Ireland      Éire    r - z


Ireland, is the place where whisky was born?  Well, it is said that wandering Irish monks learnt the art of distilling in mainland Europe when they were preaching and bringing back the Christian faith to the people of the Dark Ages.

The first of the Irish missionaries was Saint Columbanus - one of the successors of Saint Patrick - who went with „12 campanions“! to France, Spain and Italy.  It seem as as if the missionaries got also to Spain. „ Evidence also suggests strong interactions between Ireland and Spain during the sixth and seventh centuries.“ (J.N.Hillgarth, ed. Visigothic Spain, Byzantium and the Irish. London, 1985.)

These links lay the foundation for further communication in the 8th century when the Islamic moors conquered Spain in 711 A.D. During their reign the process of distillation became widely popular. They did not use the technology of distilling for drinks but for making parfume and antiseptic medicines. The moors had learnt distilling by tradition from as far back to the Pharaoes. It may also be true that alcohol was distilled from wine in those days.

Another story says that travelling monks learnt the process of distillation in Greece or in the Near East when they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to the Holy Grave of Jesus Christ. Or was the art of distilling brought along from the East even by the Celts?

Well, Irish whiskey is not only triple distilled as the Irish Distillers Group made us believe during past years. Irish whiskey was as manyfold as Scottish whisky. When the whisky chronicler Alfred Barnard visited the distilleries of the United Kingdom in 1885 he also came to Ireland, which was then part of the U.K. He described 28 distilleries which double distilled, triple distilled either peated or non-peated malt or pure pot still whiskey. Irish whiskey was diversified, in 1843 there were 64 working distilleries in Ireland which produced about 25.003.495 litres of spirit (see Andrew Bielenberg. Locke‘s Distillery. A History. Dublin, 2007).

There were distilleries all over Ireland, in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Derry, Drogeheda, Dundalk, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Wexford, Kilbeggan, Tullamore, Co. Antrim and Co. Offally. They established the world‘s first commercial whiskey industry. Irish whiskey was at the beginning of the 19th century the synonym for whisky as such.

In 2012 there were only five working distilleries: Bushmills, Cooley, Kilbeggan, Midleton and Dingle.

The arbitrary spelling of whisky with - ey - was the result of an marketing aggreement between  Dublin Distillers in the early 19th century to differentiate their products of thought to be inferior whiskies from the Irish countryside or from Scotland.

A very helpful orientation supplies The Irish Whiskey Trail, see:

Literature, recommended:

Andrew Bielenberg. Locke‘s Distillery. A History. Dublin, 2007)

Ian MacDonald. Smuggling in the Highlands. Inverness, 1914.

Malachy Magee. 1000 Years of Irish Whiskey. Dublin, 1980.

Jim Murray. Classic Irish Whiskey. London 1997.

Peter Mulryan. Irish whisky Guide. Belfast, 2009.  It is a very short pocket guide for the tourist but not recommendable for the whisk(e)y enthusiast.

Brian Townsend. The Lost Distilleries of Ireland. Glasgow: Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd. First Published 1997.

New Irish distilleries in Dingle, Carlow and Horse Island, please see latest news:

For German reading people:

„Irish Whiskey is back on the road again...Die neue Welt der irischen Distillerien.“ Irland Journal 4.2012, p. 120-126.

It may take some time

until the distilleries show up.  

Please double-click and thumbnail the photo to open the tour.

Thank you.