Whiskey in Ireland

A tour of an Irish Whiskey distillery is usually part and parcel of a visit to Ireland. There are over 88 Whiskey distilleries in Ireland and many of these are open to the public and provide tours of the distillery and whiskey tastings.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha

The look of contentment on many a face when they take their first sip of that amber liquid. The warmth as it spreads through your entire body. And of course according to granny its the only thing you need when you have a cold.

According to William Lavelle, Managing Director of the Irish Whiskey Association, “Irish Whiskey has the fastest growth in the world of brown spirits. The value of Irish Whiskey grew by 14.3% last year compared to 10% for French Cognac.

Irish whiskey tours are a must-do when visiting Ireland. There are over 88 whiskey distilleries in Ireland and many offer Irish whiskey tours but first a little whiskey trivia.

Whiskey in Ireland Facts

  1. The word ‘whiskey’ derives originally from the Gaelic ‘uisge beatha’, or ‘usquebaugh’, meaning ‘water of life’.
  2. While no one actually knows where whiskey distilling began legend here in Ireland says that distillation was introduced by St. Patrick himself.
  3. As some stories have it, the Irish actually brought the art of distilling to Scotland, where the locals learned how to distil and created their own whiskeys. Another story involves Friar John Cor. A  1494 tax record for his order of “VIII bolls of malt” is the first recorded reference to whisky production in Scotland.
  4. One of Europe’s earliest distilled beverages, the first record of Irish whiskey dates back to 1405, around 90 years before it was first recorded in Scotland.
  5. First licensed whiskey distillery was Bushmills, in Northern Ireland, in 1608.

How is Whiskey made?  

Although distilling varies slightly most whiskey is made in the same fashion. A “mash” of different grains is used – usually wheat, corn, rye or barley. Some of these grains are malted like barley.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha
Detail of inside mash tun while making of whisky

Malting requires that the barley is germinated by soaking it in warm water it is stopped in this process by drying the soaked grains with hot air.  This malted meal is then ground and called “sweet meal”.

The grain of choice is then mixed with yeast and water which begins the fermentation process. Fermentation converts the starches to sugars that become alcohol. After this process, the liquid is run through a still that heats the liquid until it vaporizes and condenses into a high proof liquid.

From here the liquid goes into barrels where it is aged for at least a few years. The barrels impart oak and wood flavours and sometimes the barrels have been used to age wine which imparts more flavour.

graphic detailing the Whiskey Production Process

After barrelling the whiskey is then blended with other varieties and styles of whiskey and sometimes diluted to bottling strength. Typically whiskey is 40% alcohol or 80 proof.

What Does Whiskey Taste Like?

To a connoisseur of whiskey, every variety has its own particular taste. They use words such as grainy, oaky, woody, peaty with notes of fruits and spices, caramel and vanilla.

How is Irish Whiskey made?

Irish whiskey is made differently from Scottish Whiskey as it is a blend of malted and unmalted barley Scotch uses only malted barley. The malted barley used in Scotland is dried over peat smoke which gives it that distinctive “peaty” flavour.

Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, which results in a smoother, higher-alcohol spirit compared to Scotch which is only distilled twice. It was Irish whiskey producer John Jameson who developed this practice and established one of Ireland’s best-known whiskey distilleries, in 1780.

16 Irish Whiskey tours 

Roe & Co Distillery – Dublin

Roe & Co is a masterful blend of rich malt whiskey and the smoothest of grain whiskey aged in bourbon casks.  On the Roe & Coe Irish Whiskey Distillery tour, you get to explore the science of distillation, the art of blending and a hands-on flavour workshop. After the tour relax with a complimentary cocktail in the Power House bar. Whiskey tour includes a guided tour of a working Distillery, Whiskey Tasting Cocktail & Flavour Experience Roe & Co Cocktail in PowerHouse Bar €25 a ticket

Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery – Dublin

Pearse Lyons Distillery is a boutique distillery that opened in a former Church in the Liberties in Dublin.   Visitors on the Irish Whiskey tor get to discover more about the local history of an area known as the heart of Irish whiskey in Dublin. They offer four different experiences and the tours can include 3-5 tastings and the Legacy tour includes a guided tour of Jame’s St. Graveyard and history of the area and the Church building the distillery now inhabits.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha

Telling Distillery – Dublin

Teeling is the Irish distillery that began the trend to artisanal whiskey. They were the first working distillery to open in Dublin in over 125 years. You get to see the fully operational distillery and then move on to their Bang Bang bar for a specially crafted cocktail. There are three levels of tours from tasting Teeling Whiskey and a handcrafted cocktail at €15 up to a premium sampling of both flagship and distillery exclusive whiskeys for €30.

Photo of Teeling Distillery in Dublin
©Teeling Distillery – Dublin

Dublin Liberties Distillery – Dublin

The Liberties’ distillers opened in February 2019. The tour includes some great storytelling and whiskey tastings with some phenomenal antiques and all the latest state of the art equipment for whiskey distillation. The Discover tour includes a taste of The Dubliner Irish Whiskey Liqueur (Honeycomb) awarded ‘Best Irish Liqueur 2018’ and a  tutored tasting of the distillery for €16.00.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha
©Dublin Liberties Distillery

For €32 you can take the Explore Tour and that includes a welcome drink on arrival of Dubliner Irish Whiskey Liqueur, a tasting of the exclusive, The Tannery and our 5 YO Blend, Oak Devil, a tasting of Dubliner Original & Liberties Copper Alley 10 YO you will also get to enjoy a delicious Whiskey Cocktail.

BOOK YOUR IRISH WHISKEY TOUR OF THE LIBERTIES, PEARSE LYONS & TEELING

Jameson Distillery – Dublin

A pioneer in Irish whiskey tourism, Jameson’s got an €11 million makeover in 2017. The places’ history traces back to 1780 and it combines storytelling, technology, a comparative whiskey tasting and a Jameson. Besides the general tour, they offer cocktail making classes and blending classes. Tours and tastings begin at €25 and a 90-minute whiskey blending class costs €60.

Jameson Distillery in Dublin

Slane Castle Distillery – Meath

Slane Castle opened its Whiskey Distillery in 2017 in partnership with Brown-Forman (Jack Daniels). If you know Rock n Roll you will know Slane for some of the greatest concerts to be held in Ireland. Slane Whiskey is a smooth and flavourful, triple casked whiskey and you can tour the distillery and the castle at the same time if you wish. The Distillery tour with a tasting of the Whiskey will cost €18.00. For a combined tour of Slane Castle and the Distillery add another €12.00.

Slane castle home to Ireland's newest whiskey tour

Powerscourt Distillery – Wicklow

A mere touch over a year old the Powerscourt Distillery has just opened a visitor centre in the Old Mill House on Powerscourt Estate. A grand way to spend the day visit the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens and then take a 60-minute tour of the distillery. The tour takes you through the on-site maturation warehouse in its stunning setting and includes three samples of Fercullen Irish Whiskeys in one of the intimate tasting rooms Adults €25.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha

Clonakilty – West Cork

Another new Irish Whiskey Distillery Clonakilty is in Cork and has been open for around a year. It features a gin school as well as the whiskey distillery. With a lovely visitor centre that contains a great restaurant featuring local produce and their own great whiskeys and gins. The Clonakilty whiskey is a single batch/double oak whiskey made from a deep pure well on the property.

You can take 3 kinds of tours from the Classic at €15 which includes a tasting of 2 whiskeys. The Premium at €18.00 where you get to enjoy a tasting of 3 premium whiskeys,  and the Connoisseur at €22 with a tasting of 3 whiskeys including the 15-year-old Single Malt. While you are in Cork check out the English market there’s often a tasting going on. 

By the way, Clonakilty is the birthplace of Ireland’s best black and white pudding some very traditional Irish sausages for your Full Irish breakfast.

Royal Oak Distillery – Carlow

On an 18th century estate located in Carlow (Ireland’s Ancient East) this Irish Whiskey Distillery offers 3 whiskey tours. The Royal Oak Distillery is one of the largest in Ireland and it produces pot still, single malt and grain whiskeys and visitors can learn about all three styles. Royal Oak Journey includes 1 whiskey tasting €15, Single Malt this will include 3 tastings of premium Single Malts each matured in different barrel selections €25 and Connoisseurs Choice – €40 – this will include 3 tastings of select limited-edition whiskies from cask finish & cask strength varieties.

Jameson Distillery – Cork

Midleton is where Jameson’s moved to in 1975 to build a bigger distillery. Today, every drop of Jameson is produced here, amid the lush fields of southern Ireland. They offer 4 different types of tours and comparative tastings. The Behind the Scenes Tour takes 2 hours and includes a short film and tour of grounds and key distillery buildings plus of course the Premium whiskey tasting experience €60.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha
©Jameson Distillery

The Jameson Experience Tour & Premium Whiskey Tasting includes the tour and a glass of Jameson along with a whiskey tasting experience comparing 4 of the Distilleries whiskeys for €48. The Jameson Distillery Experience Tour includes the tour, film and a complimentary glass of Jameson Whiskey for €23

Tullamore D.E.W Distillery – Offaly

Tullamore D.E.W. is the original triple distilled, triple blend whiskey. Known the world over for its smooth and gentle complexity. Tullamore D.E.W. is named after Daniel E. Williams and has been a favourite Irish Whiskey since 1829.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha
©Tullamore Dew

After 60 years of waiting in September 2014, Tullamore D.E.W. resumed production in its ancestral home of Tullamore, Co Offaly.  Tours at the new visitors’ centre include a Curious Tasters Journey which is the full tour of the distillery and a triple tasting for €14.45, the tour starts with the birth of a blend and finishing with a triple tasting. The Whiskey Wise Masterclass lets you explore the depth of character in six of Tullamore’s finest whiskeys and you get to taste more whiskeys with exclusive access to the D.E. Williams Branch House, where you can take a well-earned rest and put your new-found knowledge to good use. €29.

The Ultimate Distillery Experience includes a tour with a whiskey expert leading you through production from still house to warehouse. At this point, you get to enter the blending room where you can blend your own unique whiskey. €90.

Make sure you head to Birr Castle when in Offaly or perhaps a side trip to the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary which isn’t far.

Kilbeggan Distillery – Westmeath

Kilbeggan Distillery is apparently the oldest distillery in Ireland, founded in 1757.  Tough times with the crash of the Celtic Tiger nearly crashed this iconic Irish distillery but the town came together to save it.

There is the Apprentice tour is a guided tour of Kilbeggan Distillery with a Masterclass in a tasting of three Irish whiskeys. The Distillers Tour includes tastings of 4 whiskeys – Kilbeggan Single Grain, Kilbeggan Irish whiskey, Tyrconnell Single Malt and Connemara Peated Single Malt.

The Artisan tour is a premium one which includes a whiskey and cheese pairing and the Connoisseur Experience which includes lunch. Ticket prices range from €15 to 85.00.

BOOK A TOUR OF KILBEGGAN & TULLAMORE WITH A STOP AT THE OLDEST PUB IN IRELAND – SEAN’S

Sliabh League Distillery – Donegal

The first distillery to open in Donegal in 175 years Sliabh Liag Distillers began with great plans and launched an amazing gin. They have been in the process of building the Whiskey Distillery for a few years and were finally granted planning permission to build in Ardara which overlooks the beautiful Loughrosmore Bay. They hope to open the Whiskey Distillery in 2020 so fingers crossed. An Dúlamán Gin Distillery sits to the west of Sliabh Liag where the Abhainn Bhuí (pronounced Owenwee and meaning yellow river) and Glen rivers meet and flow into Teelin Bay.

Slieve League Distillery view of the Cliffs in Donegal

Dingle Distillery – Kerry

The Dingle Distillery is located in Co. Kerry. Dingle Whiskey was created in 2012, in a tin shed in the small town of Dingle and 3 years later their distillery was birthed. Their output is 2 casks of whiskey per day, so a visit to the Dingle distillery would be worth a trip to experience something extra special €12, this is a great tour to do when travelling the Ring of Kerry.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha

Bushmills Distillery – Antrim N. Ireland

The Bushmills Distillery lays claim to being Ireland’s oldest working distillery. The license to distil was given in 1608 by King James I. They use the water from the stream onsite to distil their distinctive Irish whiskey. It’s a fascinating tour.

Hanging out at Bushmills Distillery in N. Ireland - whiskey casks outside the distillery

The Bushmills whiskey tour takes visitors on a real experience ensuring that their senses are captivated by the sights and smells around them. Of course, the tour includes whiskey tasting, why else would you go on a tour of a distillery. There is a specialist whiskey shop and a wonderful gift shop. €9 the perfect place to stop on your Game of Thrones tour or your trip around the Causeway Coast

Echlinville Distillery – Down

Echlinville is located in County Down, Northern Ireland. Distillery tours are mostly on Saturdays, two to three times a month. Check the website for availability. Book online. he Echlinville Distillery Tour & Tipple offers a real insight into the workings of Northern Ireland’s first newly licensed distillery for over 125 years. The Tour & Tipple costs £18 per person and naturally includes a tasting.

Ballykeefe Distillery – Kilkenny

Ballykeefe Distillery is situated in the heartland of Ireland, adjacent to its medieval capital, Kilkenny city.  A tour of Ballykeefe Distillery is a must for anyone with an interest in Kilkenny’s historical association with Irish Whiskey.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha

A fully operational distillery, with a behind-the-scenes tour teaching the fine art of distilling and of course a tasting of their award-winning white spirit range, Poitín, Vodka and Gin the tour costs €25.

Connaught Distillery – Mayo

Connacht Distillery is located in Belleek, Ballina and there is a stunning castle where you can stay in while taking your Irish Whiskey tour.

The Connacht Distillery sits on the banks of the beautiful River Moy where the river widens into the Moy Estuary in Ballina, County Mayo.  The guided distillery tours bring you through a process of making whiskey and will help you understand why we are so passionate about single pot still Irish whiskey. They set up the whiskey tours to be small and interactive so that you can really enjoy the experience without feeling rushed. Tickets are €12.50.

There is also the Connacht Craft Experience which is a distillery tour followed by a sampling of their Ballyhoo whiskey and a Straw Boys Irish Poitín in Mullarkey’s bar. An adult ticket is €17.50. The Connacht Ultimate Craft Experience is  €22.50 and includes a sampling of 3 of their Irish Whiskeys.

The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha

Nephin Irish Whiskey – Mayo

Nephin Irish Whiskey’s vision is to create authentically made, peated single malts in a small village on the Wild Atlantic Way in County Mayo using Nephin mountain water, locally grown barley, locally cut turf, then triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills and matured in unique casks handcrafted in Nephin Cooperage. 

Distillery and visitor’s centre is under construction, but they welcome visitors in the shop across the street from the distillery. Whiskey tasting can be arranged by special appointment at nearby Beleek Castle.

BOOK A STAY AT BELLEEK CASTLE

Whiskey Island

Whiskey Island offers premium tours and tastings across Ireland. They have something to suit every traveller; from a half-day tour in Dublin City to a 10-day golf and whiskey tour along the west coast.

They will also do fun, comparative whiskey tastings at your hotel or venue. Fully tutored, our tastings offer an authentic experience, and the chance to learn something new while you’re here!

The Dublin Whiskey Story (transport provided) half-day escorted tour
Whiskey Travel through Ireland’s Ancient East two days fully escorted tour
Northern Ireland Whiskey Tour two days fully escorted tour
Golf, Whiskey & The Wild Atlantic Way eight days fully escorted tour

Irish Whiskey Trail

The Irish Whiskey Trail is the best guide to virtually all the Irish Whiskey Tours available.  From Whiskey shops to pubs and bars along with a great guide to the Whiskey Tours of Ireland.  Their website includes a great whiskey blog with all the updated news on new whiskey distilleries in Ireland and upcoming artisanal whiskey launches.

Irish Whiskey Museum

The Irish Whiskey Museum is the home of everything Irish whiskey! Independent of all whiskey distilleries, there are over 100 different types of Irish whiskey in the building. The storytellers talk through over 2000 years of Irish whiskey history on the fully guided tours and lead interactive tastings of a wide variety of Irish whiskeys

Tours include each of the 4 different rooms themed to represent a different period in Irish history. Finish the tour by becoming a true whiskey connoisseur with a tasting of 3 (Classic) or 4 (Premium) different Irish whiskeys. Other experiences, such as the Whiskey Blending Experience and the Whiskey and Brunch experience are also available. Prices range from €20 to 28, one even includes a brunch.

BOOK YOUR IRISH WHISKEY TOUR WITH THE MUSEUM

And there you have it, every year more Irish whiskey tours are added as the whiskey distilleries grow around the country. In 2020 there should be at least 4 Irish distilleries opening up their visitors’ centres.

Have you been on an Irish Whiskey Tour? If so what was your opinion?

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The best Irish Whiskey tours - uisge beatha
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