In the Nineteenth century, Irish whiskey was HUGE business.
As a massively superior product to Scotch (I'd say in many cases it still is), the demand from the Empire for specifically Irish whiskey was such that naughty Scots in cahoots with Belfast based blenders would mix some tasty Irish pot still whiskey into some inert Scotch grain whiskey and rebrand it as Irish.
Distilleries like Dunvilles in Belfast, George Roe in Dublin and Tullamore, as well as current distillers like Jameson and Bushmills, and many others lost in history, exported millions upon millions of litres of a world class product all over the globe.
So what went wrong?
Partition and independence for starters. After partition, the Northern distillers were vulnerable to takeovers from larger Scottish rivals. Of course, they bought these up to close them down, securing jobs in Scotland by removing superior rival products from the market.
Partition also largely closed off the lucrative British market. Scotch distillers marketed Irish whiskey as 'foreign'. Irish whiskey attracted higher taxes. And the war hurt production and exports obviously, while Scotch copperfastened its hold on British drinkers.
In the Republic, successive governments seemed to go out of their way to destroy a valuable and successful indigenous industry. They hiked the requirements for whiskey to five years aged in wood, to distinguish it from Scotch. This in turn hiked the cost of production and the purchase cost. That led to a downturn in Irish sales.
In the late Sixties and early Seventies, when the majority of distillers had gone to the wall, the remaining ones were forced to merge, forming Irish Distillers Ltd (now owned and mismanaged by Pernod-Ricard).
The industry itself must cop some blame. They allowed the Scotch industry to market their indigenous tradition of single malt whiskey globally as some sort of 'premium' product, and that perception pertains to this day, even though pure potstill whiskey, the Irish traditional dram, was historically considered superior.
But according to government papers from the early Seventies in the National Archive which I've read, even in the early Seventies, Irish distillers were writing to the government pleading with them NOT to cut tax on Scotch so that it was CHEAPER than Irish whiskey, which was a ridiculous tax deal struck for some unknown reason with the British by the Lemass government.
The government's response? They wrote to Irish embassies abroad to 'advise' them to use Irish whiskey at receptions! Amazingly, half the embassies wrote back to say that they didn't have any Irish whiskey, or couldn't get it!
Since then, we have seen successive governments lump tax onto whiskey to the point where buying Irish whiskey in the country where it is made is now probably one of the stupidest financial decisions you could make. It is cheaper in almost every other country in Europe.
There have been some green shoots in recent times. Diamond mining maverick John Teeling opened Cooley distillery and their almost bewilderingly wide range of whiskeys are proving popular worldwide.
And there is the possibility of a fourth distillery (Jameson, Powers, Paddys and Redbreast all emanate from Midleton these days) in the offing in Dingle.
There is even now a fledgling Irish Whiskey Society - Welcome to the Irish Whiskey Society - which has just been founded for fans of Irish whiskey, which meets in Dublin once a month to taste and debate Irish whiskeys.
I'd really encourage anyone with any interest in Irish whiskey whatsoever to join.
Yet the government still will not provide any incentive whatsoever to the indigenous industry, either by cutting tax on local spirits, or raising them on foreign ones.
Ireland is where whiskey was invented, and in my opinion and that of most of the Nineteenth Century, where it was perfected.
All credit to the Scots for turning a gutrot production into a £6 billion a year industry. But to do that, they had to destroy the Irish whiskey industry first. And for them to be successful in that, they needed the unique circumstances that Independence and Partition created.