In the 7th century, Irish monks brought the secret of distilling from the middle east to create their first whiskey. Or as they called it, uisce beatha – the water of life. If whiskey was originally distilled by the monks, I guess that means you could call it a holy spirit.
Fine, back to the spirits. But first, a brief history of Irish whiskey, one of the fastest growing industries. Dublin sits at the heart of it all.
The first records of Irish whiskey date back to the 15th century, and in 1608 Old Bushmill’s Distillery in Northern Ireland became the world’s first licensed whiskey distillery. Though Scotland quickly out-paced Ireland in production, Irish whiskey’s smooth and unique blend crafted from malted and unsalted barley in a pot still grew in popularity.
There are a few differences between Scottish and Irish whisk(e)y. Apart from the spelling, that is. Fun fact: to be considered Scotch, it has to be matured for three years. To be considered Irish, it has to be matured for three years and one day. All’s fair in love and distilling.
At the height of the whiskey boom in Dublin, nearly forty distilleries were in operation in what was known as the Golden Triangle, an area that stretched through Dublin’s Liberties to Jameson on Bow Street. This included the Dublin Big Four – John Jameson & Son (the same Jameson we know and love today), George Roe & Co., William Jameson & Co. and John Power & Son.
The industry experienced a period of decline during the 20th century, especially as prohibition greatly affected the U.S. market. But a resent resurgence in demand over the past decades has hailed in a new age of Irish whiskey. Today in Dublin, there are fewer distilleries in operation and many are new faces, but they still occupy this Golden Triangle and have brought a revival to the industry.
If you’re heading to the Big Smoke, be sure to explore some of the amazing tours and tastings that our distilleries, pubs, and shops have to offer!
|| Bow St, Smithfield Village, Dublin 7
The most iconic name in the game, Jameson has been a Dublin institution for over 200 years. John Jameson established his distillery in 1810 after taking over the Bow Street Distillery, opened in 1780. Today, Jameson is at the forefront of the Irish whiskey movement.
Jameson is produced from a blend of single pot still and grain whiskeys, using malted and unmalted barley. The barley is dried in a kiln using gas rather than peat, giving it a different flavoring than traditional Scotch.
However, Jameson is no longer distilled in their Bow Street location. Since 1971, this is done at a new facility in County Cork. This means that the tour does not walk you through the actual distilling, but rather through the history of the brand and a dissection of the distilling process, ending with a tasting that lets you compare the taste of Irish Jameson to that of Kentucky bourbon and Scotch. It’s an entertaining tour, especially for whiskey novices, that integrates intriguing visuals with enthusiastic guides. You can also take courses on crafting the perfect cocktail making or blending your own whiskey to take home.
You’ll see the Jameson family crest on the bottles or the Bow Street walls. The motto – Sine Metu – translates to ‘without fear’ and has become a mantra associated with the spirit for generations. Over 200 years later, their legacy is as strong as ever.
Book your Jameson tour here.
|| 13-17 Newmarket, Dublin 8
Teeling is the first new whiskey distillery in Dublin for over 125 years. In 1782, Walter Teeling established a distillery on Marrowbone Lane in the Dublin Liberties. It later closed, and in 2015 brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling opened a new distillery in Market Square, near the original location of the first Teeling. The brand’s symbol is a phoenix rising from a pot still, symbolizing the rebirth of the Teeling Distillery.
Teeling offers the Dublin distillery experience that you won’t find at Jameson, taking visitors through their fully functional distillery warehouse. Witness first-hand the smells and sounds of the distilling process, and end with a tasting of a few of their blends. Follow up the tour by grabbing a drink from one of the mixologists at the Bang Bang Bar.
Book your Teeling experience here.
Pearse Lyons Distillery
|| 121-122 James’s St, Dublin 8
Pearse Lyons Distillery is the newest addition to the Dublin distilling scene, opening its doors just last September. It is located in the heart of the Liberties and Dublin’s Golden Triangle. The distillery itself is uniquely located in the renovated St. James Church, which dates back to the 12th century. Renovated stain-glass windows depict the pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, the making of Irish whiskey, the art of coopering, and the natural ingredients grown for the whiskey production.
A tour of Pearse Lyons offers insight into the distilling process, but also a history of Irish whiskey, particularly as it relates to Dublin and the Liberties. Taste three samples of the Pearse Irish Whiskey as you explore the production first-hand and tour St. James Church and adjacent graveyard. Because if copper pot stills in a 12th century cathedral doesn’t scream Dublin, what does? Or try the cocktail experience, the food pairing experience, or the art of distilling experience.
Book your Pearse Lyons tour here.
The Whiskey Museum
|| 119 Grafton Street, Dublin 2
This interactive museum will take you through the history of Irish whiskey – from it’s rise to it’s fall to it’s renaissance. Their classic tour ends with a tasting of three Irish whiskeys, while their premium tour includes a fourth tasting of an aged whiskey. Or try the blending experience where, after the tour and tastings, you’ll get to blend your own 30 ml bottle to take home. And if you’re the kind of person who prefers whiskey to mimosas, try their whiskey and brunch experience!
Book your museum experience here.
The Palace Bar
|| 21 Fleet St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
A stunning Victorian pub that feels as if time has left it untouched, The Palace Bar is one of the best places in town to grab a whiskey and listen to some trad music. It may be located in Temple Bar, but it certainly remains a favorite among locals for its charm and character. The Palace Bar dates back to 1823 and the décor is the same as when it first opened. Step into the upstairs ‘Whiskey Palace’ for a tasting from their many options, or taste their own Palace Bar blend!
Dingle Whiskey Bar
|| 44 Nassau St, Dublin 2
Located on Nassau Street, the Dingle Whiskey Bar is a cozy addition to the Porterhouse pub. It brings the blends of the Dingle Distillery from the west of Ireland to the heart of Dublin, offering a taste of the Irish blends that come from beyond the city. The ambiance is set by the reclaimed whiskey barrel oakwood that lines the walls, and their extensive menu serves up everything Irish whiskey.
L. Mulligan Grocer
|| 18 Stoneybatter, Arran Quay, Dublin 7
Located on Dublin’s north side in Stoneybatter, L. Mulligan Grocer are connoisseurs of Irish produce. Their bar specializes is serving up the best whiskeys and more, pairing them with delicious plates. They run regular tastings, both in the pub and in their city centre shop.
L. Mulligan Whiskey Shop
|| 13 Clarendon St, Dublin 2
Situated across the Liffey in the Powerscourt Centre, L. Mulligan Grocer’s eponymous Whiskey Shop touts whiskey and spirits from Ireland and beyond. Be sure to keep an eye on their event calendar.
Celtic Whiskey Shop
|| 27-28 Dawson St, Dublin 2
Just a hop across the city centre is another hub for whiskey collectors. The Celtic Whiskey Shop is the place to pick up a bottle or two. They also offer a variety of tastings, tours, and masterclasses!
It doesn’t matter if you drink yours neat or on the rocks. What only matters is that you remember to chug some water before your next tasting! In the words of Raymond Chandler (and the walls at Jameson), a good story cannot be devised, it has to be distilled. And you’re sure to distill a few of your own here in Dublin.
If you’re heading to Dublin (and plan on spending your budget on Irish spirits), check out the best free things to do in Dublin!
Where’s your favorite whiskey bar in Dublin?