The topic of the best whiskey distilleries in Ireland tends to cause a fair bit of debate online.
Now, while there’s nothing wrong with ordering a great Irish whiskey at a bar or pouring one for yourself at home, a tour of a working distillery is a far more immersive experience.
Those that head off on an Ireland whiskey tour can learn how the famous old drink is made and hear a few tales of craftsmanship and local history along the way.
The best whiskey distilleries in Ireland (that you can visit)
From the 400-year-old Bushmills on the far north coast down to the rugged Atlantic beauty of Clonakilty in County Cork, here are 17 of the best whiskey distilleries in Ireland that you can visit in 2020.
1. Pearse Lyons Distillery
A distillery in a church? Yes, you read that correctly. Founded by the late Pearse Lyons in the Liberties district of Dublin, his boutique distillery is a unique spot to learn about the brewing and distilling processes.
Set inside the impressively restored St James’ Church on James St, there are four separate tours to choose from (including a VIP tour lead by the head distiller) so you’ll have plenty of ways to discover the secret behind Lyons’ style.
2. Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery
Created in 1829 and later prospering under general manager Daniel E Williams (hence D.E.W. in the name), Tullamore D.E.W is the second largest selling brand of Irish whiskey globally.
Only an hour from Dublin, its picturesque riverside location in Tullamore and the elegant exterior make it a great choice for visitors to the capital looking to get out of the city for a day.
Take a tour and hear about the characters behind this famous old brand and get an insight into the art of Irish whiskey-making.
3. Teeling Whiskey Distillery
The first new distillery in Dublin for 125 years, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery is only a stone’s throw from where the original family distillery stood.
Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle, Dublin’s historic distilling district, Teeling opened in 2015 and is part of the area’s vibrant whiskey revival.
Book a tour and learn about Walter Teeling’s original craft distillery on Marrowbone Lane where he was pouring drams of his finest for locals back in 1782.
Thankfully, this promises to be a far more comfortable experience than industrial 18th century Dublin.
4. Roe & Co Distillery
The Dublin whiskey revival is coming thick and fast and Roe & Co Distillery is latest on the block.
Named after legendary 19th-century whiskey pioneer George Roe, Roe & Co opened their doors in 2019 at the iconic and imposing Guinness Power House.
Take a tour to hear more about the story of George Roe, the golden era of Irish whiskey and why his famous distillery closed in 1926. There’s even a cocktail bar if whiskey isn’t your thing (though it very much should be).
5. Jameson Distillery Bow St.
Ireland’s most famous whiskey also happens to be the proud owner of the world’s most-visited whiskey tour.
Opened way back in 1780 by John Jameson, the distillery on Bow St in Smithfield has been a staple of Dublin life for over two centuries.
And while Jameson moved the bulk of their operations down to County Cork in 1975, tourists still flock to this old place.
Tours include whiskey tasting (of course), a bit of storytelling and a complimentary drink at JJ’s Bar.
6. Jameson Distillery Midleton
Complete the Jameson whiskey story by heading down to Midleton in County Cork for a truly vivid window into Jameson’s processes and secrets.
Now almost 50 years since the big move from Dublin, the proximity to freshwater, barley farmers and the extra space gave the company ample room to expand the business.
Less than 30 minutes from Cork, the Midleton distillery is a great spot to spend a day out of the city.
Take a deep dive into this Irish icon with their Behind the Scenes tour, a two-hour extended tour where you’ll come out the other side knowing everything worth knowing about Jameson.
7. Slane Irish Whiskey Distillery
Often associated with epic gigs and huge crowds, Slane’s whiskey is big on taste too (although an enormous concert probably isn’t the best place to appreciate all its notes and nuances).
The Boyne Valley’s clear water and lush soil provides a fine base for Slane’s triple casked whiskey.
Only a 50-minute drive from Dublin, the immersive distillery tour is an hour long and takes place in the 250-year-old stables of Slane Castle. There’s also an option to combine your distillery tour with the famous old castle itself.
Traveller tip: I know several people that visited this place last year. By all accounts, this is one of the best whiskey distilleries in Ireland that’s still slightly off people’s radar – get here sharpish!
8. Kilbeggan Distilling Co.
Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath has had a turbulent time of it over the years but the people of Kilbeggan made sure the old place never faded away.
Established in 1757, it claims to be Ireland’s oldest licenced distillery and after battling through a painful closure in 1953, it was revived by locals 30 years later who’ve kept it going ever since.
Take a tour to hear the inspiring story of Kilbeggan’s perseverance and enjoy a drop of their best too.
9. Sliabh Liag Distillers
Out on the rugged Atlantic coast of south Donegal is where you’ll find Sliabh Liag Distillers.
The first distilling company in this part of the world for 175 years, they pride themselves on being embedded into the community and having a distillery located in a beautiful yet savage coastal landscape.
Only the gin distillery is available for a tour currently (although you wouldn’t say no to that) however the Ardara whiskey distillery should be operational at some point in late 2020.
10. Powerscourt Distillery
Hovering at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains, Powerscourt Distillery is conveniently located in a scenic spot that’s only a short drive south of Dublin.
Set in The Old Mill House, this distinctive distillery was many years ago at the heart of the local farming community. Tours are available from Friday to Sunday.
There’s also a golf course next door if you fancy a round but you’ll probably need a serious handicap should you take the whiskey tour beforehand.
11. The Dublin Liberties Distillery
Back in Dublin, there’s the Dublin Liberties Distillery, set, naturally, in the district from which it takes its name.
A modern, state-of-the-art distillery on Mill St, the visitor experience is immersive and contains a cocktail bar if you want to stick around afterwards.
You’ll hear all the stories about the Liberties district, stretching back hundreds of years to when it was outside of the official Dublin city limits (and thus its laws and taxes). Expect tales of trade, conflict and debauchery.
Related read: Check out our guide to six of the best whiskey tours Dublin has to offer (includes the Irish Whiskey Museum).
12. The Old Bushmills Distillery (the oldest of the many whiskey distilleries in Ireland)
On the wild north coast of Ireland, the Bushmills Distillery has stood proud for over 400 years, making it one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in Ireland. Established in 1608, it claims to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
With water sourced from the River Bush and named after the mills that made the Barley, Bushmills is an Irish whiskey icon.
And if unusual rock formations are your thing, then check out the remarkable Giants Causeway too as it’s only a stone’s throw from the distillery.
13. Waterford Distillery
Distilling since 2015, Waterford Distillery’s state-of-the-art facility on the banks of the river Suir is an imposing sight. Some of Ireland’s finest single malts are created inside, however, and visits are by appointment only.
Owner Mark Reynier was once told that the best barley in the world came from Waterford. If you want to find out if that’s true, then you’ll have to make the trip down to Ireland’s sunny south-eastern coast.
14. Royal Oak Distillery
Don’t ever let it be said that distilleries can’t multitask. County Carlow’s Royal Oak Distillery is the first to distil all three styles of Irish whiskey – pot still, malt and grain – under one roof.
It’s also the largest manual distillery in Ireland so there’s plenty of room here to appreciate the many strings to Royal Oak’s bow.
There are three tour options including the special Connoisseurs Choice tour with three tastings of select limited-edition whiskies.
15. Clonakilty Distillery
Down on the bright south Cork coast lies Clonakilty Distillery. Single pot still whiskey is Clonakilty’s game and they do it well, so take a tour of their windswept distillery and see how it all works.
They also have an elegant cask room where your guide will explain how different woods change the character of the whiskey as it matures.
And if the science makes little sense, then just sit back and enjoy the many flavours of this spot’s unique whiskey.
16. Dingle Distillery (one of the most popular whiskey distilleries in Ireland)
The Dingle Peninsula out in west Kerry has long been one of Ireland’s supreme beauty spots so it’s no surprise that the town of Dingle has its fair share of pubs and bars.
And since 2012, the Dingle Whiskey Distillery has been distilling some excellent single pot still whiskey for those who can’t handle any more pints.
Take a trip on the Dingle Whiskey Experience tour to get the inside story on how this independent family-owned business got started.
Traveller tip: The Dingle Distillery is one of the most popular whiskey distilleries in Ireland – make sure that you book a ticket in advance!
17. The Ballykeefe Distillery
While the Ballykeefe Distillery has only been in operation since 2017, it’s situated on land that has a distilling heritage going back hundreds of years.
So much so that, with records of distilling going back to 1324, it’s claimed that this area of county Kilkenny is the birthplace of Irish whiskey.
Hear more about the medieval origins of Irish whiskey on The Ballykeefe Experience where they’ll also explain the family farm traditions and about their commitment to sustainability.
Have you been on a whiskey tour in Ireland that we’ve missed?
There are heaps of different whiskey distilleries in Ireland that you can drop into for a tour and a drink.
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally missed some in the guide above. If you’ve been on a whiskey tour in Ireland recently that you’d recommend, let me know in the comments below.