Unmissable Irish whiskey distilleries to visit
From a coastal escape in County Cork to Dublin’s many distillery offerings, Ireland offers plenty of tours and experiences to satisfy any whiskey fan. Here, we look at eight sites that have reopened to visitors.
Following on from our top Scotch whisky distilleries to visit, now we bring you our pick of the best Irish whiskey distilleries to visit, those which have already reopened post-Covid.
Scotland might get most of the buzz when it comes to whisky tourism, but Ireland has heaps to offer the spirits enthusiast, with hundreds of distilleries welcoming guests and investment growing by the year.
In 2019, Irish whiskey distilleries attracted more than one million visitors, according to trade body Drinks Ireland. Dozens of new distilleries have opened in the past decade, with some of the biggest producers investing millions in creating distillery tours and visitor centres.
However with about 87% of visitors typically from overseas, and in the wake of Covid-19 and continued travel restrictions, Irish whiskey tourism is one of the most exposed sectors, explains William Lavelle, head of Drinks Ireland. After months of closures, the industry is now getting back on its feet with increasing numbers of distilleries reopening with new safety measures in place. But Drinks Ireland has said that local visitors will be “critical” to safeguarding the future viability of the Irish whiskey sector.
In response, earlier this year Drinks Ireland launched a new campaign called Get Back into the Spirit to promote Irish whiskey tourism and encourage local consumers to visit distilleries as they reopen.
“While increased domestic tourism cannot fully make up for the fall in visitor numbers from overseas, getting more Irish people through the doors of distilleries over the coming months will be critical to ensuring their future viability,” said Lavelle. “So we’re hoping domestic tourists will support the industry, and use this summer as an opportunity to discover the hidden whiskey gems that are on their doorstep.”
Click through to the following pages for a selection of Irish distilleries that have already reopened and are welcoming visitors once more.
Clonakilty Distillery, County Cork
Construction of the Clonakilty Distillery in County Cork was completed in 2018, with the distillery offering a stunning coastal escape for those travelling to the south-west coast of Ireland. It was founded by the Scully family, who have farmed the coastal land for eight generations. The trio produce a triple-distilled single pot still whiskey using malted and unmalted barely, grown on a family-owned farm and by neighbouring farmers.
There’s also a visitor centre, shop and restaurant on site where visitors can take part in a 75-minute distillery tour, whiskey tasting, purchase exclusive bottles and even fill your own bottle from the cask.
There’s also a two-hour session available at its adjoining gin school (the team also produces Minke Irish Gin and Sloe gin). Its current line up includes a Clonakilty Double Oak, Single Grain and Port Cask Irish whiskeys.
Kilbeggan Distillery, Westmeath
Kilbeggan lays claim to being the the oldest licensed distillery of its kind in Ireland, having been founded in 1757. Situated along the River Brosna, the Kilbeggan Distillery Experience offers a picturesque experience for those following the route from Dublin to Galway.
Its tour offers an insight into the history and heritage of Irish whiskey and the foundations of the Kilbeggan brand, outlining the traditional methods of mashing in oak mash tuns, fermenting in Oregon pine vats and use of ancient pot stills. The original waterwheel which once powered the whole distillery is still on display. There’s also the Kilbeggan Whiskey Bar and Pantry Restaurant.
The distillery has announced its phased reopening, initially with its gift shop and tasting experiences, with tours set to start in September in reduced numbers.
Dingle Distillery, County Kerry
The Dingle Distillery was founded in 2012, with its first whiskeys released in 2016. Last year it unveiled its fourth small batch single malt Irish whiskey, limited to 30,000 bottles globally. Dingle Batch No 4 Single Malt Irish whiskey is a blend of whiskeys aged in Bourbon, Sherry and Port casks. The distillery also produces vodka and gin.
The team has already announced the reopening of its distillery and visitor experiences, with the maximum number of guests per distillery tour set at six people. The Dingle Distillery tour allows guests the chance to see inside a fully functioning production facility, learn about the history and production of Irish whiskey and take part in a tasting.
The Dingle Whiskey Experience offers a more in-depth education on the whiskey-making process, from grain to glass, and concludes with a tasting of the distillery’s new spirit and four whiskeys from its portfolio of maturing stock. Both last 45 minutes and are priced at €15 (US$17.80) and €30 (US$27.60) respectively.
Tullamore Dew Distillery, County Offaly
William Grant & Sons opened its €35 million Tullamore Dew distillery in 2014 following its 2010 acquisition of the site.
Located on a vast 58-acre site in Clonminch, County Offally, the distillery’s four stills, six fermenters and 100,000 cask capacity warehouse is able to produce the equivalent of 1.5m cases of Tullamore Dew each year to help the brand meet growing international demand.
Visitors to the distillery can expect to enjoy a host of experiences, including tours of its bonded warehouse, masterclasses, cocktail sessions and access to rare and exclusive tastings, with tours priced from €17 (US$15.60) to €50 (US$46).
Powerscourt Distillery, County Wicklow
Home to the Fercullen Irish whiskey brand, the Powerscourt Distillery and visitor centre opened to the public in 2019, following the build of a new €10 million (US$11.8m) distillery at the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry.
The brainchild of Gerry Ginty and Ashley Gardiner, the project saw the old mill house at the estate transformed into a distillery with the aim of producing single estate Irish whiskey.
The distillery is a joint venture with Powerscourt Estate, which boasts an 800-year history stretching back to a castle built in the 13th century. Those visiting can take in the distillery’s impressive surroundings, which also features a golf club and hotel, alongside a visitor centre, individual tasting rooms, gift shop and café. The distillery itself is home to three custom-designed copper pot stills.
Currently the team is offering a 60-minute Distillery and Warehouse Tour & Tasting (€25/US$29.70), a 20-minute Tasting Class (€12/US$14.20), and a Whiskey and Food Pairing Tour (€35/US$41.60).
Roe & Co Distillery, Dublin
Adding to the wealth of drinks-related attractions in Dublin, last June saw the opening of Diageo’s city-based Roe & Co Distillery at the old Guinness Power Station on James’s Street. The first Roe & Co whiskey was released in 2017, and marked Diageo’s return to the Irish whiskey category, having sold Bushmills in 2014.
Roe & Co is a 45% ABV blend of single malt and grain whiskeys matured exclusively in Bourbon casks. The experience offered by this urban distillery aims to be one of the most immersive, allowing visitors to explore the science, history and culture behind Irish whiskey, while focusing on modern Irish whiskey and cocktails.
All visits include a guided tour of a working urban distillery, a tutored whiskey cocktail session, tasting and a complimentary Roe & Co cocktail in its Power House bar, priced at €19.50 (US$23.15).
Pearse Lyons Distillery, Dublin
Located in Dublin, the €20 million (US$23.25m) Pearse Lyons Distillery officially opened in 2017 in the centre of The Liberties region of the Irish capital. The distillery is the work of Pearse and Deirdre Lyons – founders of animal nutrition and spirits firm Alltech – who transformed St James Church into a distillery and visitor centre having acquired the site in 2013.
The history of the distillery’s building can be traced back to 1190 when it was part of St Thomas’s Abbey, founded by King Henry II as his penance for the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.
Today, the site boasts a working boutique distillery that offers a number of tours, a gin school and tea room. General admission to the site is free, with experiences ranging from a cocktail masterclass and tutored tasting, to food and whiskey pairing sessions and VIP Art of Whiskey experiences. Alongside its range of Pearse Irish whiskeys, the distillery also produces a number of gins.
Teeling Whiskey Distillery, Dublin
The Teeling Whiskey Company opened the doors of its new €10 million Irish whiskey distillery – the first to be built in Dublin in more than 125 years – in 2015.
Based in Newmarket Square in The Liberties, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery features a visitors centre, café, bar, a private event space and a gift shop. The distillery released the first commercial bottling from the Dublin distillery in 2018, not long after the launch of a 30-year-old single malt as part of its Vintage Reserve Collection. A 33-year-old followed in 2016.
In July of this year, Teeling released the oldest whiskey in its limited release Vintage Reserve Collection – Teeling 37 Years Old Irish Single Malt – which was distilled in 1983 and matured exclusively in an ex-Bourbon cask for 37 years.
Its operation was closed in March in the midst of Covid-19, but reopened in June, and has since been operating seven days a week offering tours of the site and tastings. The distillery gift shop and Phoenix Café are also both now open to the public.