North of the River Liffey are the buildings of the Old Jameson Distillery, where John Jameson set up his whiskey company. They have long been turned over to a somewhat touristy shrine to “the hard stuff”. Guided tours whirl visitors through the process itself, from milling and mashing to the essential distillation element; while the separation of water from alcohol only occurs once in bourbon and twice in Scotch, the production of uisce beatha (Irish for “water of life”, anglicized to “whiskey”) involves a three-stage process. The resulting liquid is diluted via the addition of water and then left in imported oak casks, formerly used for sherry, port or brandy, to mature for five to seven years, though some rare whiskeys are left 25 years before bottling. The tour ends with a tasting exercise in which testers are requested to sample four brands of whiskey, plus a bourbon and Scotch, before plumping for their favourite – if you want to take part, make sure to volunteer at the start of the tour, or you’ll only receive the complimentary tot of Jameson’s from the bar.
Adjacent to the distillery is an area christened Smithfield Village by developers. More an ongoing process of urban renewal than an identifiable community, its centrepiece is also the city’s largest civic open space, cobbled Smithfield itself. Surrounded by rising blocks of executive flats, shops and restaurants, Smithfield still manages to host one of the city’s major sights – the 300-year-old Dublin Horse Fair, which takes place from around 9am or so until noon on the first Sunday of each month and draws a fair number of traders and other horse-lovers from the city and outlying rural areas.