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The distilleries of Dublin’s Liberties

Emily Hand, Tour Guide at Teelings Whiskey Distillery photo credit: Eibhin Kavanagh

The Liberties was the heart of brewing and distilling in Dublin in the 18th and 19th century, but by 1973 the last distillery had closed its doors.

However, in recent years the Golden Triangle of whiskey distilleries has begun to grow again, bringing business, tourism and whiskey back to the area.

Among this new generation is Teeling Whiskey Distillery, which opened its doors in 2015. Located in Newmarket, Merchants Quay, it became the first new distillery to be built in Dublin in 125 years. Its founders, brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling, wanted to revive the old tradition of distilling in the city, which at one stage was producing 60% of global spirits.

From being the first new distillery to open up to the maturation process of their whiskies, the company combines old traditions with the new. This can be seen inside the distillery, with visitors of their establishment getting to see the old-style fermenters alongside the new.

The distillery and onsite cafe work very closely with local producers, keeping business flowing within the Liberties. They also host seasonal craft fairs to showcase local restaurants and businesses.

Since 2015, many more distilleries have opened up in the area. Marketing coordinator Darach Lennon “welcomes the competition” as it is great for Dublin’s Liberties.  

“We were always looking to spark a new revival in Dublin whiskey so it’s great to see the product of that lead to new distilleries opening,” Lennon said.

One of these competitors is Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery, located on James Street. Opened in 2017, the distillery sits inside St. James’ Church and is the site of a graveyard dating back to the 11th century. Lyons’ own grandparents are buried there, along with the likes of Sir Mark Rainsford, Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1700-1701.

The Lyons family and their company took on the task of restoring the idle church to its former glory when they purchased the site in 2013. This included re-making a steeple for the chapel after lightning had destroyed the original one. Pearse’s wife and the main product designer and co-ordinator on the site, Deirdre Lyons, designed a glass steeple for the building. As general manager Tracey Flinter put it, the design “would allow light to be brought back into the Liberties”.

“The idea was that we would install a glass light or a glass element spire that could be lit from inside that would show rejuvenation and renovation in this area of Dublin,” Flinter said.

In the church stands two pot stills, one large and one small, in place of the former altar. The pot stills had to be lifted by crane into position as to not damage the protected building. Pearse chose to name the stills after his aunts. The large one, called Mighty Molly, is “a force to be reckoned with”, while the small one is called Little Lizzie.

The future looks bright for the distillery. They recently won best tourism experience under 100,000 visitors at the Irish Tourism Industry Awards. They are in the process of renovating the onsite terraced houses to a café for the centre and to a gin and whiskey school, where visitors can make their own beverages.

“Pearse was a firm believer in educating and teaching people about how to produce whiskey, and how to produce gin. It’s not just a process. It really is a science,” Flinter said.

The historic Golden Triangle of whiskey distilleries in Dublin’s Liberties may finally be getting its well-deserved resurgence and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

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