Marrowbone Lane

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

Marrowbone Lane Distillery, Dublin.

THE next day we devoted to a visit to Marrowbone Lane Distillery, which is situated in the suburbs of Dublin, close by the beautiful Grand Canal, which from this point presents a straight vista of water, with overhanging trees, nearly a mile in extent, until the whole is lost in a background of foliage and hills. On the other side there is a fine view of Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains, with the celebrated chimney shaft of the Ballycorus Lead Mines, which has a flue running up the side of the mountain a mile in length, the upcast of which stands out like a skeleton giant, and forms a prominent feature in the view. Here, also, is Katty Gallaher’s Hill, of local romantic history; she, waiting for her lover who never came, was transformed into a hill, and remains an everlasting picture of blighted hope. This hill now forms the boundary of the Lead Works, which extend over about 70 acres.

Marrowbone Lane is not far from the scene of the rising under T. A. Emmet in 1803, and an ancestor of the present proprietor was dining in his house - now used as the offices of the Distillery - when it commenced, and heard the first shots, and cries of the wounded; and it was on that day that Lord Kilwaden was dragged from his carriage and murdered in the streets. A desperate battle afterwards ensued, and Emmet was taken prisoner; and this gifted and eloquent orator, who pleaded his own and his country’s cause with such fervour and pathos, that he drew tears from the eyes of the judges, was executed in Thomas Street, on the very spot where the battle had been fought. The water used in the Marrowbone Lane Distillery comes from the Vartry, and the high level of the Grand Canal. The former a lively, dashing little river, rises from the southern base of the Great Sugar Loaf, a mountain 1,650 feet above the level of the sea, opposite to which is the Small Sugar Loaf, and the lovely valley lying between the two is called the “sweetest valley” in Ireland. From the summit of these mountains is to be viewed one of the finest panoramic views in Europe, embracing the lovely and thickly-wooded Dargle, and inland scenes of surpassing beauty; Bray, Dalkey, and all the coast places, including “the Charming City” itself; whilst the sea view takes in Howth, Ireland’s Eye, and an infinite expanse of ocean. The river Vartry flows through the high moorland district which stretches from the Sugar Loaf to Roundwood, and in its progress over mossy falls and between banks of heather, it receives all the smaller mountain streams, till it falls over a ledge of rock into the Devil’s Glen, through which it brawls over rocky beds, rushing and foaming among the huge boulders that impede its progress, adding materially to the beauty of that wild romantic spot. The celebrated Guinness’s Stout is brewed from the Vartry water, and Messrs. Wm. Jameson & Co.’s Whisky is made from the same source. On analysis it has been found that the Vartry water possesses special powers for dissolving vegetable matter, whilst it retains all the vegetable aroma so necessary for extracting the virtues from the malt.

The ancestors of the present firm purchased this Distillery about the year 1779; it was then a very small undertaking, making less than 30,000 gallons yearly, but as the product grew in reputation, so the buildings increased. To meet the demand for their Whisky, the present spirited proprietors enlarged the work and increased the plant at an outlay of £100,000, and the buildings now cover upwards of fourteen acres of ground. The following is a brief description of this extensive Distillery: At the very top of the buildings there is a fine green Corn Loft, light and airy, measuring 111 feet long by 100 feet broad, capable of holding 30,000 barrels; the two Kilns, each measuring 66 feet by 36 feet, with wire flooring are so arranged that the green corn comes in by upper doors, raised 12 feet from the floor, whilst a second series of doors, on a level with the Kiln floor, enable the dried grain to be conveyed direct into the two dry Corn Lofts, which are of the same large dimensions as the green Corn Loft.

When the corn in this department is quite cooled, it is sent by elevators and screws into the grinding Mill, which turns out 150 tons of ground corn every twenty-four hours. Before passing to the Mill, the grain goes through the cleaning apparatus, in the hoppers of which are placed strong magnets, 3 feet long, which attract and retain metal objects, &c., and there is an elastic contrivance which most ingeniously sweeps these objects from the magnets into a bag at the side, and we were surprised to see how soon it was filled with bits of nail, steel, &c., which had been subtracted from the grain. These foreign objects, if allowed to remain, not only injure the Mills, but totally destroy the flavour of the Whisky; it is well known to Distillers that an inch or two of steel would spoil a whole mash. The Mill Room contains thirteen pairs of stones, and from this department the grist is lifted by elevators and thrown into lofts, 78 feet square, above the Mash Tuns. There is a peculiarity about these lofts somewhat difficult to describe; they are built and supported on the same principle as a suspension bridge, with iron girders across to prevent the necessity of pillars or supports in the Mash House below. In the Mash House are to be seen two Mash Tuns said to be the largest in the United Kingdom, each having a capacity of upwards of 100,000 gallons; sixteen spouts depending from the ceiling distribute the grist into the Mash Tuns, each of course, being provided with the ponderous stirring rakes, &c. From these vessels the liquor passes into two large Underbacks; from thence it is pumped by three-throw pumps through the Morton’s Refrigerator into the thirteen Washbacks, or fermenting vessels, some of which contain 100,000 imperial gallons; in fact, two or three of them are large enough to hold a two-storied villa, with a garden path round it included. From these Washbacks the fermented worts are pumped into a Wash Charger out on the roof, and therefore above the level of the Stills; thence they run into the Wash Still in the usual course. There are four Old Pot Stills - no other kind being in use - with a capacity of 18,000, 12,000, 11,000, and 9,000 gallons respectively. From the Spirit Still the perfected spirit descends into an enormous Vat in the Spirit Stores, which holds 19,076 gallons. There are nine Bonded Warehouses, capable of storing 35,000 casks; they contained at the time of our visit 21,000. The Warehouses are not only well ventilated, but are particularly dry, both important adjuncts to the preservation and maturation of the spirit. The “Out” Warehouses of this firm, four in number, are situated in Liverpool Yard, North Wall, in the immediate vicinity of the shipping of the Port, and of the Goods’ Terminus of every railway entering Dublin, with one exception; in these Warehouses are constantly stored nearly 7,000 casks, maturing for the firm and their customers, and they have been most carefully attended to as regards temperature and ventilation.

The Cooperage of this Distillery is on a large scale, and is quite a work of itself, covering nearly an acre of ground, and employing thirty men in making, repairing, hooping, and cleansing the casks. The following briefly describes the Engine Department: Four engines are used - an old one, 75 years in use, of 40-horse power, still works well; there is a new horizontal engine of 50-horse power; and also a smaller one put up in the year the battle of Waterloo was fought; these all do the principal work of the place. There are five steam boilers, two 36 feet long, and three 30 feet long; all 8 feet in diameter. There are five Chimney Stacks on the premises, varying from 80 to 110 feet in height.

Throughout the premises there is a complete system of fire-extinguishing apparatus; in all departments are iron mains, to which are attached leathern hose, by which means a fire can be almost immediately extinguished, the delay of attaching hoses being completely avoided.

Carpenters’, Painters’, Engineers’, and Smithy Shops are all to be found on the works. The Stables, &c., are situated in a large square yard, about the size of a cavalry barrack, comprising fourteen stalls with harness room, two hospitals, and coach house; there are also fine lofts for feeding stores, capable of containing twelve months’ consumption. Two hundred persons are employed in the various departments of the Distillery.

The make is known as “Dublin Whisky,” and the annual output is about 900,000 gallons; it is principally shipped to Melbourne, Sydney, Dominion of Canada, British India, The United States, West India, &c. The Excise officers are Mr. Stone, Supervisor, and Mr. Eyres and Mr. Mason.

“Whisky, drink divine,Why should drivellers bore usWith the praise of wine,Whilst we’ve thee before us?Were it not a shame,Whilst we gaily fling theeTo our lips of flame,If we could not sing thee?”

Images of Marrowbone Lane