The Old Midleton Distillery is a popular attraction - a little advance warning: people pack in for the tours here. But it is not a bad experience; everyone is well-behaved, and the tours are extremely well organized. I learned a lot about Irish whiskey on our tour. My brain buzzing with new information, I was just as eager for the glass of Jameson waiting for me at the end of the tour. Each adult ticket comes with a coupon for a glass of whiskey, redeemable at the Jameson Bar.
The visit begins with a film that tells the history of Irish whiskey, from American prohibition to the present day. The film explains that the distillation process is what distinguishes Irish whiskey from Scottish whiskey and Bourbon. Irish whiskey is distilled three times. Scottish whiskey is distilled twice. Bourbon is distilled once.
The second part of the tour is a guided walk through the Old Midleton Distillery - a full tour of the process of Irish whiskey making.
There are special factors that go into creating a distinctly Irish whiskey. The ingredients are important. Irish whiskey is made from a blend of malted and unmalted barley and water. We tour the Malting Building and learn the details of this process. Irish whiskey contains malt dried in kilns fueled by anthracite, a smokeless fuel from Wales. Scottish whiskey contains malt dried using open turf fires, which give Scotch its peatey flavor. This smokey taste is deliberately absent from Irish whiskey.
Another factor is the ageing process. Irish whiskey matures in oak barrels imported from Portugal, Spain, and America. These barrels originally contained sherry, port, or Madeira wine. The different casks give different qualities to the whiskeys as they mature, such as a sweet flavor and red toned color.
I was fascinated with the fact that the plant was powered by a waterwheel, which dates back to 1852, up until the distillery closed in 1975. Take about eco-consciousness! The waterwheel turned the millstones that ground down the barley and malt into grist.
By the end of the tour, I'm ready to taste the Irish whiskey. It is good! I appreciate its color. I taste the subtle sweetness in its flavor. Soon it numbs my mouth with its potent alcohol content, making it difficult to taste. No matter. After learning what went into making it, I know it's good stuff.
Recommended as an informative education in Irish whiskey making.
How to get there
From Cork City, take N25 east to Midleton.
From Waterford, take N25 west to Midleton.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
March 1st - October 31st:
Tours daily, from 10:00-18:00 (last tour at 16:30).
November 1st - February 28th:
Monday to Saturday - tours at 11:30, 13:00, 14:30, and 16:00 only.
Sunday - tours at 12:30, 14:30, and 16:00 only.
Adult 9.75 euro
Child 6 euro
The Old Midleton Distillery
Tel: (0)21 4613594