By law, Irish whiskey has to be distilled in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland and has aged for at least 3 years in wooden casks. Grains and malted - and un-malted barley can be used in the production process.
The most common types are Single Malt, Single Grain, and Blended Irish Whiskeys. However, different from Scotland, the rules are somewhat flexible and final products may vary from distiller to distiller.
Most Irish Pot Still whiskey is distilled three times, while Scotch Whisky usually is distilled only twice. Hardly any peat is used in the malting process so, as a rule, Irish whiskeys are quite smooth when compared to the Scots. Smoke and earth tones are hardly there although there are certainly exceptions such as the Connemara Peated from the Cooley Distillery.
Ireland has only four distilleries with each of them producing various whiskeys. New Middleton (a/o Jamesons, Powers, Redbreast), Bushmills (a/o Black Bush), Cooley (a/o Connemara,Tyrconnell) and Kilbeggan, reopened in 2007. There are also a few independent Irish Whiskey brands, like Tullamore Dew and The Irishman.
The majority of Irish whiskey is a mixture of malted and unmalted barley and other grains. This product has a light and almost neutral character and is usually mixed with mixed with high quality malt whiskey to achieve a light flavored whiskey. There are a few ones made purely from malted barley and distilled using pot stills. When these are produced by a single distillery, they are called Single Malt.
During the coming years I hope to taste many Irish whiskeys as there are lots of flavor profiles around from light via fruity, malty sweet and medium-bodied to peated stuff. For the time being you can find the Jameson Standard on the site.