Irish whiskey is whiskey made on the island of Ireland. The word 'whiskey' (note the addition of the letter 'e') is an Anglicisation of the first word in the Gaelic phrase, uisce beatha, meaning 'water of life'; the phrase was a translation of the Latin term aqua vitae, which was commonly used to describe distilled spirits during the Middle Ages.
Irish whiskey tends to have a smoother finish than its Scottish counterparts as peat is rarely used in the malting process; however, there are some notable exceptions to these rules in both countries - Connemara peated Irish malt (double distilled) whiskey from the Cooley Distillery being a classic example.
Irish whiskey was once the most popular spirit in the world, though a long period of decline from the late 19th century onwards greatly damaged the industry. So much so that although Ireland boasted over 30 distilleries in the 1890s, a century later, this number had fallen to just three.
Thankfully, Irish whiskey has seen a great resurgence in popularity since the late twentieth century, and has been the fastest growing spirit in the world every year since 1990. Recent years has witnessed an expansion in the number of new distilleries in operation with numbers now into double digits, however, only a handful of these have been operating long enough to have whiskies sufficiently aged for sale and only one distillery was operating prior to 1975.