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Irish Whiskey Museum – Tour Review

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Irish Whiskey Museum – Tour Review

Last Saturday, I decided to try one of Dublin’s latest attractions, the recently opened “Irish Whiskey Museum”. Neatly hidden away down an alleyway on College Green (beside the famous Peterson’s Tobacconist), you’ll find the modern, while charming, whiskey museum.  The standard fee is €15, which includes a 45 minute tour and three samples of whiskey equating to roughly a little under two measures For an additional €3 you could take the V.I.P. tour, this includes a fourth sample (12yrs Bushmills) and a very well designed whiskey glass.  For the extra €3, I would recommend the V.I.P. tour, the glass alone is worth it.

The tour itself is broken over four rooms representing the different epochs of whiskey distilling in Ireland.  The first room, designed as a monk’s apothecary, gives a broad overview of whiskey distilling in Ireland as far as the 18th century.  I must give credit to our tour guide who had to cover such a swath of Irish history in such a short period of time (15 mins). She was aided by an excellent and charmingly shot video in which famous Irish actor Frank Kelly plays several roles (a nice casting touch to have Fr Jack appear, I think).

The second room, designed as a shebeen complete with stills and coffin (we are a macabre bunch aren’t we?) brings us through the 18th and 19th century, when Catholics relied on Poitín and discusses how the native Irish had to conceal their culture from the Ascendency. Once again, our tour guide did an excellent job in covering such broad period but I must admit when she grabbed one of the audience members for a jig, I did feel more than a little awkward!

The third room and to be fair the more interesting thus far was laid out as a cozy 19th century pub (if I’m honest that’s regular “local” to you and me).  This room gave a fascinating account of the competing main distilleries in Ireland from the 19th century on.  At this point, in a well designed segment of the tour, several portraits of Rowe, Jameson, and others come to life and start arguing with the tour guide over episodes in history.  Which I felt was a genuinely nice touch.

Whiskey Museum 2

The final room was a more modern affair laid out with the many bottles of distilleries long gone but pointing out that a new renaissance was on its way for Irish whiskey.  Or to quote the famous mobile ad, the future’s bright, the future’s orange.  Actually, on that note, our tour guide did refer to Derry as “Londonderry” a number of times on the tour, not to bring politics into a light hearted excursion but a number of people do find that term offensive in the Republic and it is always good to know your audience, if anyone is reading from the museum.

Finally, we were brought to a tastefully laid out sampling room.  The samples were not generous but we weren’t there to get drunk either.  Our master distiller was quite imaginative in his descriptions, which to be honest I think all added to the fun.

I must say overall I really did enjoy the tour, I guess my main criticism is that it could have been longer. The tour lumbers through such huge amounts of Irish history, which is necessary for foreign tourists but comes at the expense of the more interesting minutiae of Irish whiskey’s history.  For example, the fascinating period when Irish whiskey lost out to Scotch in the USA or when Irish distillers mounted a legal challenge against blending, both these topics are discussed but you will need to be paying attention as the tour moves at such a great pace you can easily miss it.

While this is understandable, there is just so much to cover!  However, I do think they should consider extending the tour’s length or maybe streamlining the early history section.  This small criticism aside in what was otherwise a well presented and enjoyable experience.  The Irish Whiskey Museum is the perfect way to pass a rainy Saturday and a good stop to go before the pub, for more…eh…samples.

Whiskey Museum 1

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