Midleton

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

Midleton Distillery, Midleton, co. Cork.

Much to our regret, the journey to Midleton was a short one, being only thirteen miles from Cork. The railway runs some distance along the banks of the River Lee, under hanging woods and beautiful hill slopes. After leaving the river, the route traversed was through a well-cultivated country, both hilly and luxuriant. On reaching the terminus, we hailed a car and drove through the town to the Distillery.

Midleton is an interesting place. In olden days it was known by the name of Chore Abbey, so named from a famous Cistercian Monastery, founded in 1180 by Barry Fitzgerald: “chore” signifies a ford. The present name is derived from Midleton, being half-way between the towns of Youghal and Cork. It is situated on an inlet of Cork Harbour, and the tide flows up to the town. There is a river at each end of Midleton, one of which flows by the walls of the Distillery; these rivers abound in salmon, and are the favourite resort of anglers. The town is planted in the Vale of Imohally, a healthy and fertile country, screened on all sides by lofty hills and embellished with plantations. In the neighbourhood are numerous ruins of castles and abbeys, each with its legend and ghostly tale, of which our driver gave us a specimen; and as we evinced no signs of horror, nor did our hair stand on end, he did not repeat the experiment. But to return to the subject of our visit. The Midleton Distillery is one of several similar undertakings that have been absorbed in the Cork Distilleries’ Company, Limited, Mr. Murphy, the former proprietor, remaining in the concern as a managing director.

The success of this enterprising Company was assured from the very first, when the former proprietors of the Distilleries, all practical men, decided to remain in the Company and undertake its personal management. The establishment at Midleton covers upwards of eight acres of ground, and was built by one Marcus Lynch, at a cost of

We spent a most interesting time at the Distillery, and were more than ever convinced that woollen mills and barracks are not only suitable, but more convertible buildings for distilling purposes than any other, possessing, as they do, height, space, light, and large courtyards. The close proximity of the railway and water carriage, and the locality being a large corn-growing district, made the Midleton Distillery a desirable property for the Company to acquire. A carriage drive, which leads to the Distillery, runs alongside the river, which is shaded with lofty trees and forms a beautiful border to the grey-stone buildings of the establishment.

We drove up the centre of the big quadrangle, and through a crowd of carts and waggons laden with corn, to the Manager’s Office, which adjoins the Corn buyer’s department; and whilst waiting for the before-mentioned gentleman’s appearance, we amused ourselves by watching the proceedings. The farmers were busy offering their samples, while among the crowd were several groups of laughing girls, who had accompanied their friends for the sake of an outing. As soon as the manager arrived, we commenced our inspection of this large work, at the Granaries. The first we entered was a handsome stone and brick structure, 99 feet long and 33 feet wide, and six stories high. On the opposite side there is a second building used for malting, whither we bent our steps. It has four floors, of large dimensions; the top being used for barley, which falls through sluices on to the three Malting floors beneath. The Steeps on these floors are composed of concrete, and are capable of working 350 barrels at one time. About twenty yards progress brought us to the Kilns, of which there are three, each measuring 40 feet by 31 feet. We passed through one of them, and found ourselves in the Malt-storing Department, which consists of four separate rooms, sheltered from the light and quite enclosed. Descending two or three steps, we passed through the Malt-meal Loft, which completed our tour of this range of building. We next retraced our steps to the Grain Lofts first visited, and, after passing through a pathway of corn, we came to the two handsome Corn Kilns, both of which communicate direct with the Dried Corn Floor. The dried barley is sent from this place by an endless belt into the Mill, which was the next object of our attention. Proceeding up a stone stair-case, we entered the Mill Room, which contained, beside the ponderous machinery and nine pairs of Stones, four large Malt Crushing Rollers, the malt being delivered here from the Maltings by elevators. Crossing the Mill Floor, we next come to the Grist Lofts, passing on our way four Heating Coppers, each with a capacity of 22,000 gallons, and all heated by steam. These Lofts are very spacious, and conveniently arranged for communication with the Brewing House.

The grist is conveyed through closed troughs to the Mash Tuns, where it undergoes the first process in Whisky making. Following our guide, we descended a flight of steps and found ourselves in the Mash House, a well-lighted appartment, and containing three Mash Tuns - two holding 21,000 gallons and the other 30,000 gallons, all possessing the patent revolving stirring gear. In close proximity to these vessels there is a large Underback, capable of containing 15,000 gallons of Wort. Passing along, we came to a place where two thoroughfares diverge, and turning to the left soon found ourselves in the Tun Room, an extensive gallery, ranged along the walls of which are 16 Washbacks - fine timber vessels; 14 of them hold 24,000 gallons each, and two 40,000 gallons each. From these vessels the Wash is pumped to the Wash Charger, which holds 20,000 gallons, and is placed at an elevation to command the Stills. We left this department for a time, and followed our guide across the court into the grounds attached to the house formerly occupied by Mr. Murphy, which are beautifully wooded and very picturesque, to see the coolers which are placed in the bed of a stream flowing from a rocky cavern, the waters of which are icy cold even in the hottest summer. Besides these there are also three sets of Morton’s Refrigerators in the Distillery.

Returning to the scene of our labours, we passed the Worm Tub, 40 feet in diameter and 14 feet deep, and entered the Still House, the outward appearance of which is somewhat different from other places of the kind we have visited. It must have formerly been a drill hall or canteen in its old barrack time, and is well adapted to its present use. It contains, besides a Coffey’s Patent Still, three old Pot Stills, of the following capacities: - a Wash Still, containing 31,648 gallons; and two Spirit Stills, each holding 10,000 gallons. Going forward a little to the right, we reached the Can-pit Room, wherein are placed, besides the usual Safe and Sampling Safe, five handsome Receivers, as follows: - one Spirit, two Feints, and two Low-wines Receivers, each with a capacity of 5,000 gallons. In close proximity is the Spirit Store, wherein are two vats, each of which holds 20,000 gallons. In this place the spirit is reduced, racked off into casks, weighed, and taken an account of by the Excise, and then sent to the different Warehouses, to which buildings we next directed our steps. They are seven in number, dry and well ventilated, and contained, at the time of our visit, 7,000 casks. After perambulating through these Warehouses, we paid a visit to the Cooperage, where casks are manufactured, cleaned, and sweetened; afterwards to the numerous industries of this large undertaking, consisting of three handsome engines, of 30-horse power; four steam-boilers, measuring 30 feet long by 8 feet in diameter, and seven sets of powerful three-throw pumps. The three chimney stacks, which uplift themselves from the centre of the works, are upwards of 100 feet high, and add much to the appearance of the Distillery, all the buildings of which are of good structural and architectural proportions.

There is a capital fire engine on the premises, and the arrangements for extinguishing fire are as complete as those at North Mall. The whole of the establishment is lighted by gas, and there appeared to be sufficient coal stored in the yards to supply the inhabitants of Midleton during the winter.

Mr. A. Ross, who has an assistant under him, is the distiller, and there are upwards of 200 men employed on the premises. Mr. Davies is the supervisor, and there are seven other Excise officers. The Whisky manufactured at Midleton is called “The Cork Whisky Make,” and the annual output is a little over 1,000,000 gallons.