Old Bushmills Distillery
|Headquarters||Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland|
The Old Bushmills Distillery is a distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is owned and operated by Diageo plc, and is a popular tourist attraction, with around 120,000 visitors per year. According to the company, a distillery by this name was first recorded in 1743, although at the time it was "in the hands of smugglers" (in a quote attributed to Victorian whiskey journalist Alfred Barnard).
All of the whiskey bottled under the Bushmills whiskey brand is produced at the Bushmills Distillery. A licence to distill in the area was granted to Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1608 by King James I, and the 1608 date is printed on the labels of the Bushmills brand whiskey. It uses water drawn from Saint Columb's Rill which is a tributary of the River Bush.
The area has a long tradition with distillation. According to one story, as far back as 1276, an early settler called Sir Robert Savage of Ards, before defeating the Irish in battle, fortified his troops with "a mighty drop of acqua vitae". In 1608, a licence was granted to Sir Thomas Phillipps by King James I to distill whiskey.
for the next seven years, within the countie of Colrane, otherwise called O Cahanes countrey, or within the territorie called Rowte, in Co. Antrim, by himselfe or his servauntes, to make, drawe, and distil such and soe great quantities of aquavite, usquabagh and aqua composita, as he or his assignes shall thinke fitt; and the same to sell, vent, and dispose of to any persons, yeeldinge yerelie the somme 13s 4d...
The Bushmills Old Distillery Company itself was not established until 1784 by Hugh Anderson. Bushmills suffered many lean years with numerous periods of closure with no record of the distillery being in operation in the official records both in 1802 and in 1822. In 1860 a Belfast spirit merchant named Jame McColgan and Patrick Corrigan bought the distillery; in 1880 they formed a limited company. In 1885, the original Bushmills buildings were destroyed by fire but the distillery was swiftly rebuilt. In 1890, a steamship owned and operated by the distillery, the S.S. Bushmills, made its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to deliver Bushmills whiskey to America. It called at Philadelphia and New York before heading on to Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama.
In the early 1900s, the USA was a very important market for Bushmills (and other Irish Whiskey producers). American Prohibition in 1920 came as a large blow to the Irish Whiskey industry, but Bushmills managed to survive. Wilson Boyd, Bushmills' director at the time, predicted the end of prohibition and had large stores of whiskey ready to export. After the Second World War, the distillery was bought by Isaac Wolfson, and, in 1972, it was taken over by Irish Distillers, meaning that Irish Distillers controlled the production of all Irish whiskey at the time. In June 1988, Irish Distillers was bought by French liquor group Pernod Ricard.
In June 2005, the distillery was bought by Diageo for £200 million. Diageo has significantly increased production at the distillery and hopes to double production by 2011. Diageo have also announced a large advertising campaign in order to regain a market share for Bushmills.
In May 2008, the Bank of Ireland issued a new series of sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland which all feature an illustration of the Old Bushmills Distillery on the obverse side, replacing the previous notes series which depicted Queen's University of Belfast.
Current Bushmills whiskey range
- Bushmills Original – Irish whiskey blend sometimes called White Bush or Bushmills White Label. The grain whiskey is matured in American oak casks
- Black Bush – Has a significantly greater proportion of malt to grain whiskey than the white label. Spanish Oloroso sherry-seasoned oak casks mature the malt.
- Bushmills 10 year single malt – Matured in American bourbon barrels for at least 10 years.
- Bushmills 12 year single malt – A special edition currently sold only at the Bushmills distillery, matured mostly in sherry casks.
- Bushmills 16 year single malt – Matured for 16 years or more in a combination of American bourbon barrels, Spanish Oloroso sherry butts and Port pipes.
- Bushmills 21 year single malt – A limited number of 21 year bottles are made each year, and are matured in three different types of casks: first in American bourbon barrels and then in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. Together it will total 19 years in these casks, after which it may lie in Madeira drums for a further two years until bottling.
- Bushmills 1608: A special 400th Anniversary whiskey. From February 2008 it was available in Bushmills outlets across the world; however, from 2009 it will be available only in the Whiskey Shop at the distillery and in duty free.
Retired Bushmills whiskey range
- Bushmills 25-year Millennium malt: An exclusive 25-year-old whiskey bottled in the new millennium. Only a limited number of casks were produced, many being reserved by celebrities and many exclusive hotels.
- Bushmills Irish Cream Liqueur was an Irish Cream rather than a whiskey. Its production ceased in 2005 following Diageo's takeover of the distillery, as Diageo owns Bailey's Irish Cream.
Some Bushmills offerings have performed well at international Spirit ratings competitions. In particular, its Black Bush Finest Blended Whiskey received double gold medals at the 2007 and 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competitions. It also received a well-above-average score of 93 from the Beverage Testing Institute in 2008 and 2011.
- Old Bushmills History (official website)
- Whisky Merchants Website
- Alternative Whisky Academy
- Northern Ireland Travel
- Berry Bros. & Rudd
- Ray Foley (1 January 2006). The Best Irish Drinks. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-4022-0678-8. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
- George Hill (1877). An historical account of the plantation in Ulster at the commencement of the seventeenth century, 1608-1620. M'Caw, Stevenson & Orr. p. 393. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
- "Bank of Ireland to feature Old Bushmills Distillery on new Northern Ireland note issue". Bank of Ireland. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
- "Bank raises glass to famous drink". BBC News. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
- Bushmills kick-starts 400th anniversary campaign