The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.
Limerick Distillery, Limerick.
From Galway to Limerick was one of the most tedious journeys we had experienced during our lengthened stay in Ireland. The train proceeded for a greater part of the way at a snail’s pace, through an uninteresting track, and to make matters worse, the railway guard kept the train waiting at several locations whilst he imparted the latest political news and gossip to the stationmaster and his clerk. Fortunately, on nearing our destination, the scene changed, and we were travelling more rapidly through a pleasant country, along which the magnificent waters of the Shannon rolled on their way to the sea. This river is not only the largest river in Ireland, but of any other island on the globe; it waters eleven counties, and is 254 miles in length.
Soon the steeples and towers of Limerick came into view, and shortly afterwards we reached the station, where we found an omnibus from the hotel waiting for us, to which we speedily transferred ourselves and luggage. After dinner we sauntered forth in the cool of the evening to take stock of our surroundings, and view the famous places connected with this historic city.
In the tenth century the Danes took possession of Limerick and the adjacent islands in the Shannon; one of them, the most important, is exactly opposite the Distillery, as seen in the illustration. Most of these Danish Sea Kings were ferocious fellows, as cruel as they were brave. One of them, King Tergesius, was a terrible monarch, and ground the poor Irish to the dust. After subduing Malachy, King of Meath, the tyrant treated that prince with great indignity, but as events turned out, King Tergesius caught in Malachy a tartar, who served him out with more than poetical justice. Tergesius demanded the beautiful princess, daughter of Malachy, for his mistress, together with fifteen of the greatest beauties for his harem. Malachy dared not disobey the order, and sent his daughter, by night, to conceal her disgrace, accompanied by fifteen young heroes, dressed in female garb. On being ushered into the presence of the Danish King, the feminine attire was thrown off, and fifteen swords were presented to the tyrant’s breast, as dowries with the maiden. The king was instantly bound a prisoner and his guards put to death, the castle gates were then opened to Malachy, who, with his soldiers was waiting outside, and not a Dane was left alive, except the king himself, who, after a brief imprisonment, was drowned.
The history of the Old City of Limerick, for many centuries, is full of romance and tragical events; it is the only city that has never been taken by the English. It is called the “City of the Violated Treaty,” from the following event: General Ginckle invested it in the year 1691, and after six weeks, failing of success, negotiations for a treaty were set on foot, amicable intercourse was established, and articles of capitulation signed, the garrisons were to march out with the honours of war, The Roman Catholics of the kingdom were to enjoy every privilege of King Charles the Second’s time, and a parliament was to be summoned in Ireland. Alas, these stipulations were not fulfilled, and King William’s successor enacted far more oppressive laws. This violation of a solemn treaty has hung as a curse on England for nearly two centuries. What miseries, rebellions, cruelties, and midnight murders might have been prevented by these concessions of civil and religious rights; and Ireland to-day would have been a loyal and happy country.
We visited some of the chapels, which were well attended by devout worshippers, male and female, presenting a striking contrast to the week-day services of the English churches, where one only sees, at the most, a few women. After which we strolled along the river, and then returned to our hotel.
The next morning we drove to the Distillery, by way of the Thomond Bridge and along the banks of the Shannon. On our arrival we were received by the Manager with a hearty welcome, and conducted over every part of the establishment.
This fine old Distillery is planted on the banks of the Shannon, and just outside the walls of the city. Its origin dates from the beginning of the century, and it stands within a few hundred yards of the “Treaty Stone,” and the celebrated Thomond Bridge, one of six bridges that cross the river.
The works and buildings cover upwards of six acres, and are built on a very convenient plan, so as to work principally by gravitation, and there is an inexhaustible supply of water for every purpose. We commenced our inspection at the Maltings and Barley-lofts, which form a large building 203 feet long by 103 feet broad, and are of the shape and appearance of an old baronial castle, having two small inner courtyards, each of which is reached by a stone archway.
The Lofts used for the grain adjoin the Maltings, and are 110 feet long by 90 feet broad; they are situated over a large bonded Warehouse, and a powerful little engine hoists the grain to these floors at the rate of ten barrels a minute. The two Malting Floors, which have three spacious stone Steeps, are connected with four Kilns, two of them are in the centre, and one at each end of the building, two are floored with perforated Worcester tiles, the others with wire cloth, and all of them are heated by open furnaces. The Maltings are connected with each other on both floors by two spacious galleries, so that we were under cover the whole time. On our way to the Mill we passed through the Brewhouse, 80 feet long, which contains the four large brewing tanks, tuns, &c. The Mill is a spacious and lofty building, 50 feet long and 30 feet broad, divided into two separate departments, one for the grinding of grain, and the other for malt, the former contains four pairs of Stones and the latter two; the engine used in the Mill is a fine one of 30-horse power, and when necessary can be connected with another of the same size, which drives the machinery of the Distillery. In both Mills the grist and ground malt are carried by a double set of elevators and hoppers to the upper floors of the Mill, thence along a bridge into the Grist-loft over the Mash-house, to which place we next bent our steps. It is a handsome building, and contains two large Mash-tuns, with usual stirring gear and draining plated. The Underbacks in connection with these vessels is placed on the floor of the Pump-room, which adjoins the Brewing-house. Ascending a flight of steps we inspected the coolers, which form a part of the roof of the Mash-house, and also the capacious water tanks, place on the roofs of the adjoining buildings, and therefore at a higher altitude than the Refrigerators.
At the suggestion of our guide, we climbed to a platform elevated over the tanks, where we gained a splendid view of the Clare Mountains, the counties of Limerick and Tipperary, the windings of the river Shannon, the City side of Thomond Bridge, including the picturesque King John’s Castle, now used as barracks, and the island opposite, where a party of cavalry were exercising. Returning to the main building, we came to the Cooling-room, which contains four Refrigerators of the best and most modern pattern, also two cylindrical Condensers, like those at Messrs. John Jameson & Son’s. From the outside landing we observed the Worm Tub of the Wash Stills, a vessel 48 feet long, which contains nine copper coils. It is in the open air, near the top of the Stills, and adjoins the Safe-room, to which place we proceeded. It contains the usual Safe, Sampling Safe, and other appliances. From thence we went to the Pump Room, containing five sets of three-throw pumps, three used for worts and cold water, two for feints and one for feeding the boilers with hot water. At the end of the building we came to the Back House, a spacious open-roofed gallery, which contains five Wash-backs, each containing 30,000 gallons, with space left for other two in course of construction. The Wash-chargers are constructed of timber, and the Intermediate-charger of metal, all conveniently placed and of a capacity sufficient for the requirements of the work. Here our attention was called to the convenient arrangements for extinguishing fire - fire cocks and hose being distributed in every part of the Distillery, and ground boxes with hydrants placed along the numerous courts, these being all connected with the water tanks on the top of the building. A fire engine is also kept permanently on the premises. Crossing the square, we next entered the Still House, a lofty well-lighted structure, which contains three copper Pot Stills; one, the Wash Still, is placed near the steam boilers, the other two, in which the final operations are conducted, are situated near the two principal engine houses; they have open furnaces underneath, and possess all the latest improvements.
One of the last-mentioned Stills was constructed in 1885, for the manufacture of real Irish Whisky, and may be regarded as a model Still, embracing every improvement, which has suggested itself to its renowned builders, John Miller and Co., of Dublin, during their long experience. In close proximity are the Low Wines and Feints Chargers, and the various Receivers, all well grouped and conveniently placed as regards the different Stills. The floor under the Brewing Tanks is reserved for the grains or draff, whither it is conveyed from the Mash Tuns by means of a broad canvas belt, working upon rollers. After inspecting these, we crossed over to the Spirit Store, a building of neat elevation, 80 feet long by 60 feet broad, across the end of which a gallery has been erected for two large Spirit Vats. On the floor are the various appliances for casking and weighing the Whisky, previous to its being placed in the Warehouses.
A few yards’ progress brought us to a range of four large bonded Stores, well ventilated and very dry. The brewer is accommodated within a capital dwelling house within the enclosure, also the resident engineer. We next inspected the General and Excise offices, and then took a peep at the Engine House, which contains four steam engines, two of them of 30-horse power and the others of somewhat less power; also six steam boilers of various capacities and dimensions, and from thence visited the Carpenters’, Engineers’, Coppersmiths’, and Brassfitters’ Shops; all of them average 45 feet square, and are fitted up with every necessary appliance. Upwards of seventy persons are employed on the premises, many of whom have been attached to the place a number of years.
At the invitation of the Manager, we paid a visit to his house, a picturesque old mansion, communicating with the offices, and formerly occupied by the proprietor. It deserves some mention, not only for its size and antiquity, but for the beauty of its position, built as it is on the very margin of the river. The bay window of one of the drawing-rooms overhangs the stream, and commands a view that could not be surpassed from any house in Ireland; comprehending the city of Limerick, the river and shipping, King’s Island, where the artillery and cavalry daily exercise, sailing and fishing boats under the very window; and many other pictures too numerous to mention. After tasting the “make,” we visited the garden, luxuriant in vegetables and flowers, and from thence to the stables and cartsheds, which are on an extensive scale, and finally to the Cooperage.
The Whisky made in this Distillery is of good reputation and full bodied, and is said to possess rapidly maturing qualities. It is designated “Pot Still Real Irish Whisky,” and is sold all over the three kingdoms, and the annual output is 300,000 gallons. The principal Excise officer is Mr. Thomas Austin.
On leaving the Distillery, we completed our tour of the city before returning to our hotel, having arranged to start for Cork by an early train. In almost every town and city we have visited we have found that there is a church dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint, and Limerick is no exception to that rule.
Swift personifies St. Patrick as follows:-
“Thee, happy Island, Pallas call’d her own,When haughty Britain was a land unknown;From thee with pride the Caledonians traceThe glorious founder of their kingly race.Thy martial sons, whom now they dare despise,Did once their land subdue and civilize.Their dress, their language, and the Scottish name,Confess the soil from whence the victors came.Well may they boast that ancient blood which runsWithin their veins, who are thy younger sons.Britain, by thee we fell, ungrateful Isle,Not by thy valour, but superior guile.Britain, confess with shame this land of mine,First taught thee human knowledge and divine;My prelates and my students sent from thence,Made your sons converts both to God and sense.”