The province of Leinster, located in the east of Ireland, is made up of the counties Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. Just like the rest of Ireland, this province is rich in history, picturesque landscapes… and of course, whiskey. Today, Leinster is home to an immense array of tourist hotspots, many of which are found in and around Ireland’s lively capital. However, for all of Dublin’s many virtues (or vices, depending on your point of view), it is certainly worth exploring Leinster as a whole, beginning with a step back in time.
Over the centuries, Leinster has gone by many different names, such as Gaillian in its early days under the rule of the Firvolgian tribe, also called Fir-Gaillian to mean “spear men”. Indeed, the later name of Laighean, given to the region, evolved into the name Laen-Tir, from which we now have Leinster, or the Land of the Spears. Throughout its long history, the province as a whole has borne witness to much conflict and change. Today, it is home to memorials of pre-Christian era battles and the fierce warriors who fought in them, making it an ideal visiting spot for any keen historian.
Back to the present day, and Leinster offers natural and man-made marvels to suit all tastes. In Dublin’s fair city alone, there are a multitude of fun and fascinating sights to see, including but by no means limited to: the famous Temple Bar area on the south bank of the River Liffey, home to a pub of the same name and a good few others besides; the Dublin Writers Museum, nestled in Parnell Square and showcasing the lives and works of Ireland’s most celebrated literary icons. Of course, no visit to the capital is complete without a stroll through the grounds of the beautiful Trinity College, retracing the footsteps of notable alumni such as Isaac Newton, Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde, the celebrated Irish playwright, wit, and fan of a good drink.
Wandering further afield, any nature-loving visitors to Ireland will enjoy a brisk hike in the scenic Wicklow Mountains (word of advice: dress for all seasons). Other areas of interest include a trip to the breathtaking Knowth Megalithic Passage Tomb in Meath, and for lovers of old Irish folk tales, there is the Leprechaun and Fairy Underground Cavern in Carlingford, County Louth. And naturally, we simply cannot discuss Leinster without a word on the province’s distilleries.
While whiskey production in Leinster is more of a recent development compared to the long distilling history of Ulster and Munster, the drams that have emerged from this part of the world are not to be overlooked. Returning to the bustling streets of Dublin, possibly the best known Leinster institution, after the Guinness Brewery, is the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street. Opened in 1780, the distillery operated until 1971, and now stands as a popular tourist attraction. It enjoys large numbers of visitors throughout the year, and offers tours, tastings, cocktail mixing classes, and a lesson in whiskey-blending.
The classic Jameson is of course a must-try for Irish whiskey fans and novices alike, either on its own or in cocktail form, but other Jameson-brand offerings worth sampling include:
- The fragrant, nutty Method and Madness single malt;
- The deliciously smooth Distiller’s Safe from the Jameson Whiskey Maker’s collection;
- The luxurious, botanically rich 18 Year Old Limited Reserve, carefully blended from casks of 18-year-old sherry cask Single Pot Still.
Turning to a more recent arrival onto Leinster’s whiskey scene, the Teeling Distillery is also found in the heart of Dublin (well, there are a lot of pubs to supply in the city), and prides itself on being the only operational distillery in Dublin currently, with Jameson whiskey production taking place in the Midleton distillery now. Seasonal cocktails are available to enjoy at the distillery’s own Bang Bang Bar, and popular Teeling treats worth tasting are:
- Teeling 26 Year Old Gold Reserve, double distilled in 1987, matured in ex-bourbon casks, finished in white Burgundy casks and presented in a beautifully shaped bottle ideal for gifting and collecting;
- The flavourful, characterful Teeling Small Batch Whiskey, which gets its unique twist of taste from maturation in ex-rum barrels;
- Teeling 24 Year Old 1991 Vintage Reserve, another small-batch whiskey, which has been recognised as Best Irish Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards thanks to its complex flavour from maturation in Bourbon and Sauterne casks.
With so many natural, historical and cultural marvels on offer throughout Leinster, not to mention the guarantee of a warm welcome and a cracking good dram in the bar of your choice, Leinster is without doubt a traveller’s treasure trove. Whether you’re admiring the lush Wicklow countryside, or venturing out in search of an exciting new whiskey for the collection, you are sure to feel at home in this rising star of a whiskey region.