Picking your poison in Dublin

It’s a priority for most visitors here: go native and get a drink. You can visualise the eager, tentative tourist asking the locals for directions to the spiritual home of either Irish stout and or the world famous Jameson whiskey. What’s surprising is that most locals who visit these meccas only go with visitors. Either place makes a great venue for a stag or hen event, or simply to learn about the potions that have quenched our thirsts for centuries.
If your wallet is feeling limp, the first thing you need to know about the Guinness Storehouse is the price: €16.50 for an adult. Guinness is historic, its advertising and branding resonant, the stout making process interesting. Yet the tour brings little of this to life, instead mainly composed of short video clips, signs and memorabilia. Even the impressive advertising display that was there when I visited in 2011 is now a shadow of its former self. Eventually you reach the dizzying heights of the Gravity Bar. There, Dublin’s buildings, scale, bay and mountains are all brought close through this spectacular view. This is a great way to show tourists where they’ve been or may go. The purest pint of Guinness you may ever taste will be waiting.
The quality of drink at the storehouse is equalled by the Jameson Distillery in Smithfield. Whether you’re a connoisseur or not, the Irish coffees or complimentary whiskeys impress. In contrast to James’s Gate, this one hour tour begins with a short and interesting video before a guide brings you along a re-enacted route of whiskey distillation, sprinkling a nice blend of anecdotes and humour along the way. There’s a whiskey tasting quiz for a select group of volunteers at the end, an approach that also brings this experience more alive than that on offer across the Liffey. An adult pass costs €14.
Which one to visit over a Dublin weekend? Setting aside the obvious criteria of preferred poison, it’s a tough call. Both drinks are steeped in history – Guinness first poured in 1759, Jameson first distilled in 1780 – with family traditions underpinning both stories. The Jameson experience engages you more, is less self-congratulatory and better value for money. Alas, when in Rome: a pint of the black stuff at one of Dublin’s highest points is probably the best reason in the world to pay dear.

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