Old Bushmills Distillery
2 Distillery Road, Bushmills, United Kingdom
028 2073 1521
Old Bushmills Distillery Reviews
Great Irish Tradition Jun 10, 2011
I had been studying during the evening before what to see in Northern Ireland and I quickly ended up with Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmills distillery because they were two grewt spots but also situated almost next to each other. The Old Bushmills distillery is universally acknowledged as the oldest licensed distillery in the world. It is thought that distilling may have begun on the site as early as the thirteenth century.
Records have shown that whiskey was distilled, and consumed, much earlier than 1608 when James I granted the initial license to Sir Thomas Phillips, a local landowner. Other stories state amongst others that Sir Robert Savage, landlord of the town of Bushmills, was known to have fortified his troops with "aqua vitae" (whiskey?) in 1276. And the Book of Leinster accounts a feast in the town of Bushmills in 1490 where the local spirit helped to "down the food."
The Bushmills distillery is located on the edge of the town of Bushmills in Country Antrim, and the distillery is the first thing you see when you enter the town from the Belfast direction. I took me just under one hour's drive from Belfast even though Norman had suggested to me that it would take me a lot longer. Hiding its antiquity, Old Bushmills is markedly of Victorian-Speyside in design a result of its rebuilding after a devastating fire in 1885.
The position for the distillery was especially well suited, standing on the banks of St Columb's Rill, a local stream, that flows over peaty ground and into the River Bush, and which still provides the distillery with its fresh water supplies today.
In 1783 the distillery became the Old Bushmills Co. However local competition from legal and illegal distillers made trade difficult resulting in Bushmills to close and re-opened several times. The distillery was revived under the ownership of Samuel Boyd at some point in the 1880s. The distillery remained in the Boyd family until the late 1940s, when it moved from being a family concern through a succession of larger, corporate buyers, first by Bass Charrington and after that Seagrams; eventually it joined the Irish Distillers Group in 1972.
In 1988 Irish Distillers was the subject of a hard fought take-over battle between British giant Grand Metropolitan and French rival Pernod Ricard, of which the latter won. Irish Distillers own two distilleries, Bushmills and the modern Midleton complex near Cork. The whiskies produced go into Irish blends such as Jameson, Original Bushmills, Black Bush, Powers, Paddy and Tullamore Dew. The distilleries also produce Irish single malts such as Bushmills Malt, and Redbreast,
What is remarkable for a distillery is that the Bushmills Distillery has survived nearly 400 years. The distillery marked its Quad-century year in 2008. Throughout the years it has endured fires, wars, U.S. Prohibition, and punitive duties and taxes by governments wanting their share. The distillery is the only operating whiskey distillery left in Northern Ireland.
There were 23 active distilleries in Ireland in 1920, (134 in Scotland) this was reduced to three by the start of the 1950's. The Comber distillery closed in 1953, and the Coleraine distillery stopped distilling malt whiskey in the mid-1960s, and closed down completely in 1978.
Bushmills is triple distilled whiskey. There are three labels - regular "Old Bushmills". - A deluxe blend partner "Black Bush" and a "Bushmills Malt", launched in the mid 1980s. Bushmills Malt is available in 3 ages 10, 16 and 21 year old.
I didn’t do the tour because when I arrived there I was not really sure of the weather and I didn’t want to wander the Giant’s Causeway in the rain. I therefore only entered the visitors’ center and the shop where I bought a bottle of the Bushmills that only can be bought at the factory. I also bought a small bottle to Jamal whom I was to meet later that day in Dublin.
"It's not because the distillery is old that the whiskey is good... but rather it's because the whiskey is good that the distillery is old"
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Feb 18, 2008
The home of Irish Malt Whiskey, the Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world making whiskey since 1608. Single Malt Whiskies such as Bushmills and Black Bush are produced here and guided whiskey tours are available.
Whiskey the ‘uisce beatha’ – water of life in Gaelic has been distilled here at Bushmills since the 13th Century. But it was 1608 when the area was granted an official license by King James I to distil whiskey and has been making the finest Irish Malt Whiskey here for nearly 400 years.
Whiskies from ‘Old Bushmills’ are famed for their warm, distinctive taste and the art and craft of distilling them, which has been handed down for generations. All this can be experienced on a tour through the working distillery. The tour takes you through the processes from the water of the springs of St. Columb’s Rill, the malting of Irish barley, its triple distillation in copper stills and its maturing in oak casks and of course the tour ends with a sample of one of the distillery’s famous, Bushmills whiskies.
I went with a group from the over 50 club ‘Cumann Cairdeas’ from Donegal. We took the full tour, the film and most importantly the whiskey tasting session. It was brilliant and thank goodness someone else (the coach driver) was behind the wheel. I think I tasted 7 different whiskeys and bought a bottle of the 10 year old. Mmmmmmmm lovely but all I have now is the memory. Even if you don’t like whiskey or don’t drink it is fascinating and the distillery buildings themselves are amazing.
Getting there is fairly easy, buses brom Belfast and Derry, its well signposted and on the route to the Giants Causeway, but go the causeway first, cliffs, sheer drops into the sea and climbing don't sit too well with multiple shots of malt whiskey. - Be warned!
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