‘Drink up!’: A complete guide to Ireland’s native whiskey

July 11, 2019
Ireland whiskey

As an Irish–American Catholic growing up in Philadelphia, I was informed at an early age that Jameson was the Irish whiskey Catholics drank, and that I dare not drink Bushmills, the devil water of Protestants.

Fortunately for me, I followed that rule about as closely as I followed actual religious dogma—which is to say, not at all. If you ever catch me in any house of worship, I’ll be the one in the coffin. If you want further proof of my heresy, here it is: Black Bushmills is not only the best off-the-shelf Irish whiskey, it’s the best from anywhere. (It’s fun to think that if I’d said any of this 400 years ago, I’d have been burned alive!) Other Irish whiskeys are very fine as well, so there’s no need to get all sectarian about it—and if you happen to be at Portrush for the Open, or in Ireland any time at all, the whiskey distilleries are semi-conveniently clustered so you can knock off a few at a time, and the ones listed here all offer tours and tastings.

Here’s a map, which you don’t need because we live in the 21st century, but we’re always looking out for the Luddites among us.

County Antrim
Why not start with the best? It’s less than six miles from Portrush to the Bushmills distillery. There are so many types of Bushmills now, it’s hard to keep track of them—but they’re all tasty! The name of the whiskey is also the name of the town, or maybe it’s the other way around.

Three Crowns
Newtownards, County Down
Head southish about 70 miles and you’ll find this fairly new distillery where they make Dunville’s Three Crowns whiskey. In one pub or another in Ireland, someone is always singing about some girl from County Down, and you might have heard a thing or two about the local golf course.

Jameson, Powers
The intro to this page wasn’t a dis of Jameson. And like Bushmills, there are countless varieties. Also, don’t sleep on Powers—it’s easily the most underrated of Irish whiskies. While you’re in town, visit the Guinness Brewery—the view of the city is swell. Beer’s pretty good, too.

County Westmeath
About an hour’s drive west of Dublin will land you in Kilbeggan, a small town where they make whiskey with a big reputation. Pull up a stool at Larrigy’s or McNamara’s pub.

County Offaly
When you leave Kilbeggan heading south, you’ll barely be in the car long enough to listen to “American Pie” from start to finish when you come upon this holy site of whiskey. Fans call this stuff Tullamore Dew, but it’s actually D.E.W.—for founder Daniel E. Williams. But a whiskey called “dew” sounds about perfect, so keep calling it that.

Paddy, Redbreast Midleton
Midleton, County Cork
From Tullamore it’s another two hours or so south-by-south – west to Midleton, where they have whiskey coming out of their ears. Paddy is one of the old-school whiskies, and a fine one ’tis. Redbreast is a bit fancier.

County Kerry
Westward ho, young drinker, and after a solid 150 minutes be – hind the wheel, you’ll be at the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t drive in! Instead, go to the Dingle Distillery. This is new-school single malt, and a damn tasty one at that.

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