Gin may be the stylish sip du jour, but blipping away in the background, Irish whiskey has been experiencing a resurgence of its own. The first reference to whiskey was recorded in the Irish Annals of Clonmacnoise in 1405 and hundreds of years later, it still manages to captivate (and, at times, incapacitate) us.
For many, the fishbowl and high ball glasses draped with cucumber just can’t compete with the simple elegance of a tumbler, crystal or not, and you don’t have to be a member of the Mad Men cast to concede that whiskey is the most seductive sip of them all.
Whether you’re into the nostalgia of Jameson and Powers or love to experiment with your drams from Green Spot to Method and Madness, the whiskey bars of Ireland seem to follow a common and alluring theme – they’re never short of a snug or dimly lit corner, where you can enjoy your hug in a glass in peace.
Cosy, inviting and utterly immune to a short drop in, we’re making these classic gems across the country easy to find, but they make themselves very hard to leave behind. The best part? The soup of the day is always whiskey – ice croutons optional.
Celtic Whiskey Bar
Stepping in to Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney, Co. Kerry, even the most mildly obsessed whiskey drinker will feel like a kid in a candy shop. Wall to wall bottles of glowing amber elixir invite you in, and it is nearly impossible to narrow down your choices. Lucky for you, the brilliant team behind the bar have been as carefully selected as the extensive whiskey collection and will tailor a recommendation just for you. The menu reads like poetry for lover of uisce beatha, with four pages of Irish, followed by Scottish, American, Japanese and interestingly Taiwanese whiskey.
Nestled snugly in most Irish bars to visit before you die lists is Dingle’s most famous watering hole – Dick Mack’s. Here you can party like it’s 1899, the year Dick Mack’s opened, but do resist the temptation to stick to pints of the black stuff in this notorious haven, which has in recent years secured the titles of Munster and Overall Irish whiskey bar of the year for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Snugs, nooks and crannies lend themselves to cosying up with your chosen one, and they even have four bedrooms upstairs in case one turns into one too many!
Wandering in off the slippery cobbled street and straight to the roaring open fireplace in Galway’s Sonny Molloys as you ponder your whiskey of choice is the stuff rainy day dreams are made of.
A part of the sprawling Front Door Pub, Sonny’s has its own distinct character and is one of the only bars in the country to house the world exclusive Midleton Very Rare Collection in its entirety. For an immersive and memorable evening, try their Whiskey Tasting Experience or treat yourself to a whiskey platter.
The crown of Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year 2017 resides in Garavan’s of Galway, in the heart of the city of the tribes. Boasting a collection of rare whiskies, beautifully displayed in antique cases and if you wish to indulge in the aged beauties of Ireland, you can sample a flight of Grand Maters of Irish Whiskey with Kilbeggan 18 year Old Blended, Teeling Gold Reserve 26 Year Old Single Malt and Dungourney 1964 Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey for €95.
If you’re on a writer’s budget, you can wipe your tears with the favourites of W.B Yeats, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce for €13.
If sipping on Irish whiskey in an old man style den is your idea of the perfect night out (guilty!), O’Lochlainn’s in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, is the perfect watering hole for you.
If it was good enough for one of Hollywood’s biggest names, Stephen Spielberg, then it is surely good enough to earn a spot on your list of must-visits. Expect tin whistles, fiddles and one of the most extensive collections of uisce beatha on this fine isle, with 300 bottles on display. One visit to this perfectly preserved gem likely won’t be enough.
Dingle Irish Whiskey Bar
Don’t let the name deceive you, the Dingle Irish Whiskey Bar is tucked away on Dublin’s Nassau Street rather than the southern tip of the country. This dark and cavernous nook draws you in with barrel-lined walls and keeps you on the edge of your stool with a broad offering covering every corner of Ireland, the five main whisky producing regions of Scotland, seductive Japanese sips as well as rare Indian options.
Staff are friendly and well versed in the ins and outs of uisce beatha, so you’ll come in for one but stay for a flight.
The Duke of York
When in Belfast, a trip to the Duke of York for a wee dram is a must. An institution in the Northern capital, The Duke offers one of the Island’s most comprehensive collections of Irish whiskey, from the old faithfuls we are all familiar with to seriously impressive collector’s dream bottles emblazoned with “NFS” – not for sale.
Owner Willie Jack has also recently opened a mini museum style whiskey off-licence called A Friend in Hand, with 600 bottles on display(many NFS too!) plus their own Belfast-inspired 13 part whiskey series.
An oldie but undeniably a goodie, The Palace Whiskey Bar on the corner of Fleet and Westmoreland Street is kitschy, vintage and full of Victorian character, wearing nearly two centuries with pride.
Toast to this Dublin institution’s longevity (as Patrick Kavanagh did before you) with a treat from their Whiskey Inventory, which delves into the origins of Irish whiskey, provides the story of each of the major Irish distilleries and offers a “Desert Island Top 10” of the best of Irish sips.
Dylan Whiskey Bar
Victorian charm meets traditional Irish snug in Kilkenny’s Dylan Whiskey Bar, the Medieval city’s very own temple to celebrate the water of life. With over 200 premium world whiskeys on offer, as well as Whiskey Tasting Matts with 3 single measure pours to explore new bottles, you can really make an evening out of your visit.
For those looking to expand their whiskey knowledge there is also a ‘Sipping School’ which offers the ultimate in blended learning.
The Shelbourne Bar
While the grand old dame in Dublin isn’t a bad place to sip a whiskey by any means, it is Cork city’s Shelbourne which stands out as a whiskey spot for your bucket list.
With a motto of ‘life is too short to drink average whiskey’ this bar embodies the wise words we live our lives by, and it is the perfect place to enjoy some of Cork’s finest whiskey, from Method and Madness to Yellow Spot and everything in between.
Malt Lane Kinsale
A spin off of the ever popular Folkhouse in the picturesque West Cork coastal town of Kinsale, Malt Lane offers the dimly lit and dark wood clad conditions which sipping fine Irish whiskey seems to demand.
Conor behind the bar is a whiskey enthusiast and the perfect guide whether you are a whiskey novice or long time lover. Malt Lane offers tutored whiskey tastings based on experience for groups of six of more, or for a more laid back lesson, linger over on of their curated whiskey tasting boards, with a cigar or two if you fancy it.