Dingle Distillery serves not only whiskey, but also gin and vodka. // © 2017 Dingle Distillery
Feature image (above): Front doors of Jameson Distillery Bow St. in Dublin // © 2017 Pernod Ricard
From Dublin to Dingle, Ireland teems with the "water of life."
The Classical Gaelic term for whiskey is "Uisce Beatha," which translates to "water of life." In Ireland, the spirit has become almost as ubiquitous as water, ever since surgeons began using it in the 1400s. In 2016, the sales volume of whiskey was up nearly 19 percent, with revenues topping $795 million, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade association that monitors Irish Whiskey export to the U.S. The growth is attributed to the rise of high-end and ultra-premium Irish whiskeys, something increasingly more people have discovered when visiting the Emerald Isle.
The following self-guided tour can take whiskey lovers to five different distilleries across Ireland, while also affording the opportunity to witness the country's famed rolling countryside.
Jameson Distillery Bow St.
Located off Smithfield Square in Dublin, the site of Jameson's premier distillery dates back to 1780 and just reopened in March following a makeover costing approximately 13 million dollars. Also known as the "Home of Jameson," the revamped Jameson Distillery Bow St. is part of the Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy's aim to bring 1.9 annual whiskey tourists to Ireland by 2025.
Guests are welcome to take one of three comprehensive tours of the premises, beginning with "The Bow St. Experience," which uncovers Jameson's historic roots while offering a peek into the company's high-tech production process. "The Whiskey Makers" and “The Whiskey Shakers" masterclasses, meanwhile, take guests to the brand-new live-maturation house, affording the rare opportunity to taste one of the world's most famous whiskies straight from the cask.
Just under 60 miles west of Dublin, Kilbeggan is set on the Irish midlands of County Westmeath on the River Brosna, a tributary of Ireland's longest natural watercourse, the River Shannon. The town is home to the eponymous Kilbeggan Distillery, Ireland's oldest licensed distillery that was established in 1757. When the U.S. introduced Prohibition in 1920, Kilbeggan's townspeople united to prevent their beloved distillery from closing, paying its license fees and making sure that its stills remained full of the good stuff.
Nearly a century later, Kilbeggan Distillery has expanded with a copper-lined column still offsite in County Louth, where its famous 86-proof single-grain whiskey is distilled today. Visitors have the option to choose from four different tours of the original location: the one-hour "Apprentice Tour," the 90-minute "Distillers Tour," the three-hour "Connoisseur Experience" and the one-hour "Standard Tour" for parties numbering more than 10 people.
About a 15-minute drive south from Kilbeggan is another distillery that's also open to the public. The initials in Tullamore D.E.W. belong to Daniel E. Williams, a one-time stable boy who became the company's owner through a distinct blend of hard work and business savvy. And speaking of blends: Tullamore D.E.W. is famous for its triple-distilled, triple-blend whiskey, which is attributed to Williams's grandson, Desmond Williams.
Visitors can learn about the distillery's 200-year-old history during any one of Tullamore D.E.W.'s adventures. "Curious Taster's Journey" takes guests into the distillery's Old Bonded Warehouse, and "Whiskey Wise Masterclass" also serves as an immersive biographical primer on Daniel E. Williams and his formidable legacy. The "Ultimate Distillery Experience," meanwhile, is best for those seeking VIP treatment. For everyone else, there's the Visitor Centre, a gift shop and whiskey-inspired fare at The Bond Restaurant.
Jameson Distillery Midleton
After Jameson merged with its competitors in 1966, the newly consolidated Irish Distillers Group decided to relocate operations southwest from Dublin to Midleton in County Cork, where there was more room for expansion.
Today, Jameson Distillery Midleton is Ireland's largest and most modern whiskey distillery. The New Midleton Distillery continues to implement cutting-edge technology, while the adjacent Old Midleton Distillery, originally established in the early 1800s, now serves as the Jameson Heritage Centre.
Guests can learn more about the famous brand and its facilities through a variety of guided tours such as "The Jameson Experience," a 75-minute whiskey intensive that takes visitors past the distillery's historic water wheel and the world's largest pot still. The two-hour "Behind the Scenes" tour also includes visits to several of the distillery's buildings, while the “Academy Experience" goes back to school with an overview of the distillery's training center. Finally, the "Premium Whiskey Tasting" option focuses more on the whiskey itself.
Dingle in County Kerry is a charming Irish enclave on the Atlantic dating back to the 5th century A.D. The westernmost town in Europe is famous for being home to Fungie the Bottlenose dolphin, who has been splashing around Dingle Bay since the early 1980s. It's also the namesake of Dingle Distillery, located on the edge of town in a converted sawmill.
The distillery prides itself on its artisanal approach, not just serving up whiskey, but gin and vodka, too. Everything is 100 percent handcrafted, from the mashing of the grains all the way up to the bottling and labelling. Dingle Distillery is the first distillery to be built in Ireland in more than a century, proving that when it comes to Irish whiskey, everything old is new again — and vice versa.