Bishop’s Water

The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.

Bishop’s Water Distillery, Wexford.

On our return we broke our journey at Dublin to visit the Bishop’s Water Distillery, and to rest a few days before starting northward. By the advice of our Dublin friends we chose Brazil’s Hotel, Kingstown, for this purpose, and were afterwards glad that we had done so. It certainly is one of the most comfortable and cosy little hotels in Ireland, and much frequented by Englishmen. The rooms are comfortable, the cuisine all that can be desired, and the attendance of the best. One of the waiters - who is a character in his way, and a very witty fellow, rejoices in the soubriquet of “Lord Pat” to his friends, but is plain “Pat” to the general public - studies every newspaper that comes into the place, and gives you the cream of it all whilst you are at breakfast; he is, of course, a Nationalist, and says he hopes to get into Parliament one day, “When he will settle Home Rule once and for aye.” His great delight is to inveigle you into an argument, and ten to one he will get the best of it. From the windows of our room we had an expansive view of Dublin Bay, the Hill of Howth, and Kingstown Harbour, and we took great interest in watching the arrival and departure of the English Mails. The Hotel is a convenient place for tourists who wish to visit Bray, the Dargle, or Powerscourt Waterfall, as they are all within a driving distance.

It was a fine morning when we started on what proved to be a delightful journey to Wexford. The contrasts of scenery on the railway are very striking; now we travelled through a short valley, or passed at the base of lofty rocks, whose overhanging tops seemed to threaten our whole train; then by the verge of a precipice over the sea, or plunged into some deep tunnel; then perhaps a long stretch of beautiful country, well cultivated; anon across bridges, over streams and rivers, whose waters were flowing lazily along, or hastening impetuously in their progress to the sea. Some miles before reaching Enniscorthy, we had our first view of the celebrated River Slaney, whose banks in some places are beautifully wooded. We stayed a short time at Enniscorthy to see some friends, with whom we visited the new Catholic Cathedral and Castle ruins, also the fine Malting of Mr. Roche, who malts extensively for Messrs. A. Guinness and Son. The picturesque old Castle is one of the earliest military structures of the Anglo-Norman settlers, and its grey towers are still standing. It was at one time possessed by the Kavanaghs, and subsequently given by Queen Elizabeth to Spenser, the poet. After being taken by Cromwell, it was repaired by an ancestor of the Earl of Portsmouth, the present proprietor. Once more resuming our journey along the banks of the Slaney, we proceeded to Wexford, a half hour’s ride. This glorious stream, which has often been compared to the Rhine, is crossed at Wexford by a new and handsome bridge, 1,500 feet in length, erected some years ago in lieu of the old bridge, and which with its approached, is more than a mile long, forming a dry and pleasant promenade for the inhabitants, and on which a military band frequently plays during the summer months. Wexford, which is built on the south, bank of the Slaney, where that river discharges itself into Wexford Harbour, is an old Danish town, and at one time of great importance. It contains many ruins of abbeys and religious houses, and there are the remains of a fine old tower, which has been utilized as a windmill. Owing to its close proximity to the water, and being somewhat below sea-level, the railway station is built on piles, and at the time of our visit was being lifted up and renewed in several places. On our arrival, we drove through the centre of the ancient and picturesque town to the Distillery, the subject of our sketch. It is planted in the hollow of a hill, and running at the back is the celebrated stream called Bishop’s Water, from whence the Distillery takes its name. This stream, which was blessed by a saintly bishop ages ago, issues from the heart of the Forth Mountain, and is said to possess rare qualities for brewing and distilling purposes. There is also a lovely little rivulet running through the works, which is made available for driving purposes.

The Distillery, which covers six acres, is built of fine Wexford stone, and was erected in the year 1827 by a small company of gentlemen in the locality. It afterwards passed into the hands of the Messrs. Devereux, who were original and the principal Shareholders and Directors of the Company. The works are enclosed by a stone wall, and at the entrance in Talbot Street, at the top of the hill, there is a handsome gateway; whilst at the bottom, in King Street, where the Wexford Corn Market is held, there is another entrance. The frontage in King Street is 582 feet, and the depth of the buildings therefrom nearly 200 feet, whilst the height is about 60 feet. The Distillery, being conveniently built on the slope of the hill, much of the work is done by gravitation, and home-grown corn only is used, which is delivered by the farmers at the large stores on the Quay, consisting of a three-storied building holding 2,500 barrels of grain, where it is dried in the Kilns adjoining, and afterwards carted to the Distillery. On reaching the latter place the dried corn is delivered by elevators to the dried corn lofts, which are at the top of a five-storied building; the lofts are 40 feet square, well lighted and ventilated, and in close proximity to the Distilling-house. From thence the grain falls through shoots into the Mill below, where there are three pairs of stones and a set of malt rollers. It then descends into the Grist Lofts, from which, through sluices, it falls into the Mash Tun underneath, a vessel 40 feet in diameter and 7 feet deep. On our way to the Mash House we passed the Malt Deposit Warehouse, a spacious building, which contained at the time of our visit 16,000 barrels of pure malt; also the Copper House, containing three coppers, which supply the hot water to the Mash Tun; all of which are very large and heated by furnaces.

From the Mash Tun the worts flow into the Underback, from whence they are pumped through the Coolers and three of Morton’s Refrigerators into the Washbacks. We may here mention that the Worm Tub is a feature of this establishment, being erected on the slope of the hill, built up from the ground in solid stone and concrete work, 20 feet high and 90 feet long. It is quite the size of an ordinary town reservoir, and the only one of the kind in Ireland. This Worm Tub is approached by a stone staircase, and the walls being some 6 feet thick, there is a fine promenade all round on the top, and we obtained a good view therefrom of the harbour and shipping.

Following our guide, we next visited the Back Loft, a large and well-lighted building. Along the wall there is one of the old-fashioned “continuous Spouts,” which conveys the worts into these Washbacks, of which there are seven, each holding 30,000 gallons. From these Backs the liquor runs into the Wash Charger, a stone vessel, containing 25,000 gallons. It goes next into the Wash Still, which is capable of holding 18,000 gallons, thence through the pipes and worm Tub to be cooled. Retracing our steps, we come to the Still House, a fine structure, which contains three old Pot Stills, with a capacity of 9,000, 11,000, and 18,000 gallons respectively, each having the old-fashioned revolving chains inside. From the Spirit Stills the perfected spirit, which has already undergone three distillations, is pumped into a Vat, holding 16,800 gallons, in the Spirit Store, and there is also a smaller one holding 2,686 gallons. This Store forms an underground apartment, cut out of the limestone rock, and is therefore as dry as bone, and is similar to the Store in the Greenock Distillery before referred to. Here the whisky is casked, weighed, and afterwards sent into the nine Warehouses distributed about the courtyard, which are capable of holding together 5,000 casks. As a matter of fact, there were at the time of our visit upwards of 3,000 in stock. Attached to the above, there is a duty-paid Racking Store to supply local wholesale customers. A few steps from this place is the Engine, of 30-horse power, and a Boiler, 30 feet by 7 feet. The engineer resides on the premises, and, with his assistant, does all the engineering work required. The Grains House is approached from the King Street entrance, and so arranged that there is no need for the farmers to enter the distilling part of the works to remove the grains and spent wash. There are capital Offices, a Cooperage, various workshops, and stabling for eighteen horses on the premises, and seventy men are employed.

The make is old Pot Still Whisky, and highly appreciated in Wexford and neighbouring districts, also in London, Liverpool, and Bristol. In the year 1882, Messrs. Devereux & Co. gained a Certificate of Merit in Class A for their Whisky at the Dublin Exhibition.

The annual output is 110,000 gallons.