Well uisce is the Irish Gaelic for water, beatha means lively. Which taken together mean Whisky! Or to be more accurate Uisce Beatha really means Whiskey, as uisce beatha is the Irish Gaelic, its Scottish counterpart is uisge beatha.
Both are derived from aqua vitae the latin for Water of Life and the mispronunciation/Anglicisation of Uisce is the origin of our word Whisky/Whiskey. It’s also the inspiration for the Anonymous 19th Century Street Ballad which was inspired James Joyce’s experimental and much criticised novel of the same name Finnegan’s Wake. The Ballad plays upon the dual meanings of wake, that being a traditional wake or send off for a lost relative and the act of rousing. Over the course of the ballad a lively wake is held, during which a fight breaks out. As a result uisce beatha or water of life splashes upon the corpse causing him to revive, shocked to learn the attended believed him dead.
Why name a Malt Whisky blog Uisce Beatha?
Well two reasons Bowmore the first recorded Islay distillery own uisgebeatha.co.uk which I discovered while enjoying their fantastic Bourbon cask matured offering and because uisce rather than uisge is by many accounts the origin of the word Whisky so why not.
And despite an odd sense of spelling the Irish actually have some pretty spectacular Whiskey, as do the Japanese, Swedes, Australians and Canadians! I don’t discriminate when it comes to good Whisky/Whiskey and neither should you. American Bourbon is contrary to popular misconception a Whiskey, and there are a lot of spectacular Bourbons out there.
What Whisky/Whiskey qualifications do you possess then?
Absolutely none, nor do you need any to enjoy a good malt, this is all based on practice, patience, experience and avoidance of dogma. I’ve been drinking Whisky for half my life at this point, it took me some time to get to grips with the finer points of nosing, and I’m not certain I’ve found my favourite Malt, though there are some serious contenders, in part because I didn’t have a resource to consult growing up, and there was no-one to teach me.
Which is the point of Uisce Beatha, it needn’t take you years to find your favourite malt, or to feel comfortable throwing your first whisky tasting. but you need to know the basic differences between Whiskies typically region, ingredients and aging practices, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment with the right glass and of course you should be able to identify what you’re drinking!