Whiskey (“uisce beatha” -> gaelic for “water of life”) has a very long tradition and history in Ireland including peak times, downfalls and resurrection. The way how to make Whiskey has changed over the years and also the landscape of distilleries all around Ireland.
In this post you will find out more about the history and how to make Whiskey as well as some Whiskey types you can find now. Moreover, with special focus on Dublin, we present you some Distilleries that are based in Dublin and Museum or Shops that you can visit to complete your Irish Whiskey experience in Dublin.
Let´s keep this short and simple. Ireland was once the most popular producer of Whiskey in the world with over 1200 legal Distilleries (the number of illegal ones was much higher) in the 18th Century. The oldest licensed distillery in the world is the Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland and the license is from 1608, although the company was established in 1784.
In the late 19th and 20th Century there was a period of decline, due to different factors like wars, sanctions and technological development. For example the Scottish invented a new method to produce Whiskey, the coffey still, which was faster and cheaper than the Irish one, the pot still. The Irish sticked to their old method and Scotland overtook Ireland as a market leader rapidly.
In the 1980´s there were just 3 distilleries left in Ireland, but right now the sector is expanding rapidly again. There are 16 distilleries operating now and 14 are planned. You can also find some illegal ones nowadays that produce Whiskey with up to 90% alcoholic content. It’s the fastest growing alcoholic market of the whole world since the 1990´s for every year with rates of growth up to 20%, so Ireland is really catching up again.
How to make Whiskey
It takes 6 steps to make an original Irish Whiskey:
- Ingredients: Barley, Water and yeast. Yes, you only need these ingredients and time.
- Malting: The barley gets soaked for 3 days in water and is then dried. If it’s roasted afterwards you speak off malted barley, but there are also whiskeys with unmalted barley.
- Mashing: The barley gets heated and mixed with warm water and the extraction of the sugar of the barley starts. This takes several hours and the mixture is called mash.
- Fermentation: Now the yeast is added to the sugar solution and the barley grains get extracted. The sugar converts into alcohol now and this takes around 48 hours, but can vary for each Whiskey.
- Distillation: The solution is distilled 3 times mostly. It gets heated first and it vaporizes and becoming to steam. Then is condenses and is collected in another so called pot.
- Maturation: Afterwards it gets stored in oak barrels for at least 3 years. The solution ages and after 3 years you can call it Whiskey. It generates flavours from the barrel and reduces by 2% per year during this time.
- Single Malt Whiskey: It contains malted barley and it can be double or triple distilled.
- Single Pot Still Whiskey: This contains a mixture of malted and unmalted barley and can also be distilled multiple times.
- Grain Whiskey: It can contain a variety of grains and not just barley. It´s also made in a column or coffey still and not in the traditional pot still.
- Blended Whiskey: This is a mixture of the types above and is the most common style at the time.
Famous Irish Whiskeys are: Bushmills, Jameson, Powers, Tullamore Dew and Telling. They have to be made completely in Ireland and must been fermented with yeast. Furthermore their minimum alcohol content has to be 40%.
Distilleries in Dublin
In the past there were a lot of distilleries in Dublin, at least 37, but they have closed during the time of decline. Today there only are the Teeling Distillery and the Pearse Lyons Distillery.
The Teeling Distillery opened in 2015 and was the first new distillery in Dublin for over 125 years. It was opened by Jack and Stephen Teeling, close to the area where the original Teeling Distillery from 1782 was.
The Pearse Lyons Distillery is in the converted St. James Church and was founded by Pearse and Deirdre Lyons. It´s now the second current distillery in Dublin and there are more in planning.
The probably most famous distillery is the Old Jameson Distillery in Bow street, but they aren’t making Whiskey there anymore. They moved in 1970 and now it´s a visitor centre….
As already said, you can visit the Old Jameson Distillery, but you can also take a look in the Telling or Pearse Lyons Distillery. You can get tickets from 15€ and the tours also contain a Whiskey tasting afterwards.
The Dingle Whiskey Bar is the place to be for Whiskey lovers. You will have a huge selection of qualitative Whiskeys and the staff will help you to find the right for you. If you want to buy a whole bottle I recommend the Celtic Whiskey Shop right next to St. Stephens Green to you. They have a huge selection of small or big bottles, from comparatively cheap Whiskeys to expensive ones.
You can also visit the Whiskey Museum close to Trinity College to learn everything about the history, the production and the types of Whiskey. Tickets start again from 15€ and you can taste some different Whiskeys after the tour.
I hope you have learned something about Irish Whiskey and won´t be afraid to try some during your stay in Dublin. It really worths it!!