The tour, stretching north and south from Dublin, took me to four whiskey tasting centers.....

We were prepared to spend much of the trip wallowing in the rain, another well-known Emerald Isle trait, but luck was with us here too, and skies were clear. Even gloomy weather would have been tolerable, though, with that golden Irish whiskey to keep us warm.

In the months before our trip, I'd heard a lot about the venerable liquor. Irish whiskey, dealt a near-fatal blow almost a century ago by Prohibition, is seeing an upswing in popularity in the U.S., particularly in trendy bars and restaurants in America's large cities. Expanding from a small base, it has become one of the fastest selling spirits in the nation, say industry sources.

We booked a premium tour, which meant a special tasting in a private roomful of sofas, a handsome bar and a gathering table. We were shown to the table; in front of each of us were five glasses, half-full of golden liquids. To the side, each of us also had a beaker of water. Tour guide Robert Galbraith was in top form as he cracked his first joke. "A wise man once said, if you don't start in the morning, you can't drink all day." Indeed, it was only 10:30 a.m.