Best Urban Whiskey Distillery Tours


Top 5 City Distilleries For Tourists Worldwide

By Richard Thomas

Teeling Distillery

Dublin’s Teeling Whiskey Company
(Credit: Richard Carleton Hacker)

The zeitgeist is blowing for whiskey, and one part of that is whiskey tourism. A generation ago, few distilleries were equipped to offer much in the way of a tourist experience, assuming they offered tours at all. Now those that haven’t undergone extensive renovations to welcome visitors either are or will be soon.

Yet another part of the whiskey boom is how easy it has become to visit a distillery. In many parts of the world, it is no longer necessary to travel specifically to visit a whiskey distillery. Several distilleries have set up shop in urban areas, with more on the way. Among this new crop of whiskey-makers in the towns, five stand out for making good whiskey and offering their visitors a good tour.

Chicago: KOVAL
KOVAL was one of the early entrants in the American craft distilling movement, and when they set up shop in 2008 they became the first legal distillery in Chicago since Prohibition. From a whiskey enthusiasts point of view, they are a solid representative of what craft distilling is all about: they offer the standard bourbon, rye and white whiskeys, but also experimental stuff, such as millet, oat and four grain whiskeys.

Tours at KOVAL aren’t frequent, and are offered in narrow windows on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. However, visitors to KOVAL will get a good grounding in what micro-distilling is all about, especially if they sign up for one of the two-hour workshops.

Town Branch Welcome Center

The Town Branch Welcome Center is done-up as an Irish high street.
(Credit: Joana Thomas)

Dublin: Teeling Whiskey Company
For decades, the closest thing a tourist to Dublin had to a distillery was Old Jameson, which is essentially a museum built out of the defunct Jameson distillery. Starting last year, distilling returned to Dublin with the opening of Teeling Whiskey Company’s facility in The Liberties.

As a new distillery, it was designed with the visitor experience in mind, so much so that founder Jack Teeling described fitting the spacious mezzanine around the trio of pot stills as the last major challenge before the facility’s completion. Teeling offers visitors a tourist experience grounded in a medium-sized, working distillery, rounded out with in-house bar and cafe. They are open every day from 9:30 am to 5 pm.

Lexington: Town Branch
The Horse Capital Of The World also forms the eastern border of Kentucky Bourbon Country, and now one doesn’t even need to cross New Circle Road to see a working distillery, and this one a brewstillery at that. Town Branch Bourbon is mated to Kentucky Ale in a joint facility.

Tours begin in the Irish High Street-themed gift shop, a nod to owner Dr. Pearse Lyons’s Irish origins, and embrace both the whiskey distillery and the brewery. Town Branch and Kentucky Ale are open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm.

Nashville: Corsair Artisan
Corsair started out in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but now it is very much centered on the world’s center for country music. They now have two facilities in “Nash-Vegas:” the Clinton Street brewstillery and Merritt Avenue.

Kings County still

Dave Haskell shows the stills at Kings County
(Credit: Kurt Maitland)

Clinton Street is the original Nashville site for Corsair, and with the opening of their second facility it has evolved into an all-malt enterprise, making both malt whiskey and high gravity beer. Merritt Avenue is a more generalized place, producing a variety of spirits, but it is also the more visitor-friendly of the pair, what with its extensive bar facilities and patio.

New York: Kings County Distillery
Located in Brooklyn, when King’s County began producing urban moonshine in 2010 it became the first legal distillery in New York City since Prohibition. They grew out of their Williamsburg digs and moved in 2012 to their current facility in the Navy Yard, and their current line-up includes moonshine, bourbon and chocolate whiskey. Tours are available without reservations on Saturday, and with reservations on Wednesday and Fridays.


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