The 4 Best Distillery Tours in Dublin To Learn About Irish Whiskey
The production of whiskey is an integral part of Irish cultural heritage, a tradition deeply rooted for centuries on the island that has brought Ireland worldwide acclaim. After a crisis that nearly wiped out a once-thriving industry, Irish whiskey is experiencing a revival, symbolized by the opening of several distilleries in the heart of Dublin—an invitation to all enthusiasts and the curious to immerse themselves in this captivating world.
What are the best distillery tours in Dublin? During my recent urban explorations, I had the opportunity to visit them all, each with its unique story to tell and distinct flavours to offer. In this article, let me introduce you to these distilleries that have reopened their doors in Dublin to celebrate and perpetuate the tradition of Irish whiskey. If you’re planning a visit to Dublin, don’t miss this chance to discover the secrets hiding behind this iconic elixir so deeply associated with Ireland.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, I earn a little money at no extra cost to you.
Best Online Resources to Plan your Visit to Dublin
- Getting There | I always fly to Dublin with Aer Lingus or Air France, two reliable airlines. If travelling from the UK or France, you can also sail to Dublin with Irish Ferries or Stena Line.
- Where to Stay | Check booking.com to find accommodation that suits your budget or read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor. Hostelworld is another great site if you have a small budget.
- Things to Do | Book Dublin top attractions and guided tours on GetYourGuide.
- Getting Around | I recommend AirCoach and Dublin Express to travel from Dublin Airport to the city centre. Transport for Ireland free app will help you navigate the city transport network if you ever need a bus.
- Planning | Lonely Planet Dublin is always the city guide I recommend buying. For an extensive and detailed list of things to see in Dublin and beyond, I recommend getting The Rough Guide to Ireland.
- Travel Insurance | If you need travel insurance, Heymondo has a nifty app to help you get the assistance you need while on the go.
- Further Reading | From Barley to Blarney : A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland is a great and beautiful introductory guide to all the distilleries in Ireland.
- The Whiskey Revival in Dublin | Some Historical Facts
- The Best Distillery Tours in Dublin
- The Jameson Distillery in Dublin: My Opinion
- Map of Dublin Distilleries to Visit
The Whiskey Revival in Dublin | Some Historical Facts
As I found the open gate, I took a quick peek behind the walls of NCAD on Thomas Street. I was told I might find an old copper pot still on the grounds of Dublin’s most influential Art College. Resting out in the open like a modern Art sculpture, I discovered the gleaming artefact, now a silent reminder that one of the greatest Dublin distilleries had stood here: the Powers distillery.
In the 19th century, Irish whiskey dominated the world, renowned for its uncompromised quality and great character. But all came crashing down in the early 20th century. Prohibition in the United States, Irish Independence in 1922, competition from Scotch whisky — coupled with the inability of Irish distillers to adapt – spelled the end of all whiskey distilleries in Dublin. One by one, they fell silent, the last of them closing in the 1970s.
Something remarkable has been happening these last few years though. The Liberties, a Dublin neighbourhood that was once the home of great whiskey names like Powers, Jameson and Roe, has reconnected with its past. Thanks to renewed interest in Irish whiskey, distilleries in Dublin are once again setting their roots in The Liberties and opening their doors to visitors.
The Best Distillery Tours in Dublin
Four whiskey distilleries offer behind-the-scene tours in Dublin, all easily accessible on foot from the city centre.
The Teeling Distillery – A 200-Year-Old Family Story
Teeling is the flagship among these new whiskey distilleries that have come back to Dublin. Symbolizing the brand’s resurgence, a phoenix spreading its wings is visible on the facade of the distillery built in the Liberties district just a few years ago.
Initiating the revival of Irish whiskey-making in Dublin, the Teeling Distillery has been the first distillery to be built in the Irish capital in 125 years. More than a birth, it is a comeback from oblivion for Teeling, hence the phoenix. Walter Teeling had established his distillery in the Golden Triangle, Dublin’s historic distilling district, in 1782 until it was bought out by William Jameson a century later.
Descendants of Walter Teeling are now back in town. Two brothers, Jack and Stephen Teeling, opened a brand-new distillery in 2015, just a few streets away from the site where the original Teeling distillery stood.
Once inside, a guided tour takes visitors through the fascinating history of the Teeling name. They are ushered into the belly of the beast, where the scent of barley immediately tickles the nostrils. The first part of the whiskey making process is revealed here, as visitors follow the barley from tanks to fermenters being transformed from grains to a thick mixture.
The surrounding temperature suddenly rises as you enter a second room with three massive copper pot stills, ‘’The Three Sisters’’, tenderly named after Jack Teeling’s daughters: Alison, Natalie and Rebecca. Inside their rounded bellies, the beer-like fermented mixture made from barley, water and yeast is heated until the alcohol vaporizes and condenses back into liquid.
The final clear distilled spirit would end up in old casks for a minimum of three years, giving its colour and taste. Teeling has been bold in that area, experimenting with rum, red wine, sherry, and port casks to name a few. The company’s work has since been recognized at the highest level, as its founders snatched the World’s Best Single Malt award at the 2019 World Whiskies Awards.
The Teeling distillery guided tour concludes with a tasting session of Teeling whiskey. As a complete novice, I did my best to keep a straight and delighted-to-be-here face as the whiskey was slowly burning the back of the throat. The complimentary cocktail that followed was (much!) better received. Since its opening, the Teeling tour has established itself as one of Dublin’s must-visit attractions for first-timers.
Why visit: Experience all the steps of traditional whiskey production up close in state-of-the-art, renowned facilities, right in the heart of Dublin.
The Teeling Distillery // 13-17 Newmarket, Dublin 8 // Book your tour here.
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The Pearse Lyons Distillery – The American Influence
I am not a religious person, but on a sunny winter morning, I found myself going to church. Mind you, it’s not just any church. This one is very special.
Dating back to the late 12th century, the church of St. James in the Liberties district once served as a gathering point for Irish pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. However, the last decades saw St. James left uncared-for, its steeple damaged by lightning and its ancient graveyard overgrown.
Until Dr. Lyons and his wife came along. A former brewer and distiller with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, Dr. Lyons had settled in the United States, where he founded the multinational Alltech. Returning to Ireland with the dream of creating his own brewery, he bought the now deconsecrated church of St. James. The 4-year-long, painstaking renovation of the church, a listed building, paid off, and in 2017, the new brewery finally opened its doors.
Finding myself at the gate of the Pearse Lyons Distillery on James’s Street, I was stupefied by the newly renovated church. Looking up, you can see the blue sky through its unique glass steeple. At its foot, the old graveyard is now freed from wild grasses. During the renovation work, Dr Lyons discoverd nine relatives buried there, including his own grandfather, creating an emotional and intimate connection to the place.
Inside the church, two copper stills take centre stage, reflecting the subdued light from colourful stained-glass windows illustrating the history of whiskey-making. The stills, brought from Kentucky, have an unusual shape. The one called “Mighty Mollie” has something resembling a ball in her throat while her companion, “Little Lizzie”, has rectification plates in her neck, a common design in the United States.
The double-distilled single malt is later aged in bourbon casks imported from a sister distillery in Kentucky; their mission: to produce an Irish whiskey “with a Kentucky flair”.
The guided tour of the smallest whiskey distillery in Dublin concludes with a tasting of the spirit made in this temple to Irish whiskey, an off-the-beaten-path visit in Dublin not to be missed. I got to taste three samples of Pearse Lyons whiskey and was delighted to learn that they paired well with chocolate! A gin produced by the Pearse Lyons Distillery was also on the menu and I fell right down for it. Spiritual redemption could wait a bit longer. Sláinte!
Why visit: Establishing a distillery in a listed location is so bold that it needs to be seen. The beautifully renovated church, now home to copper stills, offers a unique tour not to be missed.
The Pearse Lyons Distillery // 121-122 James’s Street, Dublin 8 // Book your tour here.
Roe & Co Distillery – The Rebirth of a Great Name
As I walked down Thomas Street, a bustling thoroughfare in the Liberties, I stopped by a 30 meter-high former windmill clad with a faded green copper dome. The Saint Patrick’s Tower, as it was called, was sticking out conspicuously from the urban landscape of old brick apartment blocks, shops and offices typical for this part of the city.
The tower is the only remaining vestige of the former Roe distillery, a name that once dominated the Liberties, rivalling two other major whiskey producers: Jameson and Powers. The wealth of the Roe family was such that in the 1870s, Henri Roe donated £230 000 (€35 millions today!) to renovate and save Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. But what was once the biggest whiskey producer in Ireland in the 1880s didn’t survive the downturn that hit the industry in the early 20th century, and closed in 1923.
In 2019 the Roe name resurfaced. In the former Guinness power station, on the very street where the Roe distillery once stood, a new, state-of-the-art Roe & Co Distillery opened in Dublin, thanks to the financial support of Guinness owner Diageo.
The guided tour begins in the distillery’s swanky shop with shelves filled with golden-brown whiskey bottles and inviting, chic green sofas, a clear reference to St Patrick’s copper dome. After a quick history lesson on the foundation of the Roe distillery, the guide leads the visitors onto a walkway overlooking the entire facility.
Like Russian dolls, three copper stills sit in line, from big to small, their onion-like bellies reflecting the natural light streaming through massive industrial windows. Meanwhile, technicians and engineers are busy looking after the machinery and wooden fermentation tanks, making sure the magic happens.
The whiskey tasting takes place in Room 106, named after the 106th and final version of Roe whiskey that master blender Caroline Martin created for the brand. The group examines the different colours and textures before trying their noses and taste buds to each whiskey sample placed in front of each person.
The new Roe whiskey is designed to perfectly complement cocktails. A cocktail enthusiast myself, I was delighted to be introduced to the secrets of cocktail making. Apron on, the visitors are invited to take their place in a room reminiscent of a high school science lab — but much more stylish.
Following the guide’s clear instructions, in an atmosphere filled with both great excitement and slight worries, participants work to create their own cocktails from a series of ingredients lined up in front of them. We poured, we mixed, we tasted. Happily, I got mine right! If you’re spending a few days in Dublin with friends, the cocktail workshop is a fun group activity to do.
The tour ends in the distillery’s sleek bar bathed in a warm golden light. A complimentary drink is offered. Of course, I couldn’t resist the delicious cocktail of the day, edging closer to jolly drunkenness with every sip I took.
Why visit: Roe & Co’s whiskey tour, more playful and participative, stands out by placing greater emphasis on its cocktail creation workshops in its “lab”.
Roe & Co Distillery // 92 James’s Street, Dublin 8 // Book your tour here.
The Dublin Liberties Distillery – A Name in the Making
I stumbled upon this distillery by chance while researching for this article. It didn’t make headlines for being the first distillery to open in Dublin in a century; it didn’t boast any modern architectural features, nor had it a famous name attached.
I found the Dublin Liberties Distillery down one of the Liberties’s old alleyways, quietly sitting on Mill Street in the shadow of the Teeling Distillery next door. Opened in early 2019, it hides behind the brick facade of a tastefully renovated 300-year-old building which used to be, among other things, a tannery.
Eager to set themselves apart from the other Dublin distilleries, the Dublin Liberties Distillery secured its own natural spring water source, a key ingredient in the whiskey-making process. Under the direction of Darryl McNally, a master distiller with almost 20 years of experience at the revered Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland, the new distillery is not playing around.
The distillery tour starts in a room filled with steel tanks, where the familiar aroma of barley immediately rushes up the visitors’ nose. Inside the tanks, the grain soaks in warm water, releasing its sugars. Mixed with yeast, the sugars are then transformed into alcohol inside fermenters.
Next door, the air seems to fill with alcohol and high ambient temperature makes the atmosphere somewhat. Yet, one cannot take their eyes off the three magnificent copper pot stills gleaming like golden Buddhas in their temple. Inside each of them, alcohol is slowly separated from water and purified.
The tour ends under old beams, seated at a long wooden table, to taste the distillery’s products. With each new visit, I found myself more and more seduced by the charms of Irish whiskey. This time, I easily sided with the smoother taste of the Dubliner aged in bourbon casks, while the spicy taste of the Oak Devil set my throat on fire.
Why visit: Like Teeling, the distillery tour reveals all the stages of whiskey production. Less known, it offers a more intimate tour, set in the beautiful backdrop of a renovated old tannery.
The Dublin Liberties Distillery // 33 Mill Street, Dublin 8 // Book your tour here.
The Jameson Distillery in Dublin: My Opinion
Is the Jameson Distillery in Dublin worth a visit? I’ve been to Jameson twice. The first time was about fifteen years ago, and the second time was more recently. In my humble opinion, Jameson is now nothing more than a distillery in name.
The Jameson brand hasn’t been producing any whiskey on its Dublin site for several years, but one might have hoped to see the old facilities during the tour. So, I warn you: you won’t see anything of the tanks and other copper stills.
With its well-designed light and sound effects, the tour is entertaining. You learn about the distillery’s history and the whiskey-making process, but everything remains very artificial with a far too evident marketing objective. Authenticity has given way to an overly demonstrative sales pitch.
If you want to discover the “real” Jameson distillery, you should head to the Midleton Distillery in Cork. That’s where everything happens and where you will discover the massive stills and taste Jameson whiskies. My advice: skip the Jameson distillery in Dublin; there’s (almost) nothing to see.
Map of Dublin Distilleries to Visit
If you prefer tasting your whiskey in pubs instead, whiskey tasting tours are also available in Dublin. Check out these options:
Adding a distillery tour to your bucket list while in Dublin is a great way to learn while having fun in the Irish capital. It will surely become a highlight of your trip on the east coast of Ireland. Whiskey making is an important part of Irish history, and it is fascinating to see how this tradition has been revived this last decade, bringing life back to one of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhoods, the Liberties.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, I earn a little money at no extra cost to you.