Whiskey has returned to Dublin’s city centre, not as a distillery, not as a whiskey shop, but as a fun look at the history of this golden potion on this small island; its long journey from the Middle East, its rise to international renown, its competitive collapse, and its modern-day resurgence. In College Green—the very heart of the city—the Irish Whiskey Museum offers a look at the history of (no particular brand of) whiskey with a guided tour enhanced with a series of audio/visual presentations.
The guided tour visits re-creations of an Irish hearth, a shebeen (an Irish underground speakeasy), and other boozy venues on its chronological trip through the story of Irish whiskey. At each stop, the audio/visual displays kick in to add some color and flair to the narration of the knowledgable guide.
Rather than emphasizing the minute details of the distilling process, this experience focuses on the business and culture of whiskey and its effects on the Irish economy and culture. Visitors are introduced to dramatizations of the various heavy-hitters in the Irish booze business from ancient monks to hilltop moonshiners to shrewd businesspeople. This is unique to the other whiskey tours in the city, and the stories are well told.
No good whiskey tour would be complete without a tasting. With the Standard Tour, visitors enjoy a 20 mL sample of three blended whiskies; those who pop for the (recommended) VIP Tour add to that a sample of a premium aged whiskey. Because the museum isn’t tied to any one label, and the art of craft distilling is once again booming in Ireland, the whiskies on the tasting rail are always changing.
The tasting expert walks whiskey beginners through the process of experiencing a whiskey—from the nose to the palate to the finish—helping newbies (like me) to identify the various aromas and flavors of each sample.
Before and/or after the tour, visitors can enjoy a walk through the gift shop and a great view of College Green from the upstairs cafe and bar, serving coffee and cocktails in a comfortable atmosphere.
The tour is informative, entertaining, and has some interesting special effects—but is rather touristy. The tasting is the highlight of this experience. That the IWM isn’t tied to a brand means a possibly much broader and more interesting selection in the tasting lineup, and the tasting is intimate enough to get your individual questions answered. If you enjoy whiskey but would like to learn more about it, this tour and tasting will be interesting and entertaining.
Nuts and Bolts
- The Irish Whiskey Museum IS: a guided tour through a series of exhibits, with narration by an experienced guide, highlighted by short video clips cleverly embedded in each “scene,” followed by a guided tasting of a selection of Irish whiskies.
- The Irish Whiskey Museum IS NOT: a traditional self-guided museum with authentic pieces in glass cases. The name is a bit misleading; don’t expect to walk through exhibits reading information panels on this one.
- Do make sure to visit the cafe/bar upstairs for a sip of something and a great view of the bustling corner of College Green and the front entrance to Trinity College.
- The Standard Tour includes three blended whiskies for €15.00; the VIP Tour includes three blended whiskies, an aged whiskey, and a souvenir whiskey glass for €18.00*. The VIP tour is a much better value for the extra three you’ll spend for the upgrade.
- The IWM is open daily from 10:30–20:00, first tour at 11:00 and last tour at 20:00*; advance booking is recommended but not required.
- Thanks to Ailbhe and the rest of the IWM team for inviting me out for a review tour!
*Opening hours and prices are accurate as of October 2015, but are subject to change. Please visit the Irish Whiskey Museum website to confirm times and prices before your visit. See my full disclosure for more about invited reviews.