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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery.

Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery History

Old Bushmills is acknowledged as being one of the oldest licensed distilleries 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. 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."


James I granted the initial license to Sir Thomas Phillips, a local landowner, in 1608.


The Bushmills distillery is located on the edge of the town of Bushmills in Country Antrim, about an hour's drive north of Belfast and a short distance from the coast, two miles from the Giant's Causeway, described as the eighth natural wonder of the world.


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.


Hiding its antiquity, Old Bushmills is markedly of Victorian-Speyside in design a result of its rebuilding after a devastating fire in 1885.


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, Bass Charrington  then Seagrams Eventually it joined the Irish Distillers Group in 1972.


Irish Distillers in 1988 was the subject of a hard fought take-over battle between British giant Grand Metropolitan and French rival Pernod Ricard, which the latter won.  


Irish Distillers at the time owned two distilleries, Bushmills and the modern Midleton complex near Cork. The whiskies produced went into Irish blends such as Jameson, Original Bushmills, Black Bush, Powers, Paddy and Tullamore Dew. The distilleries also produced Irish single malts such as Bushmills Malt, and potstill style Greenspot and Redbreast, In June 2005  Bushmills was separated from Irish Distillers and joined Diageo for £200million.


What is remarkable for a distillery is that the Bushmills Distillery has survived nearly 400 years. The distillery will mark its Quad-century this 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.


Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery Bottlings

Bushmills Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 10 years old

Bushmills 12 years old Distillery Reserve

Bushmills Select Casks Aged 12 years

Bushmills Aged 16 years

Bushmills Rare Aged 21 years

The Old Bushmills Single Cask Bourbon Barrel 1989

The Old Bushmills Single Cask Rum Barrel 1989

The Old Bushmills Single Cask Sherry Butt 1989


Bushmills Blended Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 1608

Bushmills Black Bush

Bushmills Original


Bushmills Honey Infused Whiskey

Old Bushmills County Antrim

BT57 8XH

N. Ireland

Phone +44 01265-731521


Guided tours are available all year-round.


For tour hours, contact  012657 31521.

Visitors are welcome  

Please Confirm with the distillery for opening times before travelling.


County Antrim Founded 1608


"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"

Bushmills Whiskey Review Bushmills Whiskey Review Buy Irish Whiskey Buy Irish Whiskey