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Uisce Beatha - The Water of Life!
As a child growing up in London of Irish parents, I remember that my mother always had "a drop" in the house, just in case our parish priest paid us a visit. My dad wasn't allowed to touch it, unless it was a very special occasion, as in toasting a newborn at the christening reception. At other times, such as Christmas, he'd drink Guinness - never the whiskey. This was true of many Irish households - the man would do his drinking at the pub and the priest would do his drinking in private, as would be the case in wealthier homes where whiskey was considered a lot more respectable than either wine or stout.
"Being moderatlie taken, saith he, it sloweth age, it strengneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it abandoneth melancholie, it relisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickeneth the spirit...it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eies from dazeling, the toong from lisping, the mouth from maffling, the teeth from chattering, and the throat from rattling; ...it keepeth the stomach from wambling, and the heart from swelling, the bellie from wirtching, the guts from rumbling, the hands from shivering and the sinews from shrinking, the veines from crumpling, the bones from aking, and the marrow from soaking."
Whichever way it's spelled, the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch goes far beyond the word. The malt for Irish whiskey is dried in a closed kiln and not over open peat fires which give Scotch its smoky flavor. Also, because copper is the only metal known not to leave its taste on the ultimate product, Irish whiskey is distilled three times in a copper coil or "worm." This triple distillation and a three-year maturing period are also uniquely Irish.
In parting, here's a popular Irish toast: May God give you good luck and put a good man in your way, and if he is not good, may the wedding whiskey be drunk at his wake. Sláinte!
Sources: A Treasury of Irish Folklore, edited by Padraic Colum, Things Irish, compiled by Anthony Bluett, The Traditional Irish Wedding, and The Irish Whiskey Distillery Project.