Ireland, via its liquid gold, is an incredible way to explore the Green Isle. Discover more on one of Ireland’s best whiskey trails.
Rolling green hills. Cosy pubs. Four-leaf clovers. U2. Ireland is a country of comfort and the craic. It has also evolved into a spectacular destination for food and drink, with a growing whiskey industry for a tipple or two.
A little history: While Scotch is made using malted barley and water, Irish whiskey is made from a mix of malted cereals (corn, wheat, barley). A tax imposed in the 1850s on barley saw whiskey producers in Ireland start to use other grains that formed its blended approach. Irish whiskey is typically distilled three times – compared to Scotch which is distilled twice. Making it even more refined.
Deriving from the Gaelic to mean ‘water of life’, there is a real thirst for this spirit. The number of whiskey distilleries in Ireland has grown from four in 2010 to 40 today – and its continuing to flourish.
There are several whiskey trails – and gin to enjoy, too – to sip and sample Ireland’s best while taking in the incredible countryside. Embark on a trip to one of these fine establishments that will take you to all corners of Ireland.
Jamesons, Co. Cork
Jameson is officially the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey that began life by John Jameson in 1780 in Dublin. Today, Jameson is distilled in Midleton, County Cork, where they have a museum dedicated to all things liquid gold. Set over 15 acres, The Jameson Experience offers several ways to explore the brand’s history – from past to present. From a 75-minute distillery tour of an extended ‘behind the scenes’ experience that included sampling their premium range. The venue also boasts a visitors centre, restaurant, and gift shop.
Try: Jameson Black Barrel
A blended Irish whiskey heavy on peat (that smokey flavour) due to double charring the wood in the barrels. Rich and complex, a blend of grain spirit is matured in a mix of sherry casks and bourbon barrels.
It begins on Dublin’s doorstep and weaves its way through the Garden of Ireland, Wicklow, with its immaculate estates with a rugged wilderness. Powerscourt, an 18th-century mansion designed in the splendour of a Renaissance villa, is famed for its gardens and secret Japanese Garden. Visit Duckett’s Grove in Country Carlow, while in Tipperary, see the Rock of Cashel, one of Ireland’s most famous historical sites.
Bushmills, Co. Antrim
Bushmills is the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery, dating back to 1608. Tucked to the north of Ireland, close to the famous rock formation of the Giants Causeway, it’s an area known for its jagged cliffs, castle ruins, and crisp waters of the River Bush. Those waters are still used today to make Bushmills whiskey. Named after the mills that made the barley and the local river, ancient distilling methods are still in use; whiskey is made, matured and bottled, all onsite. Here you can take a guided tour around the Old Bushmills Distillery to learn the production process – from grain to glass – and how volcanic rock plays its part in the flavour. Then finish in the bar to sample their finest products.
Try: Black Bush
A blended Irish whiskey, smooth and rich with flavours of peaches, nuts, sherry and spice. Matured in Spanish Oloroso sherry and sweet bourbon casks for up to eight years creates a velvety finish.
From the Sperrin Mountains to the Giant’s Causeway, Ireland’s north is all about rugged beauty. Drive the Causeway Coastal Route, walk the 16th-century walls at Derry-Londonderry, and have a round of golf at the world-class club, Royal County Down. For arts lovers, Belfast’s music and literary scene is a must.
In 1782, Walter Teeling set up a small distillery on Marrowbone Lane in Dublin. An area known as the Liberties, it was once home to over 37 whiskey distilleries in its heyday and was part of the historic distiller triangle district. With a colourful history, from riches to ruins, Teeling is back and bolder than ever. In 2015 they opened a new distillery in central Dublin nearby their original 18th-century site. It’s the first new distillery built in Dublin in over 125 years. And it certainly delivers.
Teeling makes award-winning small-batch whiskey using hand-selected casks of grain and malt. Then it matures in bourbon and rum barrels from South America. Fully guided tours of the new complex end with a whiskey tasting. With private tours available on request. It’s the best way to experience first hand the sights, sounds and smells of this stunning space.
A peated single malt Irish whiskey with BBQ smokiness and the spice of cloves, touches of orange peel and salted caramel. While using bourbon and white wine casks add a smokey touch and notes of dried fruit.
Dublin is steeped in heritage and character. With a history dating back 1000 years, a capital named Europe’s friendliest city twice, and renowned for its music and film heritage – it’s even a UNESCO City of Literature – there is so much to explore. From Trinity College to the cobbled streets of Temple Bar or shopping along Grafton Street. Plus, the classic traditional pubs Ireland is known for.
Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim
It is not all golden liquid in Ireland. Gin is making its mark, too. Up in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, you’ll find The Shed Distillery overlooking the shores of Lough Allen in the rural village of Drumshanbo. It’s here Patrick Rigney loving handcrafts his Irish gin. He used traditional methods using medieval copper stills and infuses the spirit with local botanicals. The Shed is the first multi-purpose distillery of its kind in Ireland and well worth the drive.
Fear not if you are a whiskey purist. The distillery also makes premier ‘Grand Cru’ Irish Whiskey – Connacht’s first whiskey for 105 years. Take a fully guided tour for an immersive experience behind the creation of the spirits that includes a tasting of Drumshanbo Irish Whiskey and finishes with a Gunpowder Irish Gin and tonic in the Honey Badger Bar within the stunning botanical glasshouse at The Shed. Stay longer for a meal at the Jackalope Café. Before a stop at their artisan shop that sells exclusive bottle editions and a selection of local produce.
Try: Gunpowder Irish Gin
A mix of 12 botanicals, including honey and wood sorrel, sourced from the Ashford Castle Estate in County Mayo. These flavours balance gunpowder tea and fresh citrus fruits giving it a citrus lime flavour. It’s bold and bright with a spicy freshness.
A destination for the nature lover, with its heritage parks, historic abbeys and monasteries, here you’ll find the real heart of Ireland and an array of under-the-radar experiences. Stay at Lough Rynn Castle, visit stunning Strokestown Park or take a Viking Tour in Athlone, Co Westmeath.