Last updated on November 25, 2023
Irish pub culture is internationally famous. I think most people feel comfortable in an Irish pub right away.
That’s certainly because of the friendly people. And it’s certainly because of the good food and the good beer. And then there’s the rousing Irish music!
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And it’s definitely also because of the good Irish whiskeys!
You always hear that Irish whiskeys have a softer taste than Scottish whiskeys. I would confirm that for my taste. This is probably due to the difference in production: Scottish whiskey is traditionally double-distilled, while Irish whiskey is triple-distilled to achieve a complex but mild taste.
My family and I have our second home in Ireland, where we run a motorbike rental business in the summer. See: www.easycruiser.tours. We also offer beautiful guest rooms (www.the-view-accommodation.ie).
We have also been to Scotland many times, which is very easy to get to from Northern Ireland in barely two hours by ferry.
I’d say I’ve tasted and got to know a few beers and whiskeys on both sides of the Celtic Sea….
But let’s get to you: If you are interested in the subject, you could visit one or the other distillery during your holiday in Ireland – good idea?
To make your search easier, I’ve put together a few nice options for you, I hope it helps you plan your holiday. You will notice that the distilleries are mainly to be found in the south and east of the Irish island. I find it extremely appealing that you can visit small family distilleries as well as large distillery companies like Jameson. The Irish are very attached to their whiskey tradition – and you can still see that today.
A word about planning: In Ireland, the alcohol limit is 0.5 per mille (about 1 beer with a meal). Failure to comply can result in considerable fines, including immobilisation of the vehicle and revocation of the driving licence. The Irish authorities had to be very strict about this, because the beautiful Irish pub culture also had its tragic side effects.
So if you are planning distillery tastings, I would highly recommend booking an overnight stay nearby and then walking over or taking a taxi. Please take this well-intentioned advice really seriously – for your own sake.
So, now we come to my tips for your “whiskey trail”:
1 The Ballykeefe Distillery (near Kilkenny)
This small distillery is located a few kilometres southwest of Kilkenny in the countryside, if you type the name into Google Maps you will find it. The young distillery is family owned and developed in addition to a farm: this is one of the few distilleries in Ireland that grows its own barley! You can sign up for a tour and tasting – and it’s a family affair, not a mass event. See: https://ballykeefedistillery.ie/.
2 Jameson Distillery (Midleton, near Cork)
Jameson is probably the largest and best known whiskey producer in Ireland. They have two distilleries, in Dublin (we’ll get to that) and in the small town of Midleton, east of Cork. You can book various tours and tastings there, see: https://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/en/visit-our-distilleries/midleton-distillery-cork/.
3 Cork City: Rebel City Distillery
Another small family distillery: Ford produced cars in Cork until the 80s. Today you can find the Rebel City Distillery there, a young, modern, small company. Tastings and tours can be found at: https://www.rebelcitydistillery.com/home/.
4 Clonakilty Distillery (Clonakilty)
Clonakilty is located west of Cork, on the southern Wild Atlantic Way. Here, too, a barley farmer later built up a distillery and the small company is still family-owned. Tours and tastings can be found here: https://clonakiltydistillery.ie/visit-us/.
5 The Skellig Six18 Distillery (Caherciveen, Ring of Kerry)
And here we have another small family business, on the edge of the Atlantic. The Skellig Islands are rugged rocky outcrops off the coast where millions of seabirds breed. On Skellig Michael there is a medieval monastery complex to visit. The houses are built of stones in a round shape, like igloos. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll know it as Luke Skywalker’s retreat. But you don’t have to go to the islands to taste whiskey, it’s available on the mainland. See: https://skelligsix18distillery.ie/.
6 The Old Bushmills Distillery (Bushmills)
Let’s jump from the southwest now far to the north, to Bushmills in Northern Ireland. Like Jameson, Bushmills is one of the big and well-known whiskey brands on the island. Whiskey has been produced here on the north coast for 400 years. And that makes Bushmills the oldest registered distillery in the world! You can of course also book tastings and tours in the historic buildings: https://www.bushmills.eu/distillery/.
7 Locke`s Distillery, Visitor Centre and Whiskey Museum (Kilbeggan)
North of Tullamore on the M6 is the small town of Kilbeggan. The distillery there is over 200 years old, had to be closed in the 1950s and was brought back to life by the people of Kilbeggan in a community effort – quite a sympathetic story. For tours and tastings, see: https://www.kilbegganwhiskey.com/.
8 Slane Irish Whiskey Distillery (near Drogheda)
Drogheda is a small town north of Dublin, halfway to Northern Ireland. In this area you will find a lot of Irish history, like the Hill of Tara and Newgrange, the prehistoric burial mound. No wonder the founder of the distillery lives in a castle. The Slane Distillery is a direct neighbour of Slane Castle. Slane Castle is now an event location, including music concerts. See: https://www.slaneirishwhiskey.com/ and https://www.slanecastle.ie/.
9 The Old Jameson Distillery (Dublin)
In the middle of the newer city centre of Dublin (north of the Rive Liffey), you will find the Old Jameson Distillery. I don’t think there’s much to say about Jameson – go there, see it! See: https://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/en/visit-our-distilleries/jameson-bow-street-distillery-tour/.
10 The Teeling Distillery (Dublin)
If you’re looking for a contrast to the historic distilleries, here it is: In Dublin’s old city centre (south of the River Liffey), you’ll find the Teeling Distillery, which advertises a fresh and modern flair and says they’re the first new distillery in Dublin for 125 years. See: https://teelingdistillery.com/.
11 The Powerscourt Distillery (south of Dublin, near Bray)
In the south of Dublin, near the coastal town of Bray, lies Powerscourt Estate, arguably the largest historic manor house, or castle, I should say, that you can visit in Ireland. The huge estate includes several parks and gardens and a waterfall nearby. Next to the estate you will find the Powerscourt Distillery. For tastings and tours, see: https://powerscourtdistillery.com/.
So, hopefully I have been able to give you some nice tips for your trip to Ireland.
Have fun planning your trip – and if you are still looking for a rental motorbike for the tour, you can find us here: www.easycruiser.tours.
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Cover photo: Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash