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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Teeling Distillery, Dublin, Ireland

My first distillery visit of 2016 coincided with Teeling's first birthday, this new distillery (one of many springing up in Ireland)  had been open about 1 year and 2 days. The site is a short, damp, walk from Dublin city center and is very impressive and includes a fantastic little cafe, gift shop, extensive tasting bar and well run and efficient tour.  You definately get the sense that the whole distillery was designed as a Dublin city tourist attraction first and a distillery second.   With no maturation on site (due to old Dublin bylaws, following a fire in the past, all whisky is matured away from the distillery) the tour is quite short and content clearly targeted at the tourist rather than the whiskey fanatic.   Due to their young age all their current stocks and bottlings are from stock produced by the Teeling family when they owned and operated Cooley Distillery.

There are multiple options for tastings at end of tour ranging from the basic line to cocktails to the more expensive single malt tasting that I opted for.  At 30 Euros for tour and tasting I don't think I have ever paid more for a distillery tour, except when I signed up for the rather expensive Magnus Eunson tour at Highland park which was at $100+ depending on exchange rate, but to be fair it did include a 40 year Highland Park. Like most Irish whiskey the tour is smooth, approachable and easy to consume... and I enjoyed it but perhaps would leave some wanting a little more.

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Highland Park, Orkney, Scotland

Highland Park, Orkney, Scotland

After so many distillery visits surely I have seen everything there is to be seen on a distillery tour?  Certainly that is the question I get from the nervous tour guide when they innocently ask the group at the start who has toured a distillery before and I put my hand up and mention I may have been to about 40 or so in last 3 or 4 years.  And yet, as is so often the case, this tour of the iconic Highland Park distillery did include a few things I had not seen before.  Like many of the better tours they start with well-produced video and then take you out into the site. Highland Park famously floor malts about 20% of its barley requirements and while I have seen distilleries with the relatively rare floor malting operations  before (inc. Kilchomen and Bowmore) the day I toured Highland Park they also had a peat fire burning which I had not seen on previous tours.   

I had signed up for the rather expensive ($100+ depending on exchange rate) Magnus Eunson tour, named after the distilleries founder.  The tour itself was actually the same as the regular tour, the difference was the very extensive tasting that followed.  With a knowledgeable guide I was led through a tasting of the entire range from new make spirit and the standard expression 12 year old through to the sublime 40 year old I have previously reviewed and raved about.   A fantastic experience and I was able (via the wonders of smart phone technology) to compare my previous Highland Park tasting notes with the experience of tasting while sitting in the distillery and while doing that something  occurred to me.  I was consistently missing the salty, fresh sea notes I often found in Highland Park.  The guide suggested that because I had been in Orkney for a few days (I had actually visited the oil terminal on Flotta by boat the day before) my nose had become accustomed to the local climate and salty sea air so was not able to pick it out anymore.  Interesting theory, however the fact I had also had a cold for a week or so before the trip may also have been a factor.

A classic distillery and a classic day with a strong focus on the unique features of Highland Park, primarily the use of sherry seasoned wood (both American and European oak) and the unique Orkney peat.  It was worth every penny as it is very unlikely I will ever make it back to Orkney and because I did not want to have any regrets about not taking full advantage of the opportunity, I decided, to use an American sporting expression, to "leave it all on the field" and pay for the full experience.  I left very happy (and mildly intoxicated; I walked back to Kirkwall Hotel) with a bottle of St Magnus Second Edition (which I then gave to my father for his birthday) and a few mini bottles of the more difficult to find expressions including the 16 year old and 25 year old, a nice blue tie and a book.  Can you tell I had been drinking?

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