Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills, co. Antrim.
FROM Coleraine we proceeded to Portrush, the nearest stopping station to the Distillery which heads this chapter.
We stayed over Sunday at Portrush, and on Monday morning started for Bushmills by the celebrated Electric Railway, which for nearly six miles climbs the hills and rocks overhanging the sea; after crossing the River Bush, we found ourselves at the old-fashioned town of Bushmills, and within a few minutes’ walk of the Distillery. This very old work is about two miles from the Giant’s Causeway, which attracts a large number of tourists during the season, from all parts of the world. The Bush, from which the town takes its name, is a fine salmon river, and one of its tributaries, a clear and beautiful stream, called “Saint Columb’s Rill,” passes through the Distillery, being used by the proprietors in the manufacture of their celebrated Whisky.
The first record we have of this, no doubt the oldest Distillery in Ireland, is in the year 1743, when it was in the hands of a band of smugglers; but in 1784 we find it recognised as a legitimate Distillery, making about 10,000 gallons of Whisky per annum, most of which, at that time, was exported to the West Indies and America. For nearly a century its progress was very limited under its different proprietors; but in recent years, since the present Company came into possession, there have been continual extensions to the plant, and, from the present rate of progress, we expect in a year or two to see it cover a much larger area of ground than it now does. The Company have recently increased the capacity of their old Pot Stills, and erected the electric light on their premises, which has a very pleasing effect, and shows that they are alive to all modern inventions.
The Manager first conducted us to the conveniently-arranged and capacious Barley Stores, which are, during the working season, always filled with home-grown barley. The proprietors use nothing but superior quality, and, therefore, encourage the farmers of the district to grow barley in large quantities by giving them a fair price for it; thereby doing away with the necessity of buying foreign grain.
Underneath the Barley Stores there is a range of Malt Floors, Kiln, &c., used for the manufacture of Malt. In connection with these buildings are the Store Rooms, from whence, through shoots, the malt is dropped into the two Malt Deposit Rooms, where is it weighed into sacks ready for use, and wheeled across a gangway into the loft; thence through a hopper in the floor, it drops into the Mill-room below, where it passes through a fine set of patent Malt-rollers. The Malt-grist is sent from the Mill by elevators into the Grist-loft - a well-lighted floor, over the Mash Tun, where it is weighed into bags of 168 lbs. each, afterwards being emptied into a shoot which conveys it into the Mash Tun, a circular metal vessel, having the usual double-action stirring-gear. From the Mash Tun the Worts are drained into the Underback, holding 1,500 gallons; whence, by a double-action plunger pump, they are sent into the Worts Receiver in the Tun Room. This latter apartment is a lofty building - a model of brightness and cleanliness, containing four Washbacks, each holding 9,500 gallons; also a Wash Charger and four Low-wines and Feints Chargers. The large Patent Refrigerator is placed on a gallery in this building.
From this department, we were conducted to the Still House, a very large building, containing two old-fashioned Pot Stills, holding 2,500 and 1,500 gallons respectively; and space has been left for two more equal to those at present in use. The Running Room is an elegant place, containing the Safe and Sampling Safe, four Low-wines and Faints Receivers, holding 1,800 gallons each, and three double-action plunger pumps. In a separate room adjoining there is a fine new Spirit Receiver, of about 2,200 gallons content.
The Engine Room contains a 20-horse power engine for occasional or extra use, and a boiler for heating the coppers. On a brick pier in the yard we noticed a metal Worm Tub of large dimensions. Next we proceeded to the Spirit Store, opposite the Still House, containing a Vat capable of holding 5,000 gallons.
The four Bonded Warehouses are built on the side of the hill, and at the time of our visit were well stocked with Whisky of various ages. As in other Distilleries, large or small, there is a Grains House and Spent Wash Tank, the contents of which find a ready sale to the farmers in the locality. The Racking Store, Excise offices, and Store Warehouses adjoin the Distillery buildings. The Whisky is carted to the depôt of the Electric Railway, which conveys it to the Portrush Railway Station and Harbour for delivery to all parts. The annual output is 100,000 gallons. The Company have lately erected very fine offices in Belfast, consisting of Boardroom, sampling room, secretary’s and general offices.
The Distillery is under direct and personal management of Mr. James McColgan, one of the directors.
Mr. H. R. Mayer is the chief Excise officer.