Irish Whiskey Tourism: Where to Go, What to Do and What’s Next
Irish Whiskey tourism is expected to grow swiftly over the next few years. Irish whiskey, the Water of Life is alive and well and flourishing with new found enthusiasts at home and abroad who are discovering the sweet softness of grain whiskey, the soft spice from the pot still and the fruitiness of the malt in Irish whiskeys.
The Irish Whiskey Association confirmed Irish whiskey exports now represent more than a third of all drinks exports and were valued at €505million in 2016. The industry has experienced huge growth over the last 10 years and the total number of 30 distilleries has 16 in production and 14 in planning with many other projects at other stages of development. Ireland’s nearest and biggest competitor, Scotland, with 118 distilleries in operation and with exports of Scotch whisky valued at £4 billion a year, the sector is considerably bigger than the Irish whiskey sector.
Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky league table
|Irish Whiskey||Scotch Whisky|
|Employees (direct and indirect)||5,000||40,000|
|Number of distilleries||16 in production and 14 in planning||118|
|Number of Markets sold in world||135||200|
Miriam Mooney, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association said: “Whilst Irish whiskey is the fastest growing premium spirit in the world, the Scotch whisky industry is more established and is the largest net contributor to the UK’s balance of trade in goods, creating £5 billion annually for their economy. As the Irish whiskey sector continues to prosper we only have to look at Scotland to see what’s possible for the industry in terms of growth and potential. The sector is a significant contributor to rural employment, supporting often fragile local economies including 7,000 jobs in rural Scotland alone.
“Irish whiskey is undergoing a renaissance which is being driven by both existing and new players alike and global recognition for high quality Irish whiskey has never been higher. We look forward to working together with our counterparts in Scotland to promote further growth and to discuss the challenges facing both sectors including the uncertainty around Brexit”.
Irish whiskey regards this gap as providing both a challenge and an opportunity and is tackling that challenge by focusing on quality rather than quantity, seeing an opportunity in the premium whiskey market.
Perfect Storm for Irish Whiskey Tourism
However, there wasn’t always such a gap between whiskey production levels in Ireland and Scotland. In the 18th and 19th centuries there were over 200 licensed distilleries in Ireland and along with countless unlicensed ones produced diverse styles of poitín, whiskey, gin and even absinthe. By the end of the 19th Century, Irish whiskey was the biggest selling golden spirit in the world, surpassing France’s brandy (although the epidemic of phylloxera at the time in French vineyards curtailed wine production, essential for distilling into brandy). Until recently that dropped to a small handful. The reversal of fortune for Irish whiskey’s world domination occurred in the perfect storm of international and domestic events through the 20th century.
Today, Irish whiskey tourism has grown to reflect the burgeoning interest among the non- traditional twenties-thirties age group and across both men and women. Two of the keys to success in any visitor experience are authenticity and learning.
A number of Irish whiskey distilleries are open to the public for tours and/or tastings. Supporting the growing and developing thirst for knowledge are independent providers of tours and tastings for public and corporate whiskey enthusiasts.
Bloom in the Park 2017
Dublin 1st – 5th June 2017, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm with a craft beer and spirits tent.
firstname.lastname@example.org and Tel: + 353 (0)1 2958181.
Whiskey in Summer
Friday, 30th June 2017 from 4:00 pm until 12:30 am after midnight at Smock Alley Theatre, 6/7 Exchange Street Lower, Dublin 2
Set in one of the oldest theatres in the world, Taylor Made Ireland brings you whiskeys from around Ireland and Europe. With a selection of food from €12.50-€90. Contact: email@example.com
Irish Craft Beer Festival
8th – 10th Sept. at Dublin’s RDS, Ballsbridge. Mostly focusing on craft beer, but with numerous Irish whiskies represented.
Whiskey Live Dublin
On Sat. 25th November. This whiskey dedicated festival returns to Dublin Castle’s Print Works off Dame Street, Dublin 2.
Jameson Distillery Bow Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7
Founded in 1780, after several months undergoing a major renovation, reopened 1st March. The new look Jameson Distillery Bow Street offers 3 fully guided and tactile experiences where you are invited to touch, taste and smell:
Bow St. Experience: a new guided tour and tasting occurring every 10 minutes for 40 minutes duration, max 30 persons per tour. €15 & €18 for Senior/ Student/ Group (15+) & Adult; €45 Family (2+3).
The Whiskey Makers: in depth exploration over 90 minutes of the history and production process concluding with an interactive tasting, max 16 people per tour at €55 each. Tour times: 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00 and 18:00.
The Whiskey Shakers: prepare to be shaken and stirred by your guide, a skilled Bartender who will guide you through the history, ingredients and recipes past and new for Jameson cocktails. Duration 90 minutes and max 16 people per tour at €55 each. Tour times: 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and 19:00.
Evening Events: a new addition – an extension of the day time offerings but with live entertainment, food and drink provided until 23:00.
Tel: + 353 (0)1 8072355
Full details on website from 6th March: JamesonWhiskey.com
The Teeling Whiskey Company and Whiskey Visitor’s Centre, 13-17 Newmarket, Dublin 8
Currently, Dublin’s only operational distillery, open 7 days a week from 9.30am-5.30pm and hosting fully guided tours. The tour involves seeing all the elements involved in whiskey production from barley to milling and fermentation right up to distilling in 3 custom made copper pot stills. All tours receive a measure of whiskey with an accompanying pre-Prohibition style cocktail. There are a variety of options for whiskey tasting experiences involving an upgrade to a Teeling Trinity tasting or the range of Teeling Single Malts. Visitors can enjoy a second drink at the ‘Bang Bang Bar’ or visit the gift shop and sample the café’s local fare.
Jameson Distillery Midleton, Distillery Walk, Midleton Co Cork
There are a range of guided experiences to enjoy, taking in both the exterior and interior features of the distillery grounds. For an introduction to the world of Irish whiskey, The Jameson Experience is the ideal stepping stone. For those seeking a deeper dive into their production process, the Behind the Scenes Tour and Premium Whiskey Tastings. Tours 75 minutes to 2 hours from €18 to €55.
Tel: + 353 21 4613594 and jamesonwhiskey.com
Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery, Clonminch, Tullamore, Co. Offaly & Visitor Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore
Tullamore D.E.W. dating back to 1829 is the world’s second largest Irish whiskey brand. Named after the initials of Daniel E. Williams, the Williams family were the first to create an Irish blended whiskey. What was once a brilliant innovation has become the signature of many Irish whiskeys today. Located on a 58-acre site in Clonminch outside Tullamore, the distillery is the first to be built on a green field site in Ireland in over 100 years.
A Tour and a Masterclass for €12 and €25. Try or gift the Ultimate Distillery Experience for a lunch at the Old Bonded Warehouse followed by a behind-the-scenes tour not open to the general public and create your own blend in the master blender’s tasting room for €150, concluding with a sampling of 4 rare expressions of Tullamore D.E.W. Available twice monthly by prior appointment only, allow 4.5 hours.
Group Bookings: Tel: +353 (0)57 9325015
Kilbeggan Distillery Experience, Main Street, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath N91 W67N
Situated on the River Brosna, owned by Beam Suntory. A small pot distillery and steeped in history, its licence to distil dates back to 1757, a copy on view in the distillery.
Apprentice Tour €14 is a guided tour with 3 tastes of whiskey.
Distiller’s Tour €26 a guided tour with a masterclass in tasting 4 unique Irish whiskeys. Includes a visit to the warehouse and a meet & greet with the onsite distiller. Connoisseur Experience Tour €80 led by John Cashman, this is an exclusive access-all-areas tour and bottle your own 200ml of aged single malt, tastings from the portfolio of whiskeys and enjoy lunch after the tour.
Walsh’s Distillery, Royal Oak, Clorusk Lower, Co. Carlow
Established in 1999 by husband and wife, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh, and located on the 18th century Royal Oak estate by the River Barrow in County Carlow, the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Company expanded the business through constructing an impressive distillery, maturing warehouses and a visitor centre at Royal Oak. The distillery is one of the largest independent whiskey distilleries in Ireland.
Offers personal tours of the distillery, where the team of local distillers will demonstrate how they are unique in producing all types of Irish whiskey (pot still, malt and grain) in the one still house using manual controls.
Tours Monday to Friday at 10am; 12noon; 2pm & 4pm daily.
Advance booking recommended. The tour takes around 1 hour and costs €15, including a taste of their premium, The Irishman – Founder’s Reserve whiskey.
The Connacht Whiskey Distillery, Castle Road, Ballina, Co. Mayo.
The distillery on the Wild Atlantic Way prides itself on using a mix of traditional and modern pot still techniques to unearth unique flavours from their Irish grains. Guests are offered an intimate guided craft distillery tour to learn about the production of Connacht Whiskey and other spirits and an insight into why a coastal location effects the character and flavour of whiskey. The tour finishes in the Mullarkey Tasting Room overlooking the River Moy. The bar was hand-crafted from repurposed timber flooring recently removed from Dublin’s Boland Mills made famous during the 1916 Easter Rising.
The samples include whiskey, vodka, gin and poitín.
Tours are 60-70 minutes from €10 – €20 and wheelchair accessible.
Bookings: Tel: + 353 (0)96-74902
The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company, Cooraclare, Co. Clare.
Makers of J.J. Corry Irish Whiskey, this whiskey Bonder matures their whiskey on the family farm on site. The tour includes an informational session around the history of Irish Whiskey Bonding, which was once the most prevalent way of making whiskey in Ireland. Includes the history of Irish Coopering in the mini on site cooperage followed by a tour of the purpose-built Whiskey Maturation facility and a chance to sample directly from a selection of the maturing casks.
Bookings: As this is a working distillery, tours are by appointment only and available in June. For groups the maximum size is 10 people at a time. Costs from €60.
The Dingle Distillery, Farranredmond, Dingle, Co. Kerry
The first purpose-built distillery in Ireland in over 200 years and is the initiative of the Porterhouse Group who own a number of bars in Dublin, Cork, London and New York. The Dingle Distillery was launched in October 2012 producing (at the time) Ireland’s only craft artisanal pot still gin and pot stilled vodka. It takes a minimum aging period of 3 years and 1 day to mature whiskey and the first whiskey was launched in December 2016. Tours of the craft distillery cost €10 and a gin/vodka sample is supplied. March – September 12pm, 2pm & 4pm. October – February 12pm & 2pm.
Bookings: dingledistillery.ie/tours Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: + 353 (0)86 777 5551
The Shed Distillery of PJ Rigney, Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim
The first distillery to open in Connaught for 101 years.
To organise a visit email: email@example.com
The Old Bushmills Distillery, 2 Distillery Road, Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57 8XH.
Located along the north east coast of Co. Antrim, it has a special place in Irish whiskey-making ancestry. In the village of Bushmills the distillery is Ireland’s oldest continually active distillery and the longest surviving distiller of triple distilled malt whiskey. It was also one of the first distilleries in the world to make both Single Malt and Blended Irish whiskey. Each year, more than 120,000 people visit one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions. Tours are every 30 minutes with prices starting at £8. Tastings daily at 3pm are also available at £20 and advance booking is strongly recommended. The Distillery also exclusively creates personalised bottles of 12 year old Single Malt.
Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org and for groups of 15+ must be made in advance
The Echlinville Distillery, 62 Gransha Road, Kircubbin, Co. Down, BT22 1AJ.
The Tours and Tasting take 1.5 to 3 hours and include refreshments on arrival at the 19th century Echlinville Manor House, a tour of the distillery incorporating their still-house and maturation warehouse, followed by a tasting which includes two drinks of choice from the range of premium Irish Whiskeys and Gins and an optional lunch. Costs £15-£35. Experience a Gin evening with cocktails and three-course gin-inspired dinner Saturday 8th April at 7pm for £50. Also, an opportunity to make your very own bespoke cask from a unique batch of whiskey and they even facilitate the design of your own bottle and label.
Bookings: for individuals and groups echlinville.co/visit
Tel: +44 (0)1 4273 8597 or Email email@example.com
Slane Irish Whiskey Distillery, Slane Castle, Slane, County Meath.
Iconic venue for past concerts for U2, the Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams and Bruce Springsteen. Estimated opening to be confirmed July 2017. In addition to a distillery-only tour there will also be a combination ticket for a distillery and the castle tour. Tours will range from 1 hour to 1.5 hours and prices from €15-€25 initially.
Booking enquiries: SlaneIrishWhiskey.com
Pearse Lyons Distillery, 121-125, James’s Street, Dublin 8.
Due to open in midsummer 2017 offering visitors a unique experience of witnessing Irish whiskey being distilled in a very original environment, that of a restored church.
The Boann Distillery and Visitor Centre, Lagavooren, Platin Road, Drogheda, Co Meath
A state-of-the-art distillery opened in 2016 included a whiskey distillery, a craft brewery and taproom. The architecturally designed visitor centre will host tours of the distillery and brewery, a 120 seater restaurant, whiskey bar, private event space and a gift shop.
Distillery and Brewery tours and tastings due to commence early 2018.
Irish Whiskey Museum, 119 Grafton Street, Dublin 2
This whiskey museum tour is a very engaging and interactive, modern experience that gives an excellent introduction to the history and colourful personalities of Irish whiskey. It has a unique collection of Irish whiskey memorabilia that dates back to the 1800s mixed with a modern twist.
Classic Tour is a guided tour with a tasting of 3 Irish whiskies at €16
Premium Tour is similar but with an additional fourth tasting but of an aged 10 year old Irish Whiskey and a souvenir at €19
Whiskey Blending Experience an extended 1.5 hour experience. A fully guided tour followed by a tasting of 4 Irish whiskeys before you blend your own miniature (30ml) personalised bottle of whiskey to take home.
Whiskey Appreciation Courses the second Friday of every month from 18.30 to 20.30 hrs between February and November. Learn about the history of the Irish Whiskey Industry, Whiskey Distillation, the differences between single malts and pot still whiskeys and with what food you can pair your whiskey at €45.
Bookings: Tel: +353 (0)1 525 0970
Irish Whiskey Experience, 93 New Street, Killarney, Co Kerry.
Opened in March 2016 with a bar and restaurant and offers a tempting selection of 10 different masterclasses. Seven masterclasses are offered per day from 12pm – 7.15pm and between 40 and 90 minutes duration. Classes are relaxed and interactive and include pairings with cheese and chocolate and blending your own whiskey. Prices €20 – €50.
Tel: +353 (0)64 6635700
The Irish Whiskey Experience, Dawson Street, Dublin 2 has the expert staff from the Celtic Whiskey Shop nearby offering similar classes on Thursday & Friday evenings and on Saturdays.
Tel: +353 (0)1 6759744
Mulligan Grocer, 18 Stoneybatter, Arran Quay, Dublin 7
Regular whiskey tastings with guest master distillers, blenders and coopers from Irish and international distilleries. Opening a new specialty whiskey and Irish spirits store from mid-March in Powerscourt Town Centre, 59 South William St., Dublin 2
Hosts regular in-store sampling. Also organises monthly whiskey tastings on the first Wednesday of each month held in various city centre locations.
Tel: +353 (0)1 670 9889
Mitchell & Son, CHQ Building, Customs House Quay, I.F.I.C., Docklands, Dublin 1
Ireland’s oldest wine and spirits merchant with one of their shops near Dublin’s city centre. Offer Whiskey Appreciation Courses over 4 sessions at €160, alternating between CHQ and Glasthule, tasting six whiskies per class.
Tel: 01 612 5540
They also run regular whiskey tastings in their Mitchell & Son shop at 54 Glasthule Road, Glasthule including an ‘Introduction to the World of Whiskey’ tasting on 6th April. A tutored tasting of whiskies from Ireland, Scotland, America and Japan showing Single Malts, Single Pot Stills, Blends and Bourbon.
Tel: + 353 (0)1 230 2301
Taste the Spirit of Ireland, The Whiskey Trail
The Whiskey Trail – Galway Launch – March 7th
The Whiskey Trail – Dublin Launch – March 9th
Explore some of the best whiskey bars in Ireland. The Whiskey Trails is the newest Food & Drink tour available from Adventure Trails, the company who run the Irish Food Trail and the Tapas Trail. Taste 6 uniquely Irish whiskies in 3 different Irish whiskey bars with optional pairings with local Irish produce. Prices €45 – €60.
Bookings: Paul Kavanagh
Tel: + 353 (0)85 774 7005
The Kilkenny Whiskey Guild
A very recent Irish Whiskey Tourism initiative by a group of local hostelries to provide a premium Irish Whiskey experience to visitors and Kilkenny locals alike. Each Guild House will have a range of sixty or more Irish Whiskeys offered on menus and tasting trays, whiskey cocktails and food pairings. The Guild hosts monthly whiskey events and tastings across its venues. Each of these participating houses will be designated by a specially commissioned Kilkenny Whiskey Guild plaque – Billy Byrne’s Bar, Paris Texas, The Brewery Corner, The Dylan Whisky Bar, The Hibernian Bar, Matt the Millers, Langton’s, The Left Bank, The Wine Centre and Lanigan’s Bar.
Ireland Whiskey Trail
This is a free touring guide to Ireland’s distilleries, some of the best whiskey pubs, hotel bars and specialised whiskey shops. See online for details of its free touring maps or App for mobile phones in English, French or German including more than 30 different places in Ireland to choose from.
More information irelandwhiskeytrail.com
Galway Whiskey Trail
Visit a selection of pubs in Galway city centre including Sonny Molloy’s, The King’s Head, Blake’s Bar, O’Connell’s, An Púcán, Garvey’s, Garavan’s, The Dáil, Tigh Neachtain and whiskey outlets, McCambridge’s and Freeney’s. Each venue displays a stone wall plaque.
More information galwaywhiskeytrail.ie
Dublin Whiskey Tours
Started in January 2016, two hour tours of some of Dublin’s best whiskey bars. Visit 3 bars and sample 5 whiskeys with cheese and chocolate pairing options. Tours run Wednesdays to Sundays all year and prices from €39-€69.
Distilled Ireland is an independent whiskey event company and incorporates all Irish and international whiskey brands into their events including tutored tastings, whiskey and food pairing events, blind tastings and international whiskey comparisons. Distilled Ireland events are fully flexible. Not only do they come to a client’s venue to hold their tastings or food pairings, but they also tailor-make an event to suit any corporate group requirements. Events can also be held in French.
Contact: Glen Melia, Owner, Distilled Ireland
Tel: + 353 (0)86 4012652
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.