Whiskey has long been considered an intrinsic part of Irish culture (for evidence, simply note that its Gaelic name, ‘uisce beatha,’ translates to ‘water of life’). Once a trusted medicinal cure, the spirit is, these days, a draw for drinks connoisseurs the world over. Base your stay at nearby Ashford Castle and you’ll be perfectly positioned to discover the very best local whiskies. Once you’ve worked your way through the extensive selection on offer at Ashford Castle’s Prince of Wales Bar, set out on a Galway whiskey tour of the area’s best local pubs, which offer up abundant heritage – and no shortage of warming drams.
Behind the bar, you’ll find more than 125 whiskies from around the word (with a particular focus on Irish whiskey, naturally). The collection also contains an ample selection of vintage distillations and other rare bottles that are no longer being sold. And for those feeling slightly stumped by all the choice, Garavans also offers popular whiskey platters, which provide a curated primer alongside detailed tasting notes.
Not far from the site of the old Persse Distillery, where nearly 400,000 gallons of Galway whiskey used to be exported annually in the 19th and early 20th centuries, you’ll find An Púcán. A historic landmark in Galway, the pub has long been a destination for its lively nightly entertainment, as well as its whiskey selection, which consists of well over 200 bottles. Given that it’s located just around the corner from the Connaught rugby grounds, it’s especially buzzing on match days.
It’s only a 10-minute walk (stumbling or otherwise) to the next stop on your Galway whiskey tour: the delightfully old-fashioned Freeney’s. This steadfast establishment is a vestige from the time period when most pubs in Ireland also doubled as grocers and, from the outside, it may look more like a fishing tackle shop than a place to do some tippling (technically, half of it is a fishing tackle shop). Nevertheless, proceed indoors and you’ll find a convivial atmosphere perfect for sipping whiskey and mixing with the locals and knowledgeable bar staff. The family-run business has roughly 50 different whiskies on its shelves, and is also a good option for those looking to purchase a bottle (or several) of something special to take home.
Any good Irish whiskey tour in Galway will see you stop for a drink at these three landmark pubs. And for those looking to get farther out of town, a few other destinations also tempt. The Kilbeggan Distillery Experience, slightly more than an hour’s drive away, immerses guests in the inner workings of an active Irish whiskey distillery. And Lowry’s, in the ruggedly beautiful coastal town of Clifden, is not only a wonderfully scenic whiskey pub – it also hosts traditional Irish music six days a week. But even if you prefer to stay local, there’s no shortage of cosy corners in which to enjoy the waters of life.
Header Image: © Garavan’s Bar