A distillery tour of Ireland – exploring the world of Irish whiskey

There was a time in my life when I thought that the difference between Scotch and Irish whiskey was just the spelling. One week spent exploring Irish whiskey distilleries in Ireland taught me that there is so much more than an extra vowel. While I am not a big fan of peated Scotch, I’ve always appreciated the smooth quality of Irish whiskey. Here’s our distillery tour of Ireland itinerary and a review of the Irish whiskey tours we took in one week in Ireland.

 

Distillery tour of Ireland itinerary and review of the Irish whiskey tours we took in one week in Ireland: Bushmills, Jameson and Tullamore DEW.

Irish whiskey vs Scotch

So what is the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch? Irish whiskey differs from Scotch in the fact that malted barley is not dried over burning peat. This is what gives Scotch its smokey quality. The other great difference is in the triple distillation. Scotch generally undergoes double distillation, whereas Irish whiskey is always distilled three times. This is true for distilleries all over Ireland – all the Irish whiskey brands I explored during my tour.

While Scotch counts a wide range of single malts produced, most commercial Irish whiskeys are blends. Single malt Irish whiskey exists, but it’s less commonly produced. Blended whisky is not always synonym with lower quality. There is a lot of effort and research put into crafting the perfect blends. The fact that distilleries have their own master blenders is no coincidence.

Irish whiskey distilleries in Ireland itinerary

Our Ireland itinerary was mostly focussed around the three major whiskey distilleries I wanted to visit. There may be various options for distillery tours in Ireland, but we went for a self-planned road trip with stops at the whiskey distilleries. The first thing I did when defining our itinerary was to study an Irish whiskey distillery map. Once I pinpointed the most famous ones, that offer guided tours, I planned the rest of the trip around these stops. There are also a lot of small distilleries in Ireland, but not all are open to the public.

We landed in Dublin and rented a car at the airport. We immediately drove to Northern Ireland, as the Old Bushmills Distillery was our first stop on our Ireland distillery tour. Despite being geographically located in Northern Ireland, Bushmills is considered an Irish whisky as its production follows the rules of Irish whiskey distillation. On our way to Bushmills we took some time to explore Northern Ireland and stopped in Belfast, drove the Antrim Coast, visited the Dark Hedges, and of course the village of Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway.

Our second Irish whiskey distillery was the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. Coming from Bushmills we drove down the West coast stopping at the famous Cliffs of Moher, in Galway, the Dingle peninsula and Limerick. We obviously had a night stopover in Midleton as we were not allowed to drive after the whiskey tasting class.

The third and final stop on our distillery tour of Ireland was Tullamore. On the way from Midleton we stopped at the Rock of Cashel and in Killarney. After visiting the Tullamore DEW visitor centre we spent the night in town and made our way back to Dublin the following day. We spent one day in Dublin before flying back home. We did not do any Irish whiskey tours in Dublin for lack of time.

See what we ate during our week in Ireland.

The Old Bushmills Distillery

We started off at the Old Bushmills Distillery, located in Bushmills, Northern Ireland. The Old Bushmills Distillery, founded in 1608, prides itself being the oldest working distillery in Ireland. This was my first time visiting a distillery, so on our first stop we decided to do a proper tour of the premises. Here I learned all the theory behind the Irish whiskey making process. Guided tours are offered daily, but cannot be booked online. I was afraid that coming in the afternoon we would find all the tours for the day sold out, but it was not the case. Tours departed every 10 minutes and we were able to join one that started a minute after we bought our tickets. Visiting on a Tuesday in late September probably also helped.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Bushmills.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Bushmills.
This old pot still is on display at the bar.

Due to the alcohol content of the air in the distillery, photography is not allowed inside. The Bushmills distillery tour was really informative and provided some basic knowledge of the Irish whiskey production. We learned about all the stages from grains to end product, and were even able to see the bottling take place (doesn’t happen every day). At the end of the tour we went into the bar where we received two complimentary samples. One was the same for all and it was the Bushmills Original, and we could choose the other. My husband chose the Bushmills 12 year single malt while I opted for the 10 year single malt.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Bushmills. A distillery tour of Ireland. Bushmills.
Jameson Experience in Midleton, Cork

After exploring some natural wonders of the west coast of Ireland, we made our way all the way south, to the Jameson distillery in Midleton. The famous Jameson is originally a Dublin whiskey. Today, it is produced in Midleton, County Cork. Following a crisis of the whiskey production in the 1970s, many whiskey producers moved to the Old Midleton Distillery and continued production there. Nowadays production happens at the new Midleton distillery, while the old distillery houses the Jameson Experience visitor centre. The original Jameson Distillery Bow St. in Dublin is no longer a working distillery, but a visitor centre. There you can take the Jameson distillery tour, but we decided to visit the Midleton location, instead.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Jameson. A distillery tour of Ireland. Jameson.

In Midleton we booked a Premium Whiskey Tasting, which is not a tour but a tasting class. Here we had the chance to sample 4 different types of whiskey that are currently produced in Midleton. We had the Jameson Black Barrel, the Powers John’s Lane Release, the Redbreast 12 year old and the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. The focus of this Irish whiskey tasting was all on flavouring the different whiskeys and comparing them. The key is to take proper time to enjoy the taste and personality of each whiskey. If at the sampling in Bushmills I was a novice, here I gained more knowledge and experience. At the end of this visit I had sampled 7 different types of Irish whiskey, including the most expensive one I have ever had. The the best Irish whiskey in Ireland? Probably.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Jameson.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Jameson.
That table, that table!

Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre

Our last stop in our Ireland distillery tour was the Old Tullamore Distillery in Tullamore. Tullamore Dew was the first whiskey I had bought for myself. In Tullamore we chose to participate in the Whiskey Wise Masterclass, a combination of Tullamore distillery tour and tasting class. The tasting included samples of 6 house whiskeys.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Tullamore Dew.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Tullamore Dew.
At the visitor centre one gets to touch and smell the grains.

Just like Jameson, also Tullamore Dew had moved its production to Midleton in the 1970s. In 2014 Tullamore Dew officially made its comeback to Tullamore. Production is now at the new Tullamore distillery, while the old one is a museum and visitor centre. Tullamore Dew specialises in the production of triple blends, meaning a blend of malted and unmalted barley, plus a grain whiskey made with maize.

At the end of the tour we took our seats for the tasting class. We got 6 whiskeys to sample – all different types of Tullamore Dew: Original, Cider Cask, Old Bonded Warehouse Release, Phoenix, 12 year old and 14 year old single malt. As my palate and nose developed after every sample over the past days, in Tullamore I was already confidently comparing and tasting the difference a few droplets of water in the whiskey can make. That’s a long way from the times when I knew nothing about whiskey.

A distillery tour of Ireland. Tullamore Dew.A distillery tour of Ireland. Tullamore Dew.

After visiting three of the most renowned Irish whiskey distilleries, I can say I have become if not an expert, at least an aficionado. My appreciation of the golden distillate was very very limited, but after this experience I feel much more knowledgeable. I would even say now I enjoy whiskey more and I know a bit better how to properly drink it. As the novice that I was when we landed in Dublin, I felt definitely more whiskey savvy at the end of our Ireland trip. That’s how much education a week in Ireland exploring Irish whiskey distilleries can give.

 

Visiting Irish whiskey distilleries around Ireland.

 

42 Comments

  1. Mauro Ortiz October 5, 2017 at 15:23

    Love your posts! Need to make another trip to Ireland 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva October 5, 2017 at 15:30

      Thank you! It was my second time in Ireland but I seriously can’t wait to go back. Luckily I brought back some good whiskey that can help me travel back vicariously 😀

      Reply
  2. Roxanne Reid October 7, 2017 at 09:54

    I must confess I’m not a huge whisky, or whiskey, fan. But my dad was, so we used to have amazing tastings together. Interesting to taste the different flavours that exist in whisky, but for a full drink it’s wine or gin for me.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 8, 2017 at 00:13

      I normally am not either, and will definitely enjoy a good glass of wine more. But the tasting was a really intersting experience and it was amazing to taste all the different flavours that each whiskey had. I left Ireland definitely more accustomed to whiskey, and I really appreciate it more now!

      Reply
  3. Christina October 7, 2017 at 12:56

    Distillery hopping, now that’s the life!! I remember I did a tour at the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin and it was SO MUCH FUN! I actually learned tons haha and I think by the end of it, I was slowly becoming a whiskey person. It’s definitely one of those acquired tastes though. Would love to visit a few of these the next time I’m in Ireland!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 14:55

      Well after this you would definitely leave calling yourself a whiskey person! I still need to learn to appreciate Scotch, but distillery hopping in Scotland is on my list 😀

      Reply
  4. Toni October 7, 2017 at 13:23

    What an awesome tour you’ve done. I am a so-so alcohol drinker but I’ve been doing all. Lot more distillery tours and really enjoy seeing the process. I love Ireland, and I’ll have to go back to enjoy some of these now. I love free taste tests and learning when I visit places 😊

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 14:54

      It was a really great experience while in Ireland. I look forward to doing the same in Scotland, it’s great to learn about some very local things right where they are produced. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  5. Ufuoma October 7, 2017 at 13:43

    That looks like such a fun tour. I am not a very big alcohol drinker because I am such a light weight. Trust me, I’ve tried haha! Whiskey or Whisky? I’m glad you enjoyed. I want to go on a wine tour now.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 14:07

      Well, whiskey if you go with the Irish spelling, as I explained 😉
      Careful on wine tours if you can’t have too much to drink, though! Wine can be dangerous, some are so easy to drink you barely feel the alcohol. With distillates that is not a problem 😀

      Reply
  6. Anu October 7, 2017 at 15:05

    As a teetotaller, I can not really appreciate the alcohols, but it seems you had great fun at the distillery. I had a glimpse of it when I visited Edinburg and everyone wanted me to check out the famous Scottish Whiskey.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 15:40

      Of course getting to sample adds value to the experience, but even choosing a non-alcoholic drink (it is included in the price ticket) I think it’s still very interesting to get to see the stages of whiskey production.

      Reply
  7. Kiara Gallop October 7, 2017 at 20:32

    Your photos are fantastic! I’m not a fan of drinking whisky (or whiskey?) but I love learning about the processes involved in making spirits and liqueurs, and about what makes one particular type so different from another. Sounds like a really interesting trip 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 20:43

      Thank you very much! Well I am a big fan of whiskey now (the Irish one), not a big fan of whisky (the Scotch) yet. I still have to get used to the smokey flavour. Can’t wait to go to Scotland and get some education in that field, and work on my Scotch taste 😀

      Reply
  8. Lynne Nieman October 7, 2017 at 21:08

    Love this post! I too have become a whiskey afficianado. I’ve been to Bushmills and Midleton but was unaware that Tullamore Dew went back home. Next visit to Ireland!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 21:18

      Now you definitely have to pay a visit to the new Tullamore Dew visitor centre then! I recommend the masterclass I took, one hour and a half well spent!

      Reply
  9. Cherene S October 7, 2017 at 21:24

    I am a huge Jameson fan and would absolutely love to do this! I want to return to Ireland badly and this will definitely be on my list!!! Pinning to save for that time.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 22:06

      I recommend the Jameson Experience in Midleton. We briefly went into the one in Dublin to check out the store and we were happy we visited the other one, Dublin was packed! I’m sure the tour would be equally good, but it always feels more exclusive when you get small groups 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed my post!

      Reply
  10. Helen October 7, 2017 at 22:14

    This sounds like my partner’s dream trip. Now when he’s wiffling on about malt this and that I can wow him with my new found knowledge!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 7, 2017 at 22:17

      Lol I’m glad you got your dose of whiskey education vicariously through my post. I’m sorry it did not include any samples though 😀

      Reply
  11. Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate October 8, 2017 at 02:08

    I’m a HUGE whiskey fan and am spending this month doing the entire TN Whiskey Trail (8 down, 18 distilleries to go!) so needless to say, I’d LOVE this.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 8, 2017 at 09:47

      That is on my list! I really like bourbon, it’s comparatively sweeter, so we would love to do this too! One day for sure! Enjoy!!

      Reply
  12. Kelly October 8, 2017 at 07:13

    What a great way to spend your 5th anniversary. I am in belfast right now too because of cheap airfare. But fun and helpful read!!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 8, 2017 at 09:46

      Enjoy Belfast! I wish I’d had more time there, but I kept is as a hub when I explored also the surrounding areas. Would love to go back and see more, but I’m happy with the other experiences I had in Northern Ireland. One can always go back to places! Anyway, if you like whiskey, I recommend having a Bushmills while there 🙂

      Reply
  13. Shibani October 8, 2017 at 07:39

    I’m not really a whisky(missing e) person, not even alcohol except white wine that too only restricted till half a glass so this was really informative for me. Before here even I used ‘e’ with whisky and I might not like the drink but such a tour I wouldn’t miss 🙂 Loved reading through here and glad I learnt something new 🙂

    Reply
    1. Eva October 8, 2017 at 09:43

      Believe me, after one such tour – and especially if you take the tasting samples – you would become a fan. The oldest distillery has been up and running since the 17th century! It’s amazing to learn the process. If you’re worried about the size of the samples, you don’t have to finish it all. Just taste a little of it for the flavour 😉

      Reply
  14. Piia / Ticket to Adventures October 8, 2017 at 09:46

    What a great read! I might become a whiskey fan after reading your post. Looks like you had a wonderful tour.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 8, 2017 at 09:53

      I did, and I would really recommend this to anyone. Whiskey might not the easiest of drinks, but when you know the background you really get to appreciate it a lot more!

      Reply
  15. Lucy October 8, 2017 at 18:56

    This looks like a lot of fun! I wish I liked drinking whiskey!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 9, 2017 at 10:19

      You may learn to appreciate it when exploring it so deeply 😉

      Reply
  16. ARIANA October 9, 2017 at 09:47

    This reminds me so much of my road trip with Mom around the country. Although we didn’t make it a point to visit any Whiskey Distilleries, we did some tastings in local shops and bought some lovely and TOUGH to swallow (for me anyways) Whiskies. Have saved this for a future trip.

    Reply
    1. Eva October 9, 2017 at 10:20

      Thank you! It is a cultural side of Ireland definitely worth exploring.

      Reply
  17. Rianne October 9, 2017 at 15:23

    That looks like an interesting experience! I’m not that much of a drinker myself, but my husband would love to have a look inside the distilleries and then try some samples 🙂 Your pictures are really nice as well!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 10, 2017 at 11:02

      Thank you for your nice words, I’m glad you liked my pictures 🙂

      Reply
  18. Celeste October 17, 2017 at 12:10

    Non è che abbiamo lo stesso fidanzato, vero??
    A parte gli scherzi, anche il mio è un “big whisky person”, e pure un “peated single malt” person.
    E conosco esattamente la sensazione al dutyfree, credo che ormai potrei quasi elencare catalogo e prezzi. Non a caso tra un paio di settimane partiamo (di nuovo) per la Scozia, dove ci attendono due distillerie. Ormai sono ufficialmente “contagiata” anch’io!

    Reply
    1. Eva October 20, 2017 at 12:50

      Ma che figo! E che figo tra l’altro scoprire di avere delle cose in comune 😀 Tu sei una persona da peated? Io a quell’affumicato non sono ancora riuscita ad abituarmi. Non sono mai stata una fumatrice e l’unica cosa in cui apprezzo il sapore affumicato è la carne (o il pesce). Nel whisky devo proprio ancora farci un po’ la mano (o il palato :D).
      Fantastico che andrete a vedere due distillerie in Scozia! Attendo di leggere le tue impressioni allora (se ne scriverai in merito)!

      Reply
  19. Michelle June 4, 2018 at 11:19

    I always find distillery tours fascinating. When we were in Dublin, we visited the Jameson Distillery, but it was a quick trip. We definitely did not see as much of Ireland as I would have liked. I’d love to go back, and this gives me some great ideas for when we do! It’s all so fascinating!
    My sons are planning an Ireland trip together for when my youngest graduates from high school and my oldest graduates from college. I’m jealous!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 4, 2018 at 14:57

      Of course in our case the whiskey distilleris were just an excuse, but we really wanted to to a road trip and see as much of that gorgeous island as we could. Or maybe for my boyfriend the distilleries were on the top of his list, but he ended up loving Ireland besides the whiskey in any case!

      Reply
  20. The Girl Next Door June 5, 2018 at 06:45

    I don’t drink at all, so I can’t say I ‘get’ whiskey. This distillery tour, though, sounds like super fun. I’ve always loved seeing how things are processed from raw form to end product – so this is definitely something I’d love!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 5, 2018 at 08:43

      Oh yeah that is one very interesting part! Thinking that something so simple as malted barley can become a liquid that can be worth several hundreds per litre is pretty impressive. And you don’t need to be a whiskey drinker to appreciate that, it’s just fascinating.

      Reply
  21. Sanziana Feyer June 9, 2018 at 12:23

    So much whiskey haha! My dad is passionate about it and he always gets me a bottle when he’s visiting me. I think visiting distilleries is a great experience one has to live! Especially the ones drinking whiskey 🙂 Actually I have already tried the Tullamore Dew one, but I think being at their distilleries and drinking it makes a lot of difference hehe

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2018 at 16:01

      It really does make a difference! And if you take a tasting class you acually get to taste the different flavours that every whiskey has. It was a truly eye-opening experience to me, as I thought I kno nothing yet my palate could really tell the differences!

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website. *