The Best Irish Whiskey Trails

Our shortlist of the best Whiskey distilleries in Ireland to visit from north to south on the Emerald Isle. Plus recommended bottles to explore from home.

If a trip to Ireland is on your radar (and we very much think it should be), you’ll need this shortlist of the best distilleries to visit from north to south on the Emerald Isle. Each stop offers a sampling of the country’s rich history, rolling green scenery, and most importantly, golden, gulp-worthy whiskey—or as the Irish say, “a ball o’ malt.”

If your passport needs a rest, we’ve got you covered. Try a flight of the fresh, fragrant selections we’ve culled from each distillery.

Old Bushmills Distillery

Located at the tip of Northern Ireland, Old Bushmills is the oldest of the Irish distilleries. It traces its lineage to 1608, although the distillery was officially registered in 1784. Now owned by Diageo, Bushmills produces complex, fruity single malts and blends, including the rich, flavorful Black Bush. Pick up a bottle of the Distillery Reserve 12-year-old Single Malt Whiskey, available only at the Bushmills gift shop.

Sip It: Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey; $30/1 liter, 96 points
This rich, flavorful blend was finished oloroso Sherry casks, and their influence shows in luscious baked apple, dried apricot and butterscotch tones. One of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 50 Spirits for 2014.

Old Bushmills Distillery, 2 Distillery Road, County Antrim
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Old Jameson Distillery

Located within Dublin’s city limits, this is purely a museum—no whiskey is made here. Still, it’s a top tourist attraction for good reason. It’s located on the original site of John Jameson’s Bow Street distillery that was founded in 1780. It was Ireland’s most famous distillery for nearly 200 years, until its closure in 1971.

Sip It: Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel; $35, 94 points
Like a boozy apple pie, this blended whiskey offers bold, rich aromatics, with lots of dried and stewed fruit flavors and butterscotch.

Old Jameson Distillery, Bow Street, Smithfield Village
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Kilbeggan Distillery

About an hour west of Dublin, this historic distillery was built in 1757 and shuttered in 1957. However, the Kilbeggan distillery resumed production in 2007, and it produces up to 250,000 bottles of smooth, blended whiskey per year.

Sip It: Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey; $24, 92 points
Light and fresh, this golden beauty shows notes of mild honey, vanilla and almond, and features a moderately spicy finish.

Kilbeggan Distillery Experience, Lower Main St, Kilbeggan, County Westmeath
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Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre

Tullamore’s distillery is 10–15 minutes south of Kilbeggan, so it’s possible to visit both in a day. Operations transitioned to a shiny new space in September. Don’t come expecting a rustic experience. This is a slick space set up for tourists and event organizers. It’s worth a look, as well as a taste of woodsy, citrusy Tullamore.

Sip It: Tullamore Dew 10 Year Old Single Malt; $35, 90 points
Single malts aren’t only for Scotch. This Irish singleton is light and downright juicy, bursting with apple and baking spice.

Tullamore D.E.W. Visitor Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore, County Offaly.
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Jameson Experience, Midleton

Venture south to County Cork. Here, this powerhouse owned by Pernod-Ricard produces several beloved brands, including Jameson, Powers, Midleton and Redbreast. Visit the old distillery, where some buildings date back to 1795, and stroll among the old kilns, mills and warehouses.

Sip It: Redbreast 12 Cask Strength; $65, 90 points
At 57.7% abv, this cask-strength whiskey is not for straight-up sipping. It shines as a base for mixed drinks, as its malty apple and faintly smoky flavors stand up to significant dilution.

Jameson Experience, Old Distillery Walk, Midleton, Co. Cork
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Published on March 11, 2015
Topics: Ireland, Travel, Whiskey (Irish)

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