Savour Every Drop in Ireland's Ancient East

Whiskey has been part of Irish culture since the 1100s when monks started distilling it from local ingredients. Following a sharp fall-off in production in the 20th century, a recent resurgence has resulted in approximately 30 distilleries on the island of Ireland today (and counting, as the number is rising rapidly)...

To gain a better understanding of the history, making methods and types of this fiery golden elixir, there’s nothing like a tour of one of the many producers dotted about Ireland’s Ancient East. We look at distillery destinations where you can appreciate their fine tipples firsthand.

Enjoying a drop of Slane Whiskey
A group touring the Ballykeefe Distillery
Left: Enjoying a drop of Slane Whiskey | Right: A group touring the Ballykeefe Distillery

Say ‘sláinte’  in Slane

Known for its turreted castle and legendary live concerts, Slane in Meath is now also a spot for sampling some fine amber nectar. The 250-year-old stable block on the Slane Castle estate has a new purpose as the home of Slane Distillery. Take a tour to learn not only about the whiskey, but also the history of the family and the local area. It is possible to combine a tour of the distillery with a tour of the Castle itself, making the most of a visit to the Boyne Valley. You can also enjoy your Slane Whiskey alongside some delicious food at Bellinter House Hotel in nearby Navan.


Feel regal at the Royal Oak

At the edge of Bagenalstown, County Carlow, set in the grounds of a stately home (circa 1755), you will find one of Ireland's most unique distilleries: Royal Oak. Hand-crafted whiskey is the order of the day, with three types — pot still, malt and single grain — all created in the same still room. Enjoy a stroll around the grounds and check out the ongoing renovation of the estate’s centerpiece, Holloden House, before or after your fully guided, multi-sensory tour. While you’re in the area, just up the road in Leighlinbridge you can pop into The Lord Bagenal Inn for a casual bite at the bar or a meal in the restaurant.


Go back to basics at Ballykeefe

One of the only distilleries to be based on the farm where they grow their own ingredients, Ballykeefe Distillery near the Medieval City of Kilkenny is a treat for those who enjoy eco-friendly spirits. They not only also produce whiskey, but also vodka, gin and a cheeky little poitín too! Seeing as you’re in the neighbourhood, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the Marble City’s many drinking and dining options: first stop, the Dylan Whisky Bar for ‘Kilkenny’s best Irish coffee’.

A still at the Jameson Distillery
A glass of Powerscourt's Fercullen Whiskey
Left: A still at the Jameson Distillery | Right: A glass of Powerscourt's Fercullen Whiskey

Make a pilgrimage to Midleton 

Travel the world and mention Irish whiskey and the first name you will hear is Jameson. Originally founded in Dublin over 200 years ago by John Jameson, the factory moved to Midleton in Cork in 1975 as demand and production grew. Here you can go behind the scenes and visit the working distillery as you learn all about Jameson’s beginnings, history, and the latest developments. With a full range of whiskeys to choose from and the recent addition of the Caskmates IPA-flavoured whiskey, there is sure to be a tipple that tickles your tastebuds. You don’t have to venture far for further treats: make the most of your day by visiting the on-site Malthouse Restaurant.

Pick up some presents in Powerscourt

Tour the Powerscourt Distillery at the beautiful Powerscourt Estate in Wicklow and enjoy tastings of their Fercullen whiskey range. With different tours available — including one pairing food with the whiskeys, a folklore and food tour, and a “Meet the Master” tour affording you the opportunity to quiz Master Distiller Noel Sweeney — there are plenty of ways to learn about this award-winning dram. The restored old Mill House is one of the oldest buildings on the estate, and a great way to end a day wandering in the famous Powerscourt House Gardens. And don’t forget to buy a few bottles at the gift shop to remember the day by.

Be sure to book tours in advance to avoid disappointment (and it goes without saying but do enjoy responsibly wherever you choose to visit). With more distilleries opening their doors to the public, adding engaging visitor centres and creating immersive tasting experiences, now is the time to drink in the many delights of Ireland’s Ancient East.

Learn more about local producers

And that’s only a few of the ways to enjoy the "Water of Life" (Uisce Beatha) and so much more in Ireland's Ancient East!

For more tasty regional attractions and activities
 check out the See & Do section