Unique Pearse Lyons Distillery Tour Opens

The view from the balcony of St James’ church is much different nowadays. The alter, devoid of a priest, is filled with gleaming brass and copper stills; the pews have been removed to accommodate walking whiskey and history buffs, who may or may not also be parishioners. The church spire remains, however, as do the stained glass windows, making this former church a uniquely reverent whiskey distillery.

Located at the bottom of James’ St, in the shadow of the Guinness Storehouse, this boutique distillery is not designed to compete with the whiskey and beer magnates of the world, but rather offers a personal tour of the premises as it is now and, possibly more importantly, how it used to be. “Most people who come here say they were expecting a typical distillery tour but that ours is completely different,” says assistant manager, Andrew Adamson.

“The tour is about an hour long, and half of that is dedicated to the history of the area, the history of the church and the history of the graveyard. So there’s a good half an hour history of Dublin before you learn about the distillery and then do your tasting at the end,” he adds.  

Such is the dedication of the team at Pearse Lyons distillery, that some of their tour guides are qualified historians. They, along with members of Dublin City Council and conservationists who are cleaning up the graveyard, have found fascinating stories of the people who are buried there.

Photo credit: Raven Photography Ireland

One such story is that of John Lucas, an Irish soldier who fought in New Zealand and was awarded the Victoria Cross. His gravestone was believed lost or destroyed, and was only discovered recently, Mr Adamson explains: “That’s really really popular for people who are from Australia and New Zealand who are interested in his history. His [John Lucas’] relatives live very close to here and they were here just a few weeks ago. He’s a very famous Irish man in terms of military history,” he says.

The graveyard also bears the remains of many Irish and British soldiers who fought against each other in the 1916 Rising, and workers from the neighbouring Guinness factory.

The sense of community that is such a trademark of the Liberties is held in high esteem by the workers at Pearse Lyons distillery, and it comes from the top down according to Mr Adamson.  

The community has played their part too in helping their neighbours in St James’ Church. This was evident in the warm reception the new distillery received from locals: “the local community is really passionate. We’re really encouraged by their reaction. When we first launched we invited most of the locals in,” says Mr Adamson.

“A lot of local residents and businesses came in for free tours and a lot of people came down from the market on Meath St. The feedback has been incredible. The locals think it’s just a real landmark and that it has really helped improve the area. They had been keenly watching the construction over the last three or four years and they were just delighted to get inside and see what we had done,” he added.

The future looks bright for this modest brewhouse. They are currently producing 100,000 gallons of single malt whiskey a year and have just finished ageing their first five-year-old whiskey.

In two weeks time, they will be hosting a Christmas concert with members of the St James’ band. Let’s hope their commitment to hosting community events, to working with local businesses and to attracting tourism will pay-off for all the residents of Dublin’s “Golden Triangle.”

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