Distilling Process

Traditionally, Irish Whiskey is Triple Distilled and must be matured for a minimum of three years in oak barrel on Irish soil to be legally called Irish Whiskey.

The process of making and selling Irish Whiskey happens in a number of stages as follows;

  1. Growing
  2. Malting
  3. Milling
  4. Mashing
  5. Fermentation
  6. Distillation
  7. Maturation



Our product will contain Irish barley and grains grown on Irish farms.



A certain percentage of the barley will be malted. Barley contains starch and it is this starch which needs to be converted into soluble sugars to make alcohol. For this to occur, the barley must undergo germination and this first part of the process is called ‘malting’. The barley is soaked for 2-3 days in warm water and then traditionally spread on the floor of a building called a malting house. It is turned regularly to maintain a constant temperature. When the barley has started to shoot, the germination has to be stopped by drying it in a kiln.



The barley now called the ‘malt’ is ground down in a mill, with any husks and other debris being removed. It is now called “grist”.


4: Mashing:

The ground down malt or ‘grist’, is now added to warm water to begin the extraction of the soluble sugars. The liquid combination of malt and water is called the ‘mash’. It is put into a large vessel called a mash tun and stirred for several hours. During this process, the sugars in the malt dissolve into the water and  are drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. The resulting sugary liquid is called ‘wort’. This process is normally carried out three times with the water temperature being increased each time to extract the maximum amount of sugar. Only wort from the first two times is used. The third lot is put back into the next batch of new grist. Any residue, such as husks, is called ‘draff’. This is collected and used in the production of farm feed.



The wort is cooled and passed into large tanks called “wash backs”. Here the yeast is added and the fermentation begins. The wort begins to foam as the yeast turns the sugars that are present into alcohol. The fermentation normally takes around 48 hours to run its natural course at which point the foam on the surface of the wort has dissipated.. The liquid at this stage is called ‘wash’ and has a low in alcohol strength (between 5-10% Alcohol by Volume (ABV), like beer or ale. You could make beer from the liquid at this point, but the difference with whisky is that this liquid is now distilled rather than brewed.


The wash enters a large copper pot still and is heated. The liquid evaporates and rises up the still until it reaches the still neck, where it condenses into a low strength alcohol at about 20% ABV. This liquid is called ‘low wines’ and is unusable as it is. The low wines are passed to the second smaller still, called the spirit still. Any residue from the wash still is collected and used to manufacture farm feed. In the spirit still, the alcohol produced is split into three. Alcohols from the beginning of the distillation (called ‘foreshots’) are very high in alcohol levels and very pungent. Alcohols from the end (called ‘feints’) are weak but also pungent. It is only the alcohol from the middle or ‘heart’ of the distillation that is used and this is skillfully removed by a stillman and collected through the spirit safe. The fore shots and feints are then mixed with the next batch of low wines and re-distilled. The Single Malt element of our Portmagee Whiskey is then distilled a third time for extra purity and smoothness. The heart of this final, third distillation is the spirit that is then taken to be matured in ex bourbon and Barbados Rum casks to become Portmagee whiskey. This ‘heart’ has an alcoholic strength of 65-70% ABV.

Portmagee Whiskey is a traditional Irish triple distilled whiskey.



The spirit is put into oak casks and stored. The spirit must mature in casks for a minimum of three years before it is legally allowed to be called whiskey in Ireland. During maturation, the flavours of the spirit combine with natural compounds in the wood cask and this gives the whisky its own characteristic flavour and aroma. Wood is porous, so over time it will breathe in air from the surrounding environment in which it is stored. This will also give the whisky some unique characteristics. During each year of maturation about 2% of the spirit is lost through natural evaporation and this is called the ‘angel’s share’.

Our Portmagee Whiskey is aged in both ex Bourbon casks and Barbados Rum Casks. Our Portmagee 9 Year Old Whiskey matured longer with the Single Grain element of our whiskey aged for at least nine years and the Single Malt element even longer. The “Age Statement” of an Irish Whiskey always refer to the youngest whiskey in the blend.


Small Batch Portmagee Whiskey

Portmagee Whiskey intends to release our 9 Year Old Barbados Rum cask Irish Whiskey in small batchesof a single cask at a time. Each cask will fill a limited number of individually numbered bottles of  Whiskey with a unique taste and character from each cask to reflect the wonderfully wild and diverse nature and character of Portmagee village and community.

Whiskey enthusiasts can expect truly wonderful and unique whiskeys to be made available as our stock matures and comes of age.

The initial release of Portmagee 9 Year Old will be limited to just 399 bottles which will be bottled on 09/09/18 and will be available to collectors on a first come, first served basis.



Visit Us


You can sample Portmagee Whiskey at the two local Portmagee bars;

  • The Bridge Bar and Moorings Restaurant
  • The Fisherman’s Bar



We hope to invite you to our first phase Portmagee Whiskey Experience in 2019. Stay connected to hear updates as we build the future or Portmagee Whiskey and our sustainable community live on this page.



Portmagee Irish Whiskey
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