Irish ‘whiskey’ is well established as a thoroughbred in the world of fine whiskey and bourbon and Irish distilleries are now renowned throughout the globe. Perhaps not as famous as its Scottish cousin (‘whisky’) the whiskey trail in Ireland is very popular amongst enthusiasts and the curious, covering the very best whiskey making centres the Emerald Isle has to offer. This is a great opportunity to become better acquainted some of the finest malts in the world. Set against the backdrop of beautiful countryside and with the special warmth of Irish hospitality, it is not hard to see why whiskey lovers make the trek year after year to indulge in their passion and learn more about the history of their favourite drink.
Bushmills, Country Antrim
Recognised as the oldest licensed distillery in the world, Bushmills lies on the Northern Irish coast just a short distance from the ‘Giant’s Causeway’. Reputed to be Jim Morrison’s whiskey of choice, Bushmills have been making whiskey since 1608 although the whiskey making tradition in the area goes back much further. The distillery was first granted a licence by James I and these days Bushmills produces high quality malts with a distinctive rounded finish. Bushmills thrived during the twentieth century, exporting thousands of barrels a year to the United States. Today the distillery is open to visitors where the process, essentially unchanged through the ages, can be experienced at first hand. Locals are proud of their whiskey making heritage and indeed the distillery was celebrated by featuring on Northern Irish bank notes in 2008. The whiskey reflects the character of a region that has a lot to offer holidaymakers. Alongside stunning coastal scenery, there are some of the best golf courses in Northern Ireland where Bushmills is a local favourite at the ‘nineteenth hole’.
The Old Jamesons Distillery, Dublin
Perhaps the home of the famous Irish ‘craic’ or ‘crack’, Dublin is one of the top city break destinations in Europe. The vibrant evening nightlife is complemented with a fine array of high quality restaurants and great architecture. The legendary River Liffey immortalized by James Joyce in his classic, ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, divides the city and flows just a short distance from The Old Jameson’s Distillery in Bow Street. Although now not a working distillery, this is now one of the most popular attractions in Dublin. Lying dormant for many years visitors now come to learn about the distilling process in what is a monument to the whiskey making tradition in Ireland. The tour breaks down the whole process, which involves malting, mashing and fermentation and ultimately distilling and then maturation. The whiskey tastings round off a fascinating and engaging visitor experience and with its convenient city centre location this is the essential addition to your itinerary for your next break in Dublin .
Kilbeggan, County Westmeath
The delightful rolling countryside of the Irish Midlands has been home to the distillery at Kilbeggan for centuries. With an abundance of the essential raw materials for whiskey, this is a region that has distilling deeply engrained within the local culture. The passion for the product is exemplified by the distillery tour where visitors can get close to a process that produces some of the best quality whiskeys the country has to offer. It is the lengths that producers go to that is so impressive, a care and attention which is born out of an essential love of the craft and with many distilleries such as Kilbeggan employing the old techniques and machinery the tour is a fascinating insight into the history of not only whiskey but Westmeath as a region. The recent refurbishment of the distillery’s water wheel enhances the character of a building that has been producing whiskey since 1757. With great transport links to Dublin, Kilbeggan is an essential addition to the Irish whiskey trail.
The Jameson Experience, Midleton, County Cork
Whiskey making at Midleton in the stunning County Cork has been a feature for over 150 years. The current distillery has been in operation since 1975 and the former building has been turned into a visitor centre attracting holidaymakers from throughout the world. The old distillery is home to the largest pot-still in the world and with kilns as well as a working water-wheel the tour is an immersive educational experience. Aficionados can discuss with local experts about the essential differences between Irish whiskey and its Scottish and American counterparts, whilst the less experienced will doubtless be delighted by the complimentary drink at the end of the tour. Midleton itself lies about 25 minutes away from Cork, the gateway to the Irish south west. Forming part of the province of Munster, County Cork is renowned for its peninsulas along its beautiful coastline. With inland mountains and exquisite rivers and lakes, this is a great holiday base for your next holiday cottage in Ireland.