By Jim Murray

Out with the rubbish

It is time for Irish whiskey to abolish the blamey and stand on its own three feet, says Jim Murray
It is nearing midnight. A glass of local whiskey sits by my laptop, the bottle half drained. Outside, the wind is howling; if I were daft enough to open the window, even supposing I could in the face of such ferocious winds, I'd be soaked by the salty spray of the Atlantic dashing itself against the the Antrim coast a few hundred yards away. It is a wild, magnificently perfect, whiskey-drinking night.It was five years ago I first stayed at this hotel. I was researching a tasting guide to Irish whiskey. Since then Irish whiskey sales have shot through the roof. Five years ago Bushmills, just a couple of miles from here, was trundling along nicely but not even breaking sweat. Midleton over at Cork was likewise finding the pace as sleepy as the little town in which it was located while those young upstarts at Cooley weren't too sure whether to stick or bust on the whiskey they had already made, simply through lack of cash. In 1994 they decided not to distil at all.A lot of poteen has flowed under the bridge since then and things have changed drastically. Bushmills is closer to realising its full potential; Midleton is not only working flat out but now in desperate need of expansion; Cooley has more firm orders now than at any time in its short history and in 1999 will be in production for the best part of the year.The fact that the quality of virtually every brand (with one or two notable exceptions) has improved over those five years cannot just be a coincidence. And now Irish Distillers even has the confidence to create entirely new whiskeys and promote classics like Redbreast internationally. When I first wrote my book I was told it wasn't worth including that fabulous 100 per cent pure pot still brand because it was being discontinued. I did and today, with Green Spot, it is one of the only two traditional pot still whiskeys marketed in Ireland, and has taken on a new lustre.So it is time to treat Irish as an equal. But, for everyone to do so, Irish whiskey makers must help. They must do away with all the rubbish that has been collected during 40 years of unquestioned and frantic marketing hype: that Irish is the oldest whiskey in the world, all Irish has always been triple distilled, Bushmills dates back to 1608, peat has never had a place in the making of Irish whiskey and so on. All these tales were embroidered as a generic whisky style faced near-extinction against the onslaught of Scotch whisky. Irish whiskey had to fight back, so some romance was created with liberal doses of blarney.Irish whiskey may still be only a minor player in the world's whiskey market. But such is its quality and finesse, and so respected is it now becoming, it is time for it to once and for all cast aside those fanciful tales and stand proudly on its own three feet. And boast, with every justification, and with all the force of the gales this moment hammering at my hotel window, that Irish whiskey is the match of any Scotch.