IWSA Member Group Trip - Galway May 2024

Posted by Irish Whiskey USA on

The 2024 Irish Whiskey Society America Member Group Trip took place from May 13th-17th. For our 2024 trip, we based in Galway City along the Wild Atlantic Way. The weather was beautiful, averaging 67-72 degrees Fahrenheit, with no rain. The weather was so good in fact, one member took advantage by swimming in Galway Bay from Salthill Beach. Unofficially dubbed, "The Old and New Tour", we spent the week visiting distilleries, pubs, and other points of interest. 
We stayed at The Western Hotel in Eyre Square, Galway City. This was a great location allowing for easy walking to the Latin Quarter and West End while enjoying all the benefits of Eyre Square. When traveling outside the city, we utilized an Executive Coach bus we hired to take us to the places on our itinerary.
The hotel bar also had a great session.

Day 1

We officially kicked off our trip with lunch at An Pucan pub in Eyre Square. As everyone got to know each a other a little better, we participated in a welcome toast with the Galway Hooker Irish Whiskey 4yr blend.  

After a hearty lunch and drinks, we ventured out for a introductory walk of Galway City. Starting in Eyre Square, we learned of the history of Galway including the Tribes, before heading down Shop Street, The Latin Quarter, and West End.


We then ventured over to Salthill for our afternoon visit to Micil Distillery. This speakeasy distillery is located in the back of Oslo Bar. Unknowing travelers may be hard pressed to find it given the lack of exterior signage. Once inside, visitors experience a wonderful craft distillery making a wide range of poitins and whiskeys along with gin and Irish cream.

The tour involves sampling various Micil products as you are educated on the history of Poitin and Whiskey making in the Connemara region of Galway. Everything from the cask sizes, local ingredients, and Spanish influence on the port city are woven into the stories that impact how the Micil family has carried on the distilling tradition for generations (not always legally). 


All the magic happens just a few yards away with the hybrid still that serves as the backbone for the craft production. Having already released several Poitins, Micil's first distilled Irish whiskey is on the verge of being ready after 3 years. Celebrations are in order once the first whiskey distilled legally in Galway is ready for release after a very long time. 

Until then, there are plenty of wonderful sourced Irish Whiskeys and other products available for sale. The IWSA Micil cask is celebrating its two year birthday in early July 2024 which means we are halfway to our likely bottle release. More about our very unique cask here.

This was a great first day for our 2024 IWSA Group Trip!


Day 2

After a free morning to sleep in, shop, or explore the city, we jumped in our Coach Bus and headed south to the Burren. Our scenic ride through the County Clare rocky terrain ended at one of Ireland's newest and lesser known distilleries. Burren Distillers is located just outside the small town of Ballyvaughan in a new stone building that houses the stills, cask storage, and malting floor.

We were led on a tour by Burren Directors Noel O'Loughlen and Derek O'Dwyer. Similar to Micil, this is a small operation that produces limited barrels compared to much larger distilleries. The craft operation uses local barley that is malted in house on their own floor. 

 Burren Distillers are using Irish Oak for their casks of Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Their inaugural whiskey was recently released as a limited edition through their website. Bottles of their whiskey are not available in stores. Noel was very generous with his time, stories, and whiskey as he shared all with the group.


 It was great to experience whiskey making on a smaller more intimate scale by someone so passionate about their craft. 

Back on the bus, we headed south to Doolin for a relaxing boat cruise to the Cliffs of Moher. It's nice to experience the cliffs from a different perspective.

After our 50 minute boat cruise, we headed back north to Ballyvaughan for dinner and a nightcap. Ballyvaughan is a small village home to a restaurant, hotel, and fabulous Whiskey bar. O'Loclainn's Irish Whiskey Bar does not open until 8pm but it is worth the wait. Long before the recent Irish Whiskey boom, this little pub had one of the best selections of Irish Whiskey in Ireland. No tv or wifi, just great craic. Owner/bartender Margaret welcomes both locals and visitors from afar each night. Our day's itinerary was structured for the afternoon just so we could fit a pub visit into the schedule when it opened at night. 

A wonderful way to end the night on Day 2.


Day 3

On the 3rd day we had no scheduled events. By design, this gave everyone a chance to relax, go shopping, play golf, swim in Galway Bay, daytrip to Cong or Connemara, and/or pubcrawl. Some of Galway's finest:





Day 4

 For our fourth day, we jumped back on our bus and headed east to the small village of Ahascragh, Co. Galway, home to only a couple hundred people served by 3 pubs. In 2023, Ahascragh Distillery opened as Ireland's first zero energy emissions distillery. Built in a derelict and refurbished grain mill, the distillery is a technological marvel using wind, solar, and water to power their operation. 

Our IWSA group was led on a wonderful tour by Eoghan who showed us both the technological innovations at the brand new distillery as well as the three copper pot stills. 

After our tour we regrouped in The Old Mill Shop & Cafe for lunch and a sampling of the Ahascragh products. We sampled the Xin Gin, 11yr old Clan Colla, and 13yr old Clan Colla whiskeys. We were also given the opportunity to try a sample of New Make spirit. 

This visit was the 3rd "new" distillery we were lucky to visit. Our trip was now going to shift to the "old" with our next stop. We hopped back in our bus to head about 30 minutes south to Ireland's oldest pub, Sean's Bar.

There is something cool about a pub with sawdust on the floor. Sean's Bar is located in Athlone along the River Shannon in the center of Ireland. Its age as oldest pub has been authenticated for those not accepting based on appearance alone. 

We were entertained upon arrival by Timmy Donovan who told us of the history of the area, pub, and Irish whiskey. 

The pub attracts both locals and tourists but is not resting on its laurels. Sean's serves a mighty pint of Guinness and has its own Irish Whiskey. Sourced from West Cork Distillery, Sean's offers both a blend and Single Malt, both of which IWSA members sampled. 

After an enjoyable late afternoon visit, we headed back to our hotel for our last night in Galway city.


Day 5

For our last day, we boarded our bus in the morning to travel across the country to Dublin. The whiskey gods are smiling on travelers of this route as Ireland's oldest distillery, Kilbeggan Distillery, is located at the halfway point of the journey. 


Quite the contrast to yesterday's Ahascragh site with is modern day technology, Kilbeggan Distillery is a look back at history. Its picturesque setting has a beautiful operating water wheel. Inside, original machinery still sits as a testimony to how whiskey was made centuries ago. 

Upon arrival, our group was guided on a tour of the facilties before we began our Irish Coffee Masterclass.

As part of our rest stop on the way to Dublin, our mid-morning tour included a class on how to make the perfect coffee, Irish style.


The Irish Coffee class is given in one of the distillery's tasting rooms. All IWSA members were provided the tools, ingredients, and recipe to make the perfect Irish Coffee.

Results were mixed (in more ways than one). Some members were unable to prevent the cream from bleeding into the coffee, resulting in what looked like a frappuccino. We did have a few members that made us proud. The good news is that they all tasted fabulous and hit the spot on our morning stop.

Back on the bus on the way to our Dublin hotel to drop off bags and head to WhiskeyLive.

 WhiskeyLive Dublin is the premier Irish Whiskey event of each year. For 2024, the IWSA group attended the Friday evening session.

 The IWSA wants to thank Ally Alpine and the Celtic Whiskey Shop staff for putting on another wonderful show in 2024.

With ~100 exhibitors, it is almost impossible to visit every booth. Strategic decisions to pick your favorites, visit old friends, try new whiskeys, or all of the above?


WhiskeyLive Dublin was the perfect way to finish our IWSA Member Group Trip.

Thanks to everyone who attended and made for a memorable trip. We look forward to 2025 and our next adventure!

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