A new Spirits Trail in Northern Ireland is the latest in a variety of attractions on the island of Ireland that shines a light on the making of Irish spirits.
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The new trail gives tourists the opportunity to delve into the stories behind 10 distilleries in Northern Ireland, many of them relatively new.
Here is what you can expect to see and do if you decide to take the new Northern Ireland Spirits Trail.
Belfast Artisan Gin School
The trail begins at the Belfast Artisan Gin School where visitors can learn to make, bottle, label, name, and seal their own gin.
Visitors who are not seasoned gin drinkers will still enjoy this experience at The Thirsty Goat Bar and Beer Garden in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, where the experience takes place.
It includes the chance to choose from over 80 botanicals that are typically used to create gins at the local Belfast Artisan Distillery.
A mini copper still, a recipe card and help from some friendly guides make this make-your-own-gin experience an enjoyable one.
The trail continues into County Down where five of the 10 destinations on the trail are located.
At the Copeland Distillery, visitors can expect to hear tales of secret smugglers, savage battles, and remarkable voyages, while soaking up a taste of the distillery’s whiskey, gin, and rum.
They will learn about the production/distillation process at the distillery as they walk around its historical building, which once served as a picture house in the early 1900s.
At the end of the 1-hour tour, there. is an opportunity to sample some of Copeland’s spirits.
Guides at the field-to-glass Echlinville Distillery reveal how the barley that is grown, harvested and hand-malted on this family-run farm gives its spirits their unique attributes.
The distillery is based in Northern Ireland’s beautiful Ards Peninsula.
That region’s unique microclimate, rich soil and saline air contributes to the high quality of Echlinville’s whiskey, gin and poitín.
After the Tour & Tipple experience, visitors can sample the distillery’s products.
The award-winning Shortcross gin is made at the historic Rademon Estate, where Northern Ireland’s first craft gin was created using wild botanicals from the nearby fields.
The unique flavor of its gin comes from foraged wild clover, elderflower, elderberries, and water that is found in the surrounding forest and from Rademon’s historic well.
Visitors can avail of several whiskey and gin experiences at the Rademon Estate Distillery.
The Hinch Distillery
The Hinch Distillery, about a 15-minute drive away, is where triple distillation and traditional Irish mashing processes are key to creating this distillery’s award-winning spirits.
The whiskey at Hinch includes a combination of malted barley and water from the nearby Mourne Mountains.
Visitors can avail of two guided tours, including its Classic Tour and its Premium Tour.
County Down’s fifth distillery, Killowen, is the smallest in Northern Ireland but its range of spirits has attracted a big following.
Located in the Mourne Mountains, it uses age-old distilling processes and handmade artisan stills to create a traditional Irish whiskey with a modern twist.
On a guided 1 to 2-hour distillery tour, visitors can learn about the unique process that is used to create Killowen’s gin, poitín, and pot-still Irish whiskey. A tasting of Killowen spirits follows the tour.
The trail also includes the Woodlab Distillery in County Tyrone, where science and nature combine to create the company’s unique Symphonia gin.
Founded by Ulrich Dyer, an organic chemist, the gin at this new distillery gets it unique flavors from the wild botanicals and herbs that inhabit this rural landscape, which is close to Lough Neagh.
Visitors will no doubt be fascinated by what they learn on the distillery’s signature tour, Science & Sustainability at the Woodlab Distillery Tasting & Tour.
Sitting on the banks of beautiful Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, the Boatyard Distillery uses a sustainable and organic approach to producing its pure spirits.
This family-owned business was the first legal distillery to be opened in the county since 1890.
Boatyard’s spirits are very much products of the land.
Common ingredients include the deciduous shrub sweet gale (known to have been drunk by the Vikings before they went into battle!) and frequently used as a botanical in its signature gin.
Organic wheat, grown in Ireland, contributes to its popular vodka brand.
Tours are 90-minutes long and include a behind-the-scenes look at the production process in this farm-to-bottle distillery, from distilling to labeling.
Wild Atlantic Distillery
The Wild Atlantic Distillery takes inspiration from the rugged landscape around it to create its whiskey, gin and vodka.
The gin’s makeup of botanicals such as organic sugar, kelp, and dulse is inspired by the Porcupine Bank, an area of the Irish shelf that is located about 120 miles off the west coast of Ireland.
Take a 90-minute tour of the distillery and craft your own spirit under the guidance of a master distiller.
A light lunch of locally sourced food coupled with a gin and tonic is also included.
The trail finishes at Northern Ireland’s world-famous Bushmills Distillery on the spectacular Causeway Coast, where whiskey has been distilled for over 400 years.
On the distillery’s 40-minute tour, visitors will learn about the ingredients and the triple distillation process that Bushmills uses to create its signature products.
Visitors interested in any part of the Northern Ireland Spirits Trail can also use the accompanying Trail Passport, which is available at each distillery. Special souvenirs are available to those who gain points on their passports.