We have always dreamed about having an Irish Whiskey distillery in Dublin. We set upon a journey of finding the perfect location, and in 2013, we discovered St. James’ Church and were drawn to its rich history and The Liberties.
There is a cast of colourful characters associated with St. James’ Church, including my grandfather, John Hubert Lyons, who is buried in the graveyard.
Dublin has deep historical routes with world class Irish whiskey. Official records have revealed that Irish Whiskey production grew to some four million gallons in the 1820s. Of course, this did not account for the illegal Irish Whiskey that was also being distilled without permission.
At one time, close to 40 distilleries were in operation in Dublin, nestled in a one mile radius better known as the “Golden Triangle.”
St. James Way, commonly known as the Camino de Santiago, is a large network of pilgrim routes starting across several European countries, including North Africa, ending at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. The pilgrimage has always been popular amongst Irish Catholics, who traditionally would sail to France before walking to Spain.
The history of St. James Way dates back to the beginning of the 9th century with the discovery of St. James tomb at Santiago de Compostela. The Way then became defined by a network of Roman routes that carried an impressive human traffic flow, all of whom made the pilgrimage on foot.
Stained glass windows have been in production since ancient times, with evidence of these colourful windows found in Christian churches as early as the 4th and 5th centuries.
They were at their most popular during the Middle Ages when they were commissioned to illustrate narratives from the Bible.
Stained glass windows are traditionally made by either adding coloured metallic salts to glass or by painting details onto clear glass before the pieces are carefully hung as illuminating windows.
Pearse Lyons Distillery is truly history in the remaking. St. James’ Church dates back to the 12th century. The present church was constructed in 1859–1860 in a Gothic design with a cross shape, a tower and a spire at the southwest corner. In 1948, the top 30 feet of the church spire was removed due to structural problems. The church was then closed for worship following a decline in the number of parishioners in 1963. It underwent various transformations, including becoming a lighting store and a food warehouse, until finally being renovated as you see it today.
In December 2011, as the last independent Irish Whiskey distillery, Cooley Distillery, was sold to Beam Inc., Dr. Pearse Lyons organised for two small-batch copper pot stills from Kentucky to be sent to Ireland. Six years later, as Dublin’s only independent Irish Whiskey distillery, Teeling Whiskey, is partially sold to Bacardi, Pearse Lyons Distillery opened its doors.
The site is now home to our two small-batch copper pot stills following their pilgrimage to Ireland. They are an unusual pair of Kentucky small-batch copper stills…
Irish Whiskey has a long and interesting history. While the exact origins of Irish Whiskey are not known, ancient manuscripts reveal Irish monks practiced the art of distillation during the 6th Century. In the early days, the monasteries where the monks resided were at the centre of life and industry in Ireland. Between the 6th and 9th centuries, the monasteries prospered. However, from the 9th to 11th centuries, the Vikings invaded Ireland and destroyed the monasteries forcing the monks to flee to Scotland where they created new settlements, bringing with them the art of distillation, thus beginning the production of Scotch Whisky.
STEP 1 – MALTING
Malted barley is a key component of whiskey production. Malted barley is produced by steeping raw barley in warm water for 40-60 hours at a temperature of 12-15 degrees in order to make the barley think it is spring time in its natural life cycle and the barley begins to germinate. Once this process starts the barley is then dried out so it can be stored for use. In Ireland we traditionally dry out the barley with a dry heat from a closed heat source. In other countries open peat fires are used and that is how “Peated” whiskeys are produced.
The “Seanachaí” is a traditional Irish storyteller who recited ancient folklore. During medieval times, when most Irish people didn’t have books, the Seanachaí used storytelling to pass down stories from generation to generation through theatrical stories, prose and song.
Even with the introduction of parchment and quills to the general population, the tradition of the spoken word was kept alive. Seanachaí became famous across the island of Ireland for their ability to tell tales from memory, reciting detailed historical events, poems and Irish legends, all without the use of books.
Coopers, often referred to as artisans of wood, are professional craftsmen who create barrels or casks for whiskey and various other alcoholic beverages, such as sherry, bourbon and wine. The craft dates back to the origins of the wooden barrels themselves. It is estimated that, on average, 6,000 coopers once worked this artisan trade in Ireland, building and repairing wooden barrels for the once-thriving whiskey and beer industries that are now enjoying a renaissance. In fact, Irish Whiskeys and beers have become Ireland’s calling card around the world.