Day 2 of our Irish Whiskey Distilleries Tour dawned rather dull & grey as we continued our journey North to Bushmills Distillery.
Proclaiming to be the world’s oldest distillery with a license to distill from 1608 – living in Westmeath I know Kilbeggan Distillery is actually the oldest working distillery with a continuous license housed in the same building from 1757. The Bushmills Distillery we took the tour in today wasn’t built until 1784.
Regardless of the history, Bushmills is currently owned by Jose Cuervo and the distillery produces an excellent array of age statement single malts along with some pleasing blends. The highlight of hour long tour – which went through the history, manufacturing & maturing process as well as the all important tasting at the end – was undoubtedly entering the extremely hot working still room crammed tight with the stills full of soon to be fresh distillate! Demand is so great there are plans to double the capacity by building a new stillroom on the expansive site.
As this was the first distillery we visited that had their shop open a bottle of the 12 Year Old Distillery Reserve made it into the bag. A pleasant mainly sherry cask matured triple distilled malt presented at 40%
Oddly enough Bushmills malt is not peated unlike it’s nearest working distillery – Laphroaig on Islay – which is only a short sea crossing of 30 miles away or so. On a good day you can see the hills of Scotland from the nearby Giant’s Causeway coast. There is a new ferry service taking you on the short crossing if you wish called High Sea Spirits – now that would be an adventure!
As our car isn’t amphibious we took the road instead to Derry where Niche Drinks are building their Quiet Man Distillery in the former military barracks of Ebrington Square. We were kindly met by Ciaran Mulgrew – the managing director of Niche Drinks – who proudly showed us round the building site explaining how a modern & stylish distillery with an attractive visitors centre could be built within the old listed building and yet still retain it’s history & integrity. He also told some wonderful stories of how cross party alliances which straddled the former divided city came together to get the project off the ground. Very impressive.
What is also impressive is the award winning bar & restaurant that is Walled City Brewery handily adjacent to the distillery. Happily we had booked a tasty meal here & despite stocking Quiet Man whiskey – the allure of some tasty craft beer proved too much for some! Wonderful.
The sun came out as we made our way down to Sliabh Liag Distillery. Situated just inland from the impressive sea cliffs that it takes it’s name from. The actual distillery site hasn’t yet even started – but we were enthusiastically shown round by the highly informative & engaging founder James Doherty.
He comes with a wealth of experience from his years in the drinks industry & his stories of that career mirrored the seanachai traditions of Donegal – so we repaired to the local John The Miners Bar in Carrick where a glass of the Silkie blend awaited us. This sourced whiskey’s name recalls old stories of seals taking on human forms when ashore to befriend lonely menfolk – it certainly befriended us with it’s soft yet slightly spicy notes.
We could have stayed for longer – but a long drive through the stunning coastal scenery to our hotel for the night in Sligo beckoned.
A nightcap in Thomas Connolly’s Bar rounded off our extremely entertaining day covering the whiskey distilleries across the top of Ireland.
Dram of the day?
There wasn’t one to top the stories we heard from our day on the road & in the bar that evening!