Learning Liberties liquor lore with whiskey wafflers

Basked in cultural and historical richness, the Liberties area was home to some of Ireland’s most famous distilleries for many years.

As time progressed, certain factors including prohibition in America meant that the largest buyer of Irish whiskey was immediately off limits. Dwindling business both locally and internationally caused the last distillery in the area to shut its doors over 125 years ago.

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The Liberties area has revisited its illustrious past in recent months, with the opening of the Teeling whiskey distillery in Newmarket Square. Preceding this new arrival, the closest remnant of this history was the old Jameson distillery. This has long since surrendered its distillation duties to the Midleton distillery in Co. Cork.

Both distilleries offer tasting tours, so we took both to give you the low down on the best value whiskey tours in the city.

Our first port of call was the Teeling Whiskey distillery, which is located on Newmarket Square in the heart of the Liberties. Upon arrival, the distillery provides a bustling atmosphere, with a reception desk in front, flanked by a seasonal art exhibition area and a busy café. Our concierge, Karl O’Reilly, expressed his passion for the company as he took us through the various features of the contemporary construction, which includes a fully furnished bar and a private event area.


The newly-built distillery in Dublin boasts a striking façade, with large circular windows shrouded in stone contrasting with the bronze phoenix emblem over the building’s front door. This represents the “spirit of Dublin”.

With over sixty awards in the past 3 years, Teeling Whiskey has announced itself loudly on the world stage with a range of internationally acclaimed whiskies. A single grain variety and a thirty-year-old vintage reserve single malt are included and they come in at €1,500 per bottle.

Our purposely small group of around ten people maintained an intimate atmosphere throughout the tour. It began with our tour guide, Stephen Masterson, seated on a barrel, giving us the history of the Liberties area and the Teeling Whiskey brand. Stephen had an infectious interest in this whiskey brand and conversed fluidly with other tour-goers about their own local liquor offerings. You can relax at your own liberty in one of various booths that lead into the flamboyant round windows. You can also sign the wall, so don’t forget your sharpie!

The entire distillation process is on display for all to see and the scent of the most recent batch caresses your nostrils with an air of nostalgic promise for a new generation of whiskey producers. At the end of the tour, there are three shining copper pot stills which were custom made in Italy to suit the space constraints of the newly-built site. Each of these pot stills are emblazoned with the name of a Teeling family daughter, which was a pleasant personal touch.


For a cool €14 per person, the tour is full of knowledge, taste and humour. Included in the price is a generous helping of Teeling’s small batch whiskey and a cheeky cocktail, which sealed the deal for us. A very worthwhile venture to say the least.

Given our experience at Teeling’s, expectations were high when we arrived at Jameson.

Immediately when you enter, you reach the hustle and bustle of Jameson’s reception area. Clearly it’s a very popular place with tourists, and this is compounded by two greeting doormen who appear to act as a form of security also. It too costs €14 a ticket.

We met our tour guide, Evan Croke, who was extremely accommodating and was a true performer. Evan presented the tour with a smile and proceeded to play a short, cinematic video, through which the history of Jameson was presented in a grand fashion. The video also explains that the distillation process no longer takes place in Dublin, which, we felt, wasn’t immediately obvious beforehand. This is partially thanks to Jameson’s website, which conceals this information quite well and it’s presumably in the interest of cunning marketing.

We were joined by a largely American 30-strong group of tourists, and at times, the cavernous design of the building made it difficult for those at the back of the crowd to absorb the aural and visual impact of the tour comfortably.

The former workers are depicted by dusty plaster cast mouldings in a dimly-lit setting. The former distillation apparatus remains in situ from its past function, but for demonstrative purposes only. The gift shop was heavily plugged throughout, along with suggestions to review the tour on Trip Advisor, which consolidated the commerciality of the tour in our minds.

When it came to the actual whiskey tasting, we received a trio of plastic shot glasses with no more than an ephemeral swig of each contrasting whiskey variety inside, albeit they were all tasty. The tasting area was quite cramped, given the size of our group. We were stood shoulder to shoulder with other tour-goers while Evan punctuated our sips with his interjections of whiskey wisdom.

Finally, we entered a spacious room with a traditional decor and received either a cocktail or a measure of whiskey upon presentation of our tour ticket, but don’t unwind here. Hordes of tourists incrementally filter through this space upon completion of the tour, creating more of a hectic environment than anything else.

If you prefer a more intimate surrounding generous helping of whiskey, Teeling’s is for you. However, if you’re into gimmicky, dated tours and don’t want to get up close and personal to the whiskey process, Jameson is for you. We, however, will certainly return to Teeling’s, as nothing else comes close in terms of value and enjoyment.


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