The Irish were perhaps far more advanced than the rest of the world for whiskey lovers. Why? Well, since they are credited with creating, modifying and perfecting the art of distilling whiskey nearly six centuries ago. This makes Ireland the birthplace of whiskey as we know it today, and visiting the country is nothing short of a pilgrimage if one worships uisce beatha, Gaelic for ‘water of life.’
A visit to Ireland would be rendered incomplete without visiting as many historic distilleries as possible. These heritage structures once housed one of the most prosperous Irish industry, its walls bearing witness to some truly memorable events. Irish whiskey is distilled unlike Scotch and other types of whiskey available today, and some of these distilleries have preserved these traditions to this day.
Irish whiskey brands were once the most popular producers of the world’s favourite drink. Turbulent times hampered the thriving Irish whiskey distilleries, causing a lot of them to shut their doors and go out of business. Over the years, Irish whiskey brands such as Jameson, Redbreast and others kept the flame burning, eventually resurrecting the Irish whiskey industry and its reputation worldwide.
Whiskey enthusiasts and other guests looking forward to distillery tours and the quintessential Irish experience of whiskey-worship, these are some of Ireland’s most iconic distilleries that welcome guests with open arms.
Jameson’s Bow Street Distillery
This is the birthplace Jameson, the brand that has singlehandedly led the revival of the popularity of Irish whiskey worldwide. The Bow Street Distillery was built in 1780, and was run by John Jameson, who was employed as General Manager of the distillery before taking over himself. Under John Jameson, the distillery was expanded as it began to thrive and the world witnessed the birth of what would go on to become the quintessential Irish whiskey brand.
The Bow Street Distillery is over 200 years old, and yet continues to be one of the most visited places in Dublin, Ireland. Even though the Bow Street Distillery is currently not operational, Jameson host a number of distillery tours and experiences for tourists and whiskey enthusiasts. The Bow Street Experience, Whiskey Blending Class and Whiskey Cocktail Making Class are some of the few experiences that make Bow Street one of the best places to visit among all Irish whiskey distilleries.
Jameson lovers can even get a personalized souvenir by getting their name on a bottle of Jameson Distillery Edition, an impeccable addition to your personal collection. Did we mention the fact that you can get the whiskey personalised the way you like it?
For visitors and guests who like a more hands-on experience, the opportunity to fill their own bottle of Jameson Black Barrel directly from the barrel itself. To make this even sweeter, one can even get the label for their bottle personalised! That’s what we would call the true Jameson experience.
Old Midleton Distillery, County Cork
Jameson moved their growing operations from their Bow Street to the New Midleton in 1975, and forever changed the fortunes of Irish whiskey. The New Midleton Distillery was constructed close to the Old Midleton Distillery, which earlier belonged to the Cork Distillers Company, rivals of John Jameson & Sons. As Irish whiskey exports began to dwindle, John Jameson & Son, John Power & Son and Cork Distillers Company came together to form the Irish Distillers Limited.
All production was moved to the New Midleton Distillery, as Bow Street, Old and the Old Midleton shut shop, only to later emerge as visitor’s centres. The New Midleton Distillery is one of the most modern distilleries throughout the world and exists alongside the old world charm of the Old Midleton.
The Old Midleton Distillery was opened as a visitor’s centre in 1992 with an aim towards maximizing distillery tours and offering the Jameson Experience to one and all. This move worked wonderfully as it has since registered an astonishing 125,000 guests visits in 2015 alone.
Guests can enjoy the Jameson Experience at the Old Midleton through guided tours where they can learn about the rich history of Jameson, explore the distillery, warehouses, the cooperage and more. A premium whiskey tasting, cask opening experience and The Distiller’s Apprentice Tour are some of the other attractions guests can savour. These premises are where Jameson, Redbreast, Power’s and Midleton whiskeys are distilled and guests can have a chance to taste all of these delights at the Old Midleton Distillery.
Killbeggan is one of the Irish whiskey distilleries that can lay claims to being the oldest licensed distillery in the country. It is situated in proximity to the River Brosna, in the town of Kilbeggan, County Westmeath.
It was in 1757 that Matthew McManus established the distillery, and over the years, it was run and owned by a number of different businessmen such as John & William Codd, John Locke and Karl Heinz Moller to name a few. The Kilbeggan Distillery, as it is currently known, is now owned by Beam Suntory.
Visiting the Kilbeggan Distillery is an interesting proposition since the management has ensured a fulfilling experience for all visitors and guests to enjoy themselves to the fullest. Among the many activities and attractions at the Kilbeggan distillery are visits to the warehouse where barrels of whiskey are aged, a whiskey tasting Masterclass with a chance to taste three of Kilbeggan’s finest whiskeys, an opportunity to meet and greet their onsite distillers and more.
A defunct waterwheel at the Kilbeggan Distillery.
The Kilbeggan Distillery offers a number of different experiences for visitors such as an Apprentice Tour, Distillers Tour, Artisan Tour and the ultimate Connoisseur Experience. The latter grants visitors an all access tour of the distillery, and a complete tasting of Kilbeggan’s core inventory of Irish whiskeys right after a scrumptious lunch.
These are our top three picks for the oldest and the most interesting Irish whiskey distilleries to visit and explore. Among the other distilleries you can choose to visit are the Old Bushmills Distillery, Slane Distillery and the Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery.