We take our whiskey seriously in Ireland. We break it out at celebrations and funerals, on cold winter nights and as a “cure” for any ailment you can imagine. But what makes this beloved spirit unique?
Simply put, Irish whiskey cannot be made anywhere else. Our mild maritime climate impacts evaporation as the whiskey matures and interacts with the cask, creating a truly distinct beverage. And in order for the spirit to be sold as authentic Irish whiskey, it must have gone through the distilling and maturing process wholly in a distillery on the island of Ireland. Which brings us to those distilleries.
As John Callely of Whiskey Island puts it: “No two distilleries are the same. There are farm distilleries, there are island distilleries, there are distilleries in the middle of town and distilleries totally off the beaten track”. Each has its own approach to making Irish whiskey, he says, but what unites them is the knowledge and passion of the people who work there.
Want to learn more about the art of Irish whiskey? Start with these amazing distillery tours.
Jameson Distillery, County Cork
The field-to-glass process is a term you’ll hear a lot when it comes to whiskey distilleries, and the Jameson Distillery is no exception. Your tour guide will explain how ingredients are sourced and talk you through the distillation process as you let your senses take in the aroma of the whiskey-filled oak casks. Jameson Distillery is home to the world’s largest pot still, and the level of confidence in their whiskey is just as impressive. When your tour ends with a taste test – Jameson whiskey alongside two others – they’re in no doubt which one you’ll like best! Tours here range from the standard distillery experience to the Distiller’s Apprentice, which offers a behind the scenes look at the business of producing great whiskey.
Bushmills Distillery, County Antrim
It’s the world’s oldest licenced whiskey distillery (with records going back to 1608). It’s the oldest working distillery on the island of Ireland. And the Old Bushmills Distillery is also one of the few distilleries in the world to distil, blend and bottle its whiskey under the same roof. Bushmills produces whiskey that is firmly rooted in place – made with water drawn from the River Bush, which flows over the basalt rocks of the famous Causeway Coast. You can learn about the long history of this famous distillery as you take in either the Bushmills Distillery Tour or the premium Tour and Tasting.
Hinch Distillery, County Down
Hinch Distillery produces its fine range of triple distilled whiskeys on the beautiful Killaney Estate near the Mourne Mountains. But for visitors, what’s even more impressive is the purpose-built distillery building that allows you access to every aspect of the distillation process. Follow your tour guide through the ingredients room, into the mash house, the still house (the copper pot stills are named after local mountains; Donard, Croob and Wee Binnian) and the spectrum room, before finishing your tour in the bespoke tasting area where you get to sample some superb whiskey.
Teeling Whiskey Distillery, County Dublin
Teeling Distillery is where whiskey spirit meets family spirit. The first Teeling Distillery was set up in 1782 and the craft has been passed down through the generations. Jack and Stephen Teeling opened this new award-winning Teeling Distillery in 2015 just down the road from the original distillery site in The Liberties. Jack even named the pot stills after his three daughters, and you can spot them during your interactive distillery tour. If you’re looking for something really special, try the Bottle Your Own experience – yes, you’ve guessed it. You get to fill a bottle of Teeling Whiskey directly from the cask as a memento of your visit.
Another family affair, Micil Distillery was named in honour of this whiskey-crafting family’s great great great grandfather Micil Mac Chearra. Six generations and 170 years later, they’re still distilling spirits using family recipes, craft, knowledge and time-honoured techniques. Micil started his whiskey journey on the Connemara hillside, but in 2016 Micil Distillery became the first legal distillery in Galway in over 100 years. The distillery offers a range of tours, from the whiskey experience to the cocktail masterclass and also offers private tours.
Powerscourt Distillery, County Wicklow © Shutterstock
This distillery on the grounds of the magnificent Powerscourt Estate is home to Fercullen Irish whiskey and is a delightful blend of old and new. Pass through the old stone entrance building and you’ll find yourself in the ultra-modern distillery where the serious business of whiskey distilling takes place. But for all the contemporary sheen, the team here still relies on tried and tested traditional methods. Tours will take you through the distillation process and end with a whiskey tasting. A great option for foodies is the tour and food-paired whiskey tasting. Not only do you get to sample the spirits, but you also have the chance to taste some of the local artisan products such as farmhouse cheeses and charcuterie.
Echlinville Distillery, County Down
Nestled in the drumlins of Ireland's northeast, the Echlinville Distillery has made its mark as the producer of the award-winning Dunville’s Irish Whiskey. This is a true field-to-glass distillery. The owners have farmed this land for generations and grow their own barley, which is malted and used to create their range of spirits. The distillery will bring you along on this journey with a selection of tours ranging from the Tour and Tipple experience to food pairing tours to private and group tours.
8.Waterford Distillery, County Waterford
In Waterford city, on the banks of the River Suir, you’ll find the Waterford Distillery – the world’s largest producer of organic and biodynamic whiskies. It’s all about terroir here – a term that encompasses the mysterious interactions of plant, soil, site and microclimate. This is what controls the flavour of the barley and it’s why this distillery has developed sophisticated technology to distil its whiskey using the finest grain from over 40 farms in Ireland’s south east. Take the Terroir Tour and all will be revealed.
Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery, County Offaly
Tullamore Distillery has been distilling Tullamore D.E.W. whiskey – named after stable boy turned distillery owner Daniel E. Williams – since 1829 and they’re pretty good at it. You’ll discover this as you sip your welcome Irish coffee at the start of the distillery tour. Listen as your guide talks you through the distillation to maturation process and introduces you to the people behind the scenes in this state-of-the-art distillery. And when you get to the taste test – you can taste whiskey straight from one of their casks – you’ll have no doubt at all.
Rademon Estate Distillery, County Down
History is everywhere on the Rademon Estate, from the original estate house which dates back to 1667 to the 19th century stone obelisk that dominates the skyline. But the distillery in which Shortcross Irish whiskey is created is strikingly modern. Pick from a range of tours (Rademon is also well-known for its craft gin) and enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of a working distillery. The tasting at the end is a bonus!