The Irish Whiskey Society America Member Group Trip took place from May 15-19th 2023. Our 2023 Cask, Castle, and Craic Tour was based in Dublin with activities taking place in and around the city during the week.
We stayed at the historic Wynn's Hotel located on Abbey Street one block north of the River Liffey. Fabulous daily breakfast, convenient bar on premises, and an ideal location for our planned activities during the week.
Attending IWSA members received a Welcome Package consisting of a Tote Bag, Mini Irish Whiskey Samples, Green Flask, Molly Malone song lyrics, Copy of the Irish Proclamation, and Map of our Unconventional Dublin Whiskey Walking Tour.
The tour kicked off on Monday at noon with our walking tour led by IWSA President Allan Dwyer. Starting at our home base at Wynn's Hotel, we embarked on a 2.5 mile journey making various stops along the way. Highlights of the first leg included the James Joyce statue, Spire, GPO, O'Connell Bridge, Merchant's Arch, Hapenny Bridge, DiFontaine's, Clarence Hotel, Four Courts, Brazen Head Pub, and National College of Art & Design (NCAD).
The NCAD was one of the special stops celebrated with a mini Irish Whiskey. Former home to the Powers John's Lane Distillery, the famous stills were getting a makeover during our visit as part of a multiyear refurbishment project. That did not stop the group from enjoying a Baby Powers Johns Lane Single Pot Still. The group also enjoyed a Dubliner Irish Whiskey at the James Joyce statue and Hapenny Blend at the namesake bridge.
We enjoyed lunch at Darkey Kelly's Pub on the edge of Temple Bar. Our second leg "walked off" lunch as we passed through Dublin Castle on the way to the Molly Malone statue. Here we enjoyed our final mini-whiskey, the namesake Irish Whiskey blend. The final loop saw us pass by Distilled Pub, down Dawson street, passed the Mansion House and Celtic Whiskey Shop to St. Stephen's Green. From here we walked back up Grafton Street and the famous shopping area and Busker entertainment spots to the Irish Whiskey Museum.
Our Monday tour of the museum covered great story-telling about the history of Irish Whiskey. We ended the tour with an Irish Whiskey tasting experience which covered the styles of Irish Whiskey: Single Grain (Clonakilty), Single Malt (Knappogue 12yr), Single Pot Still (Powers Three Swallows), and finally a blend of styles using Peated malt (Velvet Cap). Our tasting experience included "blending" your own whiskey from the four provided and taking home a small bottle sample.
Post museum tour, we moved on to The Oval, a beautiful restaurant and pub across the street from our Hotel a block north of the River Liffey. Finally, we wrapped our first day with a nightcap Irish Whiskey at the Confession Box, Dublin's smallest pub, where we sampled their private label bar bottling from IrishAmerican Whiskey and Achill Distillery.
For Day 2 we hit the road in our private ride to County Wicklow about 30 minutes south of Dublin city. Our first stop was the Powerscourt Waterfall, the second highest in Ireland, for a group toast with Fercullen Falls, the first blend released from the Powerscourt distillery using their own distillate.
After the waterfall, we explored the wonderful Powerscourt Estate and Gardens, named the #3 Gardens in the world by National Geographic. After lunch at the Avoca Cafe, we headed over to the Powerscourt Distillery for our tour.
Our group was led on a tour of the distillery which included the three copper pot stills and an explanation of how their Irish Whiskey is made. We were then brought over to the next door warehouse where the IWSA cask was resting. The group was provided a sample from our cask of single malt which was approximately 4.5 years old. The first cask filled in 2019, we have to wait until at least 2029 before we can bottle. Until then, we can enjoy the newest distillery release, their core range single malt at 46% abv.
After our tour of the warehouse we returned to the distillery and tasting room for our food pairing whiskey tasting. Delicious Wicklow food, including cheese, crackers, apple butter, salami, and salmon, were paired with the Fercullen single grain, Fercullen Falls blend, and Fercullen Single Malt expressions.
After the food pairing tasting, the group availed of the gift shop before getting back on the bus for our dinner and Hooley show at Johnnie Foxes, Ireland's highest pub. After an evening of great food, Irish music and step dancing, we headed back to our hotel.
After a late night and two days, Wednesday was an "open" day for members to catch their breath and take in Dublin on their own. This gave everyone the opportunity to visit museums, shop Grafton street, or tour the city. Some of us were in search of the perfect Guinness pour and engaged in a pub crawl of some of Dublin's iconic establishments.
After a day in Dublin, the group ventured north to the grounds of Slane Castle. Home to the Conyngham family who reside upstairs, the Castle's history goes back centuries. For the past 40 years Slane Castle has hosted outdoor concerts. Musical acts U2, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie are just a few to headline. U2 actually recorded their album, The Unforgettable Fire, in various rooms of the castle. Upwards of 100,000 people attend the shows on the Slane Castle grounds. Upon arrival Thursday morning, the IWSA members circled the grounds along the River Boyne as part of the Walking Trail. The Meeting Tree serves as a gathering place for the thousands of people attending the concert. A tour of the Castle followed along with lunch at the downstairs Brown Bar.
After lunch we ventured 100 yards away to the Slane Distillery. We were met by Barry Farrell our guide who began the tour with a demonstration for making Irish Coffee.
We then had the great pleasure of being met by Alex Conyngham, co-founder of Slane Distillery who took time to speak to our group about the history and plans for Slane Castle and Slane Distillery.
We then commenced with a tour of the distillery which was very comprehensive. By no means your run of the mill tour, the Slane experience covered the history of the buildings, whiskey making process, cooperage, and barrel types. Along the way we were met by head distiller Gearoid who provided further insight into future plans which include an exciting pot still mash bill being distilled in a column still.
After learning about the making of Slane Triple Cask Blend, Barry led us into a beautiful tasting room. Here we were led through a deconstruction tasting of whiskey from each of the three cask types, virgin oak, seasoned bourbon, and sherry, before sampling the triple cask blend. We were also provided a sample of the pot still mash bill distilled through the column still. Due to current technical file restrictions, the name of this spirit is undefined; however, category name may become more transparent by the time it is ready for release.
After the whiskey tasting, we were brought into the Slane Bar which is a virtual museum of the history of Slane Castle concerts. The room contains albums of the musical acts who played Slane Castle over the years. The bar itself contains the engraved names of musical performers and year. As we were shown the room, we were provided a refreshing cocktail made with Slane whiskey.
Our last stop was to the gift shop. Here, several members poured their own bottle of cask strength Slane Irish Whiskey with personalized label.
For our final day, we ventured outside of the city center to the historic Kilmainham Gaol. Both educational and impactful, we experienced stories during our morning tour of the former detainees, both famous Easter Rising revolutionaries as well as hungry child victims of the famine. Fresh off our history lesson, our private bus took us to our lunch spot across the street from the Royal Dublin Society (RDS).
The last group activity of the IWSA Cask, Castle, and Craic Tour was attending the Friday afternoon session of WhiskeyLive Dublin 2023 held in the Main Hall of the RDS. After a dozen or so years, this event keeps getting bigger and better. With now well over 100 exhibitors, this is a great opportunity to see old friends, meet new people, and sample some great Irish Whiskey.
IWSA members had a wonderful time experiencing so much of what the Irish Whiskey industry offers all concentrated in one place. This was a great way to culminate the trip which saw us also visit pubs, distilleries, and historic points of interest all linked together by Irish Whiskey. Along the way, we built lasting relationships and set the stage for future IWSA trips. Sláinte.