Heading south

Heading south

In the latest in our series of places to visit we look at Southern Ireland.

Travel 27 Feb 2009 | Interviews | By Rob Allanson

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One of the greatest ironies about the whiskey industry in Ireland is that where they’re making whiskey the public aren’t allowed in, and where they used to they are. Effectively the only distilleries you can visit are museums.North of the border this is not the case. Bushmill’s, the Irish distillery closest to its Scottish cousins both in terms of geography, style and production techniques, offers a similar style of tour, too, and you can watch mashing, fermenting, and distilling and maturing in the same way.In the South, though, the operating plants of Cooley and of Jameson’s are closed to the public, and while the old distillery at Kilbeggan is used a little these days, it’s not possible to see the whole production process in action. Instead you will have to make do with a ‘Mary Celeste’ sort of whiskey experience.That said, though, the Irish are good at the whole tourist business, and the sights which you can visit provide a fascinating and comprehensive insight into the old ways.Ireland isn’t a particularly big country and the train service is relatively regular and efficient. However, to get the most out of any visit, hiring a car is useful.There are three main centres in Southern Ireland to visit in search of whiskey; Cork in the South East, Dublin on the East coast, and the museums in central Ireland. The three locations are well spread out and offer an incomplete whiskey experience, with the only other distillery way up beyond Belfast in the North, Ireland isn’t the sort of place to visit for whiskey alone, so make sure your visit is part of a wider holiday.Although the country still enjoys a reputation for a quaint backwardness (and how patronising a view is that?) with its traditional rural Irish villages with customary Irish pubs, the arrival of the Euro and the Green Tiger economy has transformed much of the country and it is a very different place from the place it was 20 or even 10 years ago. The up side of this is that you’ll find some stunning and luxurious hotels and because Ireland is deep in recession it may be that you’ll get a room at a bargain price. The flip side of that coin, though, is that if you’re British the weak pound isn’t doing you any favours in the Euro-zone at the moment.Here, then, is where to go: DUBLIN Old Jameson Distillery, Smithfield What it is: A well presented museum tour through the whiskey making process and the story of Jameson; a whiskey bar with a range of Jameson whiskeys; gift shop and restaurant How to get there: Dublin has an international airport with connections to most world destinations, and ports in Dublin and at Dun Laoghaire. The old distillery can be reached by the red line on the tram, stopping at Smithfield.What else to do: Dublin is a large and historic city with a number of museums and historical landmarks. It’s changed significantly in recent years and its city centre is much more cosmopolitan than it once was, but old-style Irish bars can still be found with a bit of effort.Contact: Tel: +353 (0) 1 807 2369 www.oldjamesondistillery.com TULLAMORE, COUNTY OFFALY Tullamore Distillery Heritage Centre What it is: Tullamore Dew is now produced under licence at Midleton near Cork. This is a museum in an old whiskey warehouse. It is set out on two floors and includes exhibits and displays recounting the history of the distillery and the canal-ways that transported the whiskey to market. There’s a gift shop and cafe and licensed bars serving lunches and afternoon teas and offering entertainment each week in the pub.How to get there: Dublin is 60 miles away by road and Tullamore is on the main East-West train line and there are about eight trains a day.What else to do: You’re slap bang in the heart of rural Ireland so from Tullamore major cities aren’t far away and you’re surrounded by a number of fishing spots and golf courses. Walking, trekking and other relaxing rural pursuits are all at hand. The town itself is pretty small but there are two hotels. The better option would be to drive out and tie in a visit here with one to Locke’s Distillery at Kilbeggan, which is less than 10 miles away.Contact: +353 (0) 57 932 5015 www.tullamore-dew.org KILBEGGAN, COUNTY WESTMEATH Locke’s Distillery, Kilbeggan What it is: Locke’s is believed to be the oldest genuine pot still distillery in the world,though given the parochial nature of pot still whiskey this claim is the whisky world’s version of the Baseball World Series. It is nevertheless a remarkable place to visit because most of the original equipment dating back centuries is still in place and even if you’re not technically minded or interested in engineering, the huge metal and wood mechanisms are pretty awesome.Locke’s is owned by Cooley and during the last couple of years a small part of the whiskey-making process has been re-introduced here. One of John Teeling’s crazier plans is to produce a whiskey from here again and mad as it is, it might just happen. Certainly the equipment would seem to be up to the job.For the time being, though, this is a museum with a restaurant offering proper Irish breakfasts and lunches, and a whiskey bar. You can either join a guided tour or do an unaccompanied one.How to get there: Kilbeggan is on the main Dublin to Galway road and is about 55 milers from Dublin.What else to do: Same as Tullamore really – plenty of rural attractions and the other museum is less than 10 miles away.Contact: +353 (0) 57 933 2134 www.lockesdistillerymuseum.ie MIDLETON COUNTY CORK Midleton Distillery What it is: Midleton is where Irish Distillers produces pretty much all its whiskey, including Jameson, Paddy and Powers.The new distillery is huge but is not open to the public, but close by is the old distillery, which is a huge and highly impressive historical museum complete with large water wheel and it has been preserved for visitors to go round. There is a very good restaurant on site as well as a shop.How to get there: Cork is about 160 miles from Dublin and the journey by road will take you about three and a half hours.Cork also has its own airport. Train links to Dublin are good. There is a ferry service to Ringaskiddy 10 miles from Cork, with links to the city.What else to do: Cork across to Kerry is a total delight and well worth exploring.The golf is excellent down in this region and so is the seafood.The Medieval town of Kinsale is less than 20 miles away and offers great bars and restaurants, a choice of historical sites and access to some of Ireland’s finest sailing.Contact: +353 (0) 21 461 3594 www.jamesonwhiskey.com/omd
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