Whiskey tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of the modern Irish tourist industry, and Dublin has no shortage of whiskey experiences for the curious and experienced alike.
Since monks first began to practice distillation techniques, Irish whiskey has been around for centuries—learned by observing Middle-East perfumers distilling flower and fruit essences—on beer. Before long, demand for uisce beatha, or “water of life,” grew around Ireland and Europe.
For a few centuries, Ireland had the market cornered until distillers in Scotland and England began applying advancing technology and blending to produce their product more quickly and cheaply.
For most of the twentieth century, Irish whiskey was in the doldrums, hurt by waning international interest and American prohibition. Still, things have been picking up in the last few decades. Enthusiasm, and shipping orders, are up worldwide, and the big international exporters like Jameson and Bushmills are cranking out more than ever before.
Even more exciting, small brands once closed or sold to the big boys buy back their labels and reopen their small distilleries in towns and villages around the country.
So in the next few years, Ireland may have as many as twenty working distilleries making the good stuff and opening their doors for whiskey enthusiasts.
In Dublin, the three big choices for whiskey tourism are the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, Old Jameson Distillery, and the Irish Whiskey Museum. Each of these three has something different to offer. Jameson is the industry standard; the beginner-friendly tour of what used to be a massive distilling complex, now closed and moved out of town.
Jameson Distillery Tours
At Jameson, whiskey newbies get a look and an explanation of the whiskey process with replicas of the grain room, the mills (with the chance to touch one of their old working millstones for luck), and the rest of the equipment used to produce their large volume. Jameson’s end-tasting pits against two contrasting styles—usually Scotch and Bourbon—highlight an Irish whiskey’s smooth, light character.
Teeling Distillery Tours
Teeling is a newly reopened distillery in Dublin’s Liberties neighbourhood—formerly home to many small brewers and distillers. Most of the alcohol production in the Liberties halted after a massive whiskey fire in 1875. High-test whiskey ageing in barrels can be highly flammable, and the nearby streets ran with rivers of fire as more and more barrels burst in their storehouses. Several neighbourhood residents died, not from fire, but from disease after scooping up and drinking the free whiskey running through the sewage-filled Victorian streets.
Teeling offers visitors a look at a modern, high-tech whiskey facility—a perfect contrast to Jameson’s pastoral museum. The malting, mashing, fermenting, and distilling process is again explained in a beginner-friendly way, with visitors getting a chance to smell and taste the product at each stage of production.
The only replica at Teeling is the barrel room, as whiskey is now aged in special warehouses outside of town for safety reasons that should be obvious. The standard Teeling tasting lets visitors sample three different Teeling products to discern their other characters. This much more subtle tasting comparison is still approachable for beginners but won’t be as face-punishingly apparent as that in Jameson. The different tasting options at various price points is also very appealing to those who might not be ready for 60 mL of whiskey neat.
Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery Tour
The Pearse Lyons Distillery at St. James’, near the famous St James Gate of Guinness Storehuse fame is housed in a church converted in September 2017.
It was said that this is new chapter for The Liberties, Dublin. The restoration of St. James’ Church into Pearse Lyons was brought about through inspirations such as and an entrepreneurial spirit, family history and a personal passion for brewing and distilling.
The tour here gives you a peak into the stories behind and the heritage of this iconic area in Dublin, as well as the ideation of their highly-rated range of whiskies.
Visitors get the full range of senses through taste, smell and touch every step of the whiskey distilling process, you can meet with the distillers and taste their signature Pearse Irish Whiskey.
Irish Whisky Museum Tours
Tasting at The Irish Whiskey Museum
Another new attraction, the Irish Whiskey Museum, isn’t so much a look-at-exhibits-yourself museum as it is a guided, narrated tour through a sequence of audio/visual exhibits. More emphasis is put on the history of Irish whiskey in general: its monastic origins, its outlaw past, its surge, decline, and recent revival. The tour finishes, predictably, with a guided sampling of different Irish whiskies, depending on the tour package purchased. The Irish Whiskey Museum tour price is competitive with the other attractions in Dublin, and its handy location in College Green makes it popular for day-trippers.
Other Irish Whisky Tours
Beyond Dublin, the largest and most popular whiskey destinations are Bushmills in Northern Ireland and the large, multi-label complex in Midleton, Co. Cork. These large distilleries stayed in business during the twentieth-century decline and are surging again thanks to renewed interest. Midleton now produces Jameson, Paddy, and several other big and small labels, and the Jameson experience there is more expansive than that in the Old Distillery in Dublin. If you are travelling around the country, consider a visit to one of these modern macro distilleries.
Tullamore D.E.W, Tullamore
Tullamore DEW Distillery Heritage Centre
Located in the very centre of Ireland is one of Ireland’s most famous whiskies, Tullamore D.E.W.
Tullamore DEW whiskey was first distilled in 1829 and named after its creator, Daniel E. Williams. Tullamore was one of the first distilleries in Ireland to produce a blended whiskey.
Tullamore D.E.W has a number of tour options for visitors,
The main tour is the ‘curious taster’s journey, guided by one of Tullamores own whiskey experts, allowing you to sample a selection of three or four of their whiskies.
Other tours are available to suit your whiskey experience, including the ‘whiskey wise masterclass,’ which allows you to taste six Tullamore D.E.W whiskey blends
Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills
Bushmills Distillery Visitor Centre Entrance
Located on the Causeway Coast of Ireland (actuallly in Northern Ireland) is Ireland’s oldest working distillery – The Old Bushmills Distillery.
The Bushmills Distillery Tour gives visitors an authentic distillery experience, guaranteed to excite the senses and become entranced by the smells and sights around along the tour.
There is a specialist whiskey shop and a wonderful gift shop at the end of te tour where you can sample some of the Whiskeys they produce.
Jameson Experience, Midleton – Jameson’s other distillery
The Jameson Whisky Experience, is located in the Old Midleton Distillery in Midleton, County Cork.
This distillery began life as a woollen mill before being taken over by the army as barracks andbefore becoming a distillery in 1825.
The current distillery was constructed in 1975 to consolidated operations of three former Irish whiskey-making powerhouses, Jameson, Powers, and Cork Distilleries Company (owners of the Midleton Distillery). The companies had come together in 1966 to form Irish Distillers.
Since the visitor’s centre opened in 1992, there have been approximately 100,000 guests per year, with over 125,000 in recent years.
Kilbeggan Distillery, Kilbeggan
The Kilbeggan Distillery is located in the heart of Ireland, in the little Westmeath town of Kilbeggan.
Kilbeggan distillery dates back to 1757, which is older than the current Bushmills Distillery!
The Kilbeggan Distillery offers excellent regular tours for individuals or groups.