By Richard Thomas
Perhaps most symbolic of the modern revival of the Irish whiskey scene was the return of Tullamore DEW to is namesake town. Heralding the opening of the spanking new distillery last year was the 2012 opening of the Tullamore DEW Visitors Center.
Go To The Museum, Not The Distillery
Keep in mind that split between the distillery, sited on the outskirts of Tullamore, and the tourist destination found in the center of town. As I discovered when I visited both last November, even guided tour groups regularly go to the distillery by mistake, and as of yet the distillery has no provision for tourists. So, if you’ve come to Tullamore for whiskey tourism, if you aren’t going to the town center you are going to the wrong place.
New Attraction At The Old DEW
Besides the fact that the distillery hadn’t even broken ground at the time, the reason the visitors center was opened in the middle of Tullamore was to put it inside the old distillery’s bonded warehouse, a historic 19th Century building on the scenic Grand Canal.
Instead of a distillery tour or museum , what the Tullamore DEW Visitor Center offers is the modern, storyteller-style experience, where exhibits and multimedia displays tell the story of the Tullamore whiskey brand and explain the basics of how Irish whiskey is made and what makes it special. Much of this is narrated by John Quinn, the brand ambassador who has been attached to Tullamore DEW longer than any other person alive today. Whereas some whiskeys have living legends in the form of long-serving master distillers, such as Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell, Tullamore DEW has its long-serving frontman in John Quinn.
Also part of the visitor center is a top notch restaurant with a view of the canal and an atmosphere matching the old warehouse, with plenty of open space and dark wood. Tours aren’t free, with the basic tour priced at €8, but this includes a tasting of three Tullamore whiskeys. Those in search of a wider experience might want to splurge on the €25 premium tour, which includes a more personalized tasting of six whiskeys, but this must be scheduled in advance.
All things considered, I cannot recommend making the trip out to Tullamore solely for the Visitor Center. However, as part of a whiskey day-trip from Dublin it serves as a superb partner to a visit to nearby Kilbeggan Distillery, not the least because Kilbeggan has Tullamore DEW’s old pot stills! Between the two, plan on having your lunch at Tullamore, which has the better restaurant.