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On The Trail Of Irish Whiskey

by Gavin D Smith, 09/09

Scotland has its Speyside Malt Whisky Trail, Kentucky has its Bourbon Trail and now the Irish have joined in with their very own Ireland Whiskey Trail.

This is a comprehensive guide to Irish whiskey in all its guises, and embraces the working distilleries and whiskey museums of Ireland, along with the best whiskey pubs, bars and shops in the country. Additionally, the website provides a comprehensive guide to Irish whiskey and the 'lost' distilleries of Ireland.
  

The Ireland Whiskey Trail is the brainchild of Heidi Donelon, arguably Ireland's best known independent whiskey expert. For many years, Heidi has conducted tastings, seminars, master-classes and shows throughout Ireland and Europe. This interaction with consumers of every nationality, coupled with numerous visits to Scotland, led her to the realisation that Ireland, despite its rich whiskey heritage, did not have a whiskey tourism 'product' which captured everything that is best about whiskey in Ireland. Eighteen months of research by Heidi have led to www.irelandwhiskeytrail.com.

Ireland's active distilleries and whiskey museums are the perfect place to learn about the history and heritage of whiskey, as well as the skills of distilling, maturing and blending, but Ireland is as famous for its many pubs as it is for its native whiskey, and no Irish Whiskey Trail would have been complete without including the best whiskey pubs and bars in the country.

   This particular 'whiskey journey' took Heidi Donelon to some fascinating corners of Ireland, and in the process she unearthed many interesting and unusual pubs, full of history, character, characters and great whiskeys.

Every pub and bar selected for inclusion on the Trail is unique, and has been chosen because it offers either an excellent range of Irish whiskeys or because it has a historical link to one of Ireland's old whiskey distilleries. Some pubs are small, rural establishments, off the normal tourist tracks, while others are better known and stand as popular landmarks within their localities.

The Ireland Whiskey Trail also includes a range of the best hotels and golf clubs in Ireland, not to mention the country's finest retail whiskey stockists, so that visitors can be sure to take home a bottle or two for further experimentation.

Heritage often plays an important part in visitors' enjoyment of Ireland, and it is notable that in 1886, when Alfred Barnard was researching his now classic book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, he visited no fewer than 28 distilleries while in Ireland. At that time, whiskey was one of the country's largest exports.

In preparation for the Trail, Heidi Donelon recreated Barnard's journey, researching in detail these old - and often forgotten - distilleries, with the aim of unearthing intriguing aspects of their history and seeing for herself what tangible remains are to be found today.

Along the way, she unearthed some fascinating material, including the story of the owner of Bishop's Water distillery in Cork, who is probably the only legal distiller ever to have been shot by an excise man, and the fact that the long-lost Phoenix Park distillery in Dublin played an important role in the early life and subsequent writings of James Joyce. She even discovered what is thought to be the last known bottle of Cassidy's whiskey. Her research now provides the most comprehensive internet guide to Ireland's old distilleries, and it can be found in the Whiskey Heritage section of The Ireland Whiskey Trail website.

The Trail has been backed by Irish Distillers, the Cooley Distillery and Tullamore Dew owners C&C, as well as the various participating outlets. By supporting the initiative, the featured distilleries and pubs have found a way to help fight back against the recession, and early indications are that the venture is already proving a success.
  

The Trail has been backed by Irish Distillers, the Cooley Distillery and Tullamore Dew owners C&C, as well as the various participating outlets. By supporting the initiative, the featured distilleries and pubs have found a way to help fight back against the recession, and early indications are that the venture is already proving a success. Despite a recent town road bypass, and an overall decline in the number of tourists visiting Ireland, Lockes' Kilbeggan distillery has enjoyed significant growth in visitor numbers during April and May this year. And the work goes on. For 2010, Heidi Donelon plans to expand the Whiskey Trail, researching the old distilleries and best Irish whiskey pubs of Northern Ireland.

Following the Trail

The Ireland Whiskey Trail website is supported by an attractive and informative Whiskey Trail map/brochure, distributed in tourist offices and at international whisk(e)y events. Further information about all aspects of the Trail is available from Heidi Donelon (tel + 353 (0)86 8580630, email: info@irelandwhiskeytrail.com.

  

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