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Sláinte: Your Guide to Irish Whiskey

Posted on 14 Mar 2024

We know what you’re thinking. Ireland is synonymous with Guinness. And you’re not wrong. The dark, caramalised, and creamy beer is an iconic drink for beer-enthusiasts everywhere. When travelling in Ireland, being the first in your group to sample a pint is a great way to prove your boldness... for some are a bit intimidated by this traditional Irish stout beer.  

And with St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, it goes without saying that many a pint of Guinness will be consumed on the 17th of March 2024, as it is every year on St. Paddy’s Day. 

But if the frothy goodness of beer isn’t your thing, you might instead feel inclined to try a bit of whiskey.  

What is the difference between Irish Whiskey and Scottish Whisky?  

Ah, whiskey. Love it or hate it – it's an important part of countries like Ireland and Scotland. Something to note straight off the bat is that in Ireland, it’s spelt with an additional E. Whisky/whiskey is derived from the Gaelic for ‘the water of life’... and that is certainly how it’s seen over in this part of the world. 

There are many different types of whiskey throughout the world... so what makes Irish whiskey?  

In Scotland, we say ‘och, go on... have a wee dram of whisky’. And in Ireland? We’ve seen and heard several things in our days... from ‘a ball of malt’ to ‘a small one’. But the big difference lies in the process – how it’s made. Irish whiskey is typically made from unmalted barely and other grains, which is then distilled three times. The result? A smoother and lighter flavour. And since peat is rarely used in the malting process, this means Irish whiskey isn’t as smokey as its Scottish neighbour. 

Top Distilleries to Visit in Northern Ireland 

If you’re heading to Northern Ireland, you probably have several things already on your list. Visit the bracing Giant’s Causeway. Journey along the Causeway Coastal Route. Lose yourself in the passionate city of Belfast. Hunt down all those famous Game of Thrones locations.  

That sounds like a lot. Fun, yes – but tiring! The best way to break up any Irish journey is by stopping in for a ‘ball of malt’ whenever possible. So, which are the best distilleries in Northern Ireland? That’s of course subjective. But here are a few you don’t want to pass by without popping in for a taste... 

Old Bushmills Distillery

Located in the stunning natural landscape that is County Antrim, Old Bushmills Distillery is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest attractions. Being one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the world, dating back to 1608, you know the product must be well honed by now. This whiskey’s smooth and balanced flavours are filled with sweetness, including honey, vanilla, caramel, apple, and pear. 

Half the fun in visiting a place is in the learning, so we’ll leave most of the discovery for when you visit Bushmills. But, just to get you started, here are a few things it’s known for: its process of triple distillation, its royal license granted by King James I back in 1608, and for operating its own steamship (the “SS Bushmills”) to transport barrels of whiskey back in the 20th century. 


A post shared by Camille D. (@mishka1988)

Hinch Distillery 

Talking about one of the oldest distilleries, let’s now talk about a relatively new addition to the Northern Irish whiskey scene. But don't let its baby face fool you. Hinch Distillery was founded in 2019 by Dr Terry Cross OBE and Hinch became known for its devotion to producing premium Irish Whiskey. 

Going beyond the incredible quality of the product, a visit to Hinch Distillery is a great way to spend a few hours. Informative and hands-on, you'll get snuck into the Ingredients Room, the House House, Still House, Spectrum Room and then finish off with a bespoke tasting... sounds idyllic, no? 

There are plenty of distilleries to choose from in Northern Ireland. Maybe you’ll swing by Echlinville Distillery, Rademon Estate Distillery (Home of Shortcross Gin), or Boatyard Distillery (for some more delicious gin). Why not all of them? You’re on holiday, after all. 

Top Distilleries to Visit in Ireland 

Let’s travel south and head into Ireland now, home of some of the world’s favourite Irish whiskey. But Ireland is a popular place for many reasons. People are drawn to the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the world’s longest coastal driving routes. Along the way, they’ll likely visit a range of ancient sites and incredible landscapes, like the gob smacking Cliffs of Moher.  

And as for those distilleries? Let us guide you to some of the best. 


A post shared by Yas (@yasinthesky)

Midleton (Jameson) Distillery

You may have heard of these guys. Not surprising, since they’re the largest whiskey distillery in Ireland that have been operating since about 1825. Previously known as Jameson Distillery, they now go by the name Midleton – so make a note for when you visit! They’re known for their commitment to traditional whiskey-making techniques, such as the use of pot stills and triple distillation. And people come far and wide to grab themselves a bottle (or two) of Jameson, Redbreast, Powers, or Green Spot. 

One of their claims to fame is being home of the largest pot still in the world. The “Midas Still” has an impressive capacity of 143,872 liters. The distillery is also famous for its collection of rare and old whiskeys, which are housed on-site in their “Whisky Academy” and gives a glimpse into the history of Irish whiskey production. 

Connemara Distillery 

If you like a peaty whiskey, don’t miss out on Connemara Distillery. Located in County Galway, Connemara Distillery is part of the Cooley Distillery. Back in 1987 when Cooley was established, it was the first new whiskey distillery in Ireland in over 100 years. You can imagine the excitement. Cooley was interested in reviving traditional Irish whiskey styles, so Connemara was born. And its notable peated characteristics is a style that had all but disappeared from Irish whiskey until its revival by Cooley.  

It’s smooth, it’s complex, it’s peaty... need we say more?  

Kilbeggan Distillery

Located in the heart of Ireland is the lovely County Westmeath. And within this wondrous county is one of Ireland’s favourite whiskey distilleries, Kilbeggan Distillery. Kilbeggan is one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Ireland, dating back to 1757, and is home to the oldest working pot still in the world which hasn’t stopped running since the 1800s. Poor thing needs a holiday! Then again, we get incredible whiskey out of it so... disregard. 

Kilbeggan is quite close with our old friend Cooley Distillery (mentioned above), and were acquired by them in the late 20th century. Their revitalization efforts centred on preserving Kilbeggan’s historical charm while enhancing the production techniques. 

One thing we love about Kilbeggan is its functioning waterwheel, powered by the River Brosna, which makes for a charming photo when you visit.  

We’ll stop there but that doesn’t mean you have to. There’s Tullamore, Teeling, Pearse Lyons, and Dingle Distillery... and so many more for you to experience.

Time to find out which Irish whiskey is your favourite? 

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