Dundalk

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

Dundalk Distillery, Dundalk, co. Louth.

Continuing our tour from Dublin, we arrived at the flourishing sea-port town of Dundalk, wherein is situated the famous Distillery which heads this Chapter. From the railway we got our first view of this historic town, with its river, bridge, and harbour. The latter is formed by recesses in the bay, which is seven miles across at its mouth, and the same distance in depth. The English power was established in Dundalk about the twelfth century, and Dundalk, with other territories, was granted to Bertram de Verdon, who founded here a priory for Crouched Friars of the Augustine Order. In 1315, Edward Bruce took possession of the place, and caused himself to be proclaimed King of Ireland; but his assumed dignity did not last a year, his army being totally defeated, and himself slain by John de Birmingham. Up to the sixteenth century this town was constantly besieged, until it surrendered to Cromwell. At the east end of Dundalk are some fine ruins of a Friary, consisting of a lofty square tower, surmounted by a turret. Not far from the town is to be seen the Lady Well, resorted to by the pious on the patron day, September 29th. It is a fine spring of water, arched over, with ancient massive masonry. The Dundalk Distillery and buildings, which cover ten acres of land, are within 300 yards of the entrance gates to the beautiful seat of the Earl of Roden, a richly-planted demesne of 274 acres, and close by the Assize Court, which is a handsome building of hewn stone, with a portico built after a model of the Temple of Theseus at Athens

The works consist of several handsome blocks of buildings, mostly 65 feet high, and the statistical records of Dundalk state that the Distillery, in the year 1837, employed 100 men, and consumed 40,000 barrels of grain, producing 300,000 gallons of whisky of superior quality. Since that time great additions have been made to the buildings, and the trade considerably increased, until the output has more than doubled these figures. The water used in the works is of a fine quality, and comes from the Corthill Lough. All the machinery in the establishment is driven by steam power.

The present proprietors are John, Malcolm, and Henry Murray, three brothers, and it was a grand uncle of theirs who purchased the Distillery. Close to the entrance gates, and on the estate, is a picturesque house, the oldest in the district, at present occupied by the working partner. It was built by the Dutch settlers, and in the basement they carried on the business of a cambric manufactory. It is a charming old place, with a flat Dutch garden in front and a fruit orchard behind, round which are built the two Maltings, here, a separate department of the Distillery. One of them is a four-decker, built of stone, and pointed with brick, having two Kilns floored with iron tiles. These two houses are capable of malting 1,200 barrels a month. Each Malt House possesses a fine stone Steep, and the Kilns are heated by open furnaces. Opposite the entrance gates are the Corn Stores, a handsome block of buildings, with five floors, having a frontage of 200 feet, with a depth of 80 feet. In the old Corn Stores, which covered the same site, Cromwell quartered a troop of horse on his march.

At the time of our visit, which was in October, the firm were purchasing 1,200 sacks of corn per day, which would continue up to Christmas. The farmers deliver the corn to the weighing shed, where are to be seen in use a pair of old-fashioned Beam Scales, said to be 200 years old, in which the sacks of barley are weighed. Here the attendant tips the sacks into a hopper, from whence the corn is conveyed by elevators to the top of the buildings, and thence by endless screws to the different departments. The firm are also purchasers of Indian corn, and on one floor alone we saw 3,000 barrels piled up to the very ceiling. The dry Corn Kiln is, of course, contiguous to the Granaries, and is on the same principle as those of the Caledonian Distillery, Edinburgh, and heated by hot air. The grain is sent by elevators and screws direct to the Mill - a separate building of four floors, 50 feet by 28 feet, containing three pairs of stones and a set of Malt Rollers - which, although it was rebuilt in 1807, is still called the New Mill. It turns out 14 barrels per hour, or 336 barrels every 24 hours. The Grist Room is over the Mash Tun, and there are five immense Brewing Coppers, heated by steam, for boiling water. The Mashing House contains two Mash Tuns, 25 feet in diameter and 9

The worts run from the Mash Tun to the Worts Coolers, over the Back Loft, and are each capable of cooling 24,000 gallons of worts every three hours. The fifteen Washbacks are of large capacity, holding 24,000 gallons each, and we saw another of these handsome vessels in course of construction, of the same capacity. In this department also is placed the Underback and a Wash Charger holding 24,000 gallons. There are eight three-throw pumps, four Morton’s Refrigerators, and two Worm Tubs. The huge Water Tank is on the roof of the Back Loft.

The Still House contains four old Pot Stills, as follows: - Two Wash Stills holding 10,700 gallons each, a Low-wines 8,000 gallons, and a Spirit 6,000 gallons, also a fine Coffey’s Patent Still. The two Spirit Receivers are of the following capacity: - No. 1, 2,600 gallons, and No. 2, 20,700 gallons, and we noticed that the two Vats in the Spirit Store were registered to hold 13,000 gallons and 14,000 gallons respectively.

At the back of the Distillery, in a separate courtyard, there are nine Bonded Stores, and some idea of their size and capacity may be ascertained by the fact that they at the time of our visit contained over 7,000 casks, and that there is a whole street of workmen’s houses in front of them inhabited by some thirty families. Close by there is a ponderous steam Crane for lifting the casks, and a Cooperage, which employs some twelve or thirteen men. The Grains Tank and Spent Wash Tank are so arranged that farmers can remove their contents without coming into the Distillery. The industries of the establishment consist of a large Engineers’ Shop, fitted with two steam Lathes, a Swa Bench, and Boring Machine, all worked by steam, and other appliances; also a Carpenters’, Painters’, and Harness Makers’ Shop, and large Smithy. The Stable contained seven horses for carting the Whisky to the boats and rail, and adjacent to the Stable are Cart Sheds and other buildings. The two lofty chimney stacks are a landmark for the mariners on the sea.

Returning to the Distillery proper, we were conducted to the Engine House, and were shown a wonderful Engine of 40-horse power, which has been working for half a century and shows no signs of decay, also a powerful Donkey Engine for feeding the five Boilers, each of which is 20 feet long and 6 feet in diameter. The fire arrangements are very perfect, sunken pipes through the yards, with a strong pressure of water on every floor of the buildings are available, and, besides this, there is a large Shand and Mason’s fire engine on the premises. The Racking Store is conveniently situated near the spirit Store, and there is also a duty-paid Warehouse for the convenience of local customers.

During the last few years the enterprising proprietors of this Distillery have added most of the new machines and patents used in distilling, and the annual output is close upon 700,000 gallons, a large quantity of which is consumed in the district, and the remainder goes to England and Scotland.

Before leaving, we were conducted to the top of one of the highest buildings to enable us to realise the extent and dimensions of the establishment, and to get a view of the delightful scenery of the neighbourhood. In front of us the Guillon Mountains, engirdled here and there with bands of white mist, outlined by a density of silver shadows, and lower down a long stretch of mountain landscape. Descending by another way, we found ourselves in the courtyard, crowded with carts laden with corn, and the whole place as busy as a bee-hive.

Before leaving, we inspected the Office Building, which consists of spacious clerks’ offices, and private rooms for the partners. The Excise officers also have been comfortably provided for.