17 JUL 2017: This at least takes the sting out of flying in tight quarters. This summer a couple of distillers partnered with airline industries to pour passengers a complimentary shot of whisky. Porter Airlines hooked up with Aberlour to offer the 12-year-old Highland single malt during its complimentary food and beverage service. Walsh Whiskey Distillery took it a step further and brought a virtual reality tour of their estate to Dublin Airport that ends with an actual drink.  

When launching the VR distillery tour, Bernard Walsh, Founder and Managing Director of Walsh Whiskey Distillery said, “We are delighted to bring the first ever virtual reality distillery experience to passengers in The Loop, Dublin Airport. It is both fun and informative and we hope passengers enjoy what is a unique way of experiencing our distillery and whiskeys.”

Walsh is justifiably proud of his new distillery which opened in June 2016. The 18th century Royal Oak estate is set deep in the heart of barley-growing country in Ireland’s Ancient East region and the Distillery is the first to be developed in Carlow in over 200 years. It’s the key element in a €25 million investment which positions Walsh Whiskey Distillery as one of the leading craft Irish whiskey producers in this, Irish whiskey’s second golden age.

When I met with Walsh (who is also Chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association) during a recent trip to Canada, he told me that Irish whiskey is on a roll with ever more distilleries launching. He said that six years ago there were 3.5 distilleries in Ireland (he called Kilbeggan half a distillery at the time as it was recently restored and only operating part time). Now there are 16 distilleries with another ten expected to open in the next two years.

Walsh Distillery is the only independent distillery in the world to produce all three types of Irish whiskey in one still house, namely – pot still, malt and grain. Both of whiskey’s main ingredients, water and barley, are in plentiful local supply from the surrounding barley-growing farms and the Barrow Valley Aquifer, a massive natural underground reservoir of water located 70 metres directly below the distillery at Royal Oak.

Walsh is not one to stop at merely producing great whiskey – he wants people to visit and smell, taste and learn all about Irish whiskies. He’s set up tour packages for visitors who are invited to relax in a sylvan setting while learning about Irish whiskey distilling by interacting directly with the distillery’s team of twelve local distillers. This immersive experience includes smelling and tasting whiskey at various stages of its development.

Visitors to Royal Oak can also stroll around the grounds and see the ongoing renovation of the estate’s original centrepiece, Holloden House. This stately home was built in 1755. Walsh quips “Dating from this era of Emperors and Royalty goes someway to explaining why the renovation will ultimately cost a King’s ransom when completed several years from now.”

For those who can’t make it to the distillery, the pop-up shop and three-minute virtual reality tour in Dublin’s Terminal 2 runs through the months of July and August. This tour finishes with a tasting of a choice of either The Irishman or Writers’ Tears. I love the triple distilled Writers’ Tears for multiple reasons - price, taste and name. I also love the idea of making the passage through an airport a happy one. The pop up, the whiskey and the concept seem so apropos for Ireland.



Margaret Swaine

Margaret is a nationally published wine, spirits, food and travel writer, who has authored thousands of articles on these subjects for magazines and newspapers.

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