second off, don’t order a black and tan. The black and tans were the British military force place in Ireland in the early 20th century to establish order. They did this in much the way the brown-shirts did in 1930’s Germany. The third thing is what we’re here for today: know your Irish whiskey (it’s spelled with an “e” there too!).
The word whiskey comes from the Gaelic word uisce beatha, meaning “water of life.” You’ve probably already heard that. Irish Gaelic was the language of the historic language of Ireland and is still spoken by some on the island today (though rarely a first language today as a result of the centuries of English), so whiskey is their word. To be fair the Scottish also spoke Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, so it’s their word too. I’m rambling. So how does Irish whiskey relate to Irish politics? Well the basic thing is there are 3 big names in Irish whiskey: Jameson’s, Bushmills, and Tullamore Dew. Jameson’s is made in Dublin, and Tullamore Dew in Tullamore. These are in the Republic of Ireland. Bushmills is made in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. That’s the UK–protestant country. In Ireland, that still matters. Violence still erupts in Northern Ireland, and though the IRA is officially dissolved, the factionalism has not. Whiskey has often been used as a metaphor to examine this factionalism, representing Bushmills as the “orange” protestant whiskey and Jameson as a good Dublin true Irish whiskey. John Jameson was a Scottish immigrant, and a lot of people have pointed that out, which makes Jameson’s not much of a true Irish Catholic whiskey. So we’ll call that the “white,” neutral, whiskey. If you hadn’t gathered I’m using the colors of the Irish flag here, which leaves me with our green, the Tullamore Dew. It’s a neat little metaphor, but I say fuck it. Instead of using whiskey to represent the divisions of Ireland I think we should use it to unite people, because that just makes more sense.
Ireland has a very broad definition of what legally makes an Irish whiskey, and while there are only 8 distilleries in Ireland, and several aren’t even selling their product yet, that broad definition allows for a wide variety of flavors for people to enjoy. Let’s not divide our whiskies by religion and region, but by the joy they bring and their flavors. Unfortunately I only have Bushmills on hand, and only a tiny bit left after wasting the rest as fuel for all the babble I’ve already written, so you won’t get the comparisons I wish I could do. I’ll get to writing about more of them at some point. For now, I’m gunna tell you why a good Irish Catholic might want to drink Bushmills.
Irish whiskey is lighter by nature, in flavour and in colour. Therefore Irish whiskey really needs to be enjoyed for its character and its subtleties. A lot of people like Jameson’s because it’s smooth as hell and so sweet and gentle. A lot of people like that. In fact Jameson’s has become a massive brand because its gentle way of getting you hammered is loved by lushes the world over. But if perhaps you’re looking for something a little more complex, with more grain character, Bushmills is a perhaps the budget Irish for you. This whiskey starts with a light nose full of lemon zest aromas, which aren’t as forward when you take that first sip. The predominating flavors are those of the gently sweet malts, and the light vanilla and fresh sawdust flavors from the barrel that fade of the back of the tongue. I’ve heard this described as rough. That’s insanity. The word I think of is robust. While it is dry and oily, with a bit of a late heat that Jameson doesn’t give you, that’s what sets Bushmills apart. Does that sound like something you’d enjoy? Then who gives a shit if you’re Irish Catholic, or really a 4th generation Irish-American who dropped out of CDD and want to act like you’re really Irish—drink what tastes good to you, even if it is “protestant whiskey.” So maybe whiskey, and the love thereof, can bridge the gap between Northern Irish and Irish Republican, Bushmills drinker and all other whiskey drinkers. You may say I’m a dreamer, but after a few whiskies everyone seems more tolerable to me, and perhaps that’s a peace plan.
PS: I’m going to Arizona for a week starting tomorrow, so I won’t be posting, but perhaps I’ll drink something to post about later!