Monasterevan

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

Monasterevan Distillery, Monasterevan, co. Kildare.

We left Dublin by an early train, which enabled us to spend five or six hours at Monasterevan on our way to Tullamore. It was a delightful day, and we were quite glad to quit for a time the busy haunts of men, and all their ways and works, and exchange them for green fields, flowering banks, and nature’s wild beauty.

After leaving the suburbs of the “Charmin’ City,” our way lay through scenes of gentle beauty, intermingled here and there with wooded knolls and plantations. Afterwards for many miles it was less interesting. As we approached our destination, the extensive woodlands of Moore Abbey, which cover the greater part of the hill lying to the south of Monasterevan came into view, and we were soon in the midst of pastoral scenes and pictures of country life, which filled us with admiration. Moore Abbey is the seat of the Marquis of Drogheda, and it is the most interesting feature in the scenery for many miles. The noble mansion is a modern structure built on the site of an old celebrated Franciscan Abbey. It stands near the town, and on the banks of the Barrow, which runs for two miles through the park. The demesne stretches up to the boundary walls of the Distillery, and in some places the stately trees thereon overshadow the buildings; indeed, the thick woods, sloping verdure, and running streams in the park add much to the picturesque appearance of the Distillery. The town takes its name from Moore Abbey, a monastery founded by St. Abben, who granted it the privilege of “Sanctuary.” History informs us that in the seventh century, on his festival day (Dec. 22nd), St. Evin, a successor of St. Abben, placed therein a number of monks from South Munster, and brought with him a consecrated bell, which was used by the tribe of the Eoganachts to swear upon on solemn trials, and which was held in such high veneration that it was always in the charge of an hereditary chief. At the general suppression of monasteries Moore Abbey was granted to Lord Dudley, and afterwards it came into the family of the present Marquis.

Having somewhat digressed, for which we apologize, we now return to the object of our journey. Reaching the station, we walked through the town and had no difficulty in finding the object of our visit. The Distillery, which is its most striking feature, covers ten acres of ground, and has a frontage to the main road of 293 feet. We entered by a picturesque ivy-covered stone archway, and found ourselves inside an oblong quadrangle, with several innercourts issuing therefrom. After making ourselves known to Mr. Cassidy, we proceeded to his private office to obtain the necessary information as to the foundation of the works, and found by investigation, that the Distillery was built by the grandfather of the present proprietor in the year 1784, and a few years after was partly burnt down and rebuilt again, since which time many additions have been made. The old buildings are very picturesque, and the newer ones have been erected in a style to harmonise with the earlier portions of the works. The water used for brewing purposes comes from the celebrated “White Springs” of Borradera, famed for its purity and sparkling appearance. A tributary of the Barrow which runs through the grounds has been diverted into a natural pond behind the Maltings, and in its bed are laid the cooling pipes. Under the guidance of Mr. Cassidy, we commenced our tour of the establishment at the corn buyers’ office, which is approached from the high road and adjoins the Distillery offices. It is a stone-paved apartment, where the barley is sampled and, if purchased from the farmer, is parcelled, numbered, and the price and quantity registered in a book. The road which extends along the front of, and runs through the works, is called “Dublin Street,” and twice a week in the season it is thronged with farmers and others, and, when we were there, presented quite the animated appearance of “Mark Lane” on a small scale, the roadway from end to end being strewn with corn. The stray fowls and ducks come over here from the village, and have a high time of t after the market is over. When the corn is delivered to the receiving Warehouse, the checking clerk compares it with the sample, sees every sack weighed, and makes out the credit note for the farmer, who exchanges some for cash in the Distillery office. From the scales the sacks are emptied into the wells of the Elevators, and then lifted to the Corn Stores.

Before visiting these, we passed through a doorway into the water tower at the back, where there is a large water-wheel that works the elevators, etc.

The Corn Store building, which holds 3,000 barrels, is five stories high, 60 feet long and 48 feet wide, lofty and well lighted. On these floors workmen were busy distributing the corn as it arrived from the shoots of the elevator. Leaving this department, we passed through the two Kilns, neat buildings, each 32 feet high and 42 feet square, floored with Worcester perforated tiles, underneath which are the old-fashioned open furnaces. At the time of our visit a number of little lads, without shoes and stockings, were busy pricking the holes of the tiles to unstop them, a process which has to be repeated three times a year to secure perfect ventilation. From the Kilns the dried grain is dropped through shoots into the Elevator and conveyed to the several dried Corn Lofts which adjoin this building, where it is spread out to the depth of 5 feet, and when required sent direct to the Mill. To the latter place we next bent our steps and were shown three pairs of Mill-stones and a set of Malt Rollers. The grist and ground malt descend from their respective hoppers into the Meal-room below which contains the Copper House, a tower-like building 80 feet square.

Following the process, we inspected the heating tanks and then passed into the Mash-house. It is a building quite unique in style and design, and certainly unlike any other Mash-house in the kingdom. It is constructed in the shape of a bee-hive, and at one time, during the erection of its conical roof, the workmen all left, fearing it would fall upon them before the key-stone was placed. The interior of this singular building is painted white and picked out in bright scarlet of chaste design. The Mash-tun, which is 40 feet in diameter and 9 feet deep, with usual stirring gear, is the only vessel in the house, except the Underback or Worts Tank below the paved floor. Mounting half-a-dozen steps, we promenaded the gallery round the top of the Mash-tun, 5 feet wide, and took a peep at the inside of this large vessel. A powerful three-throw Pump delivers the worts from the Underback to the Coolers above, and also those laid in the bed of the pond. We next visited the Tun-room, a lofty gallery which stands on a hewn stone foundation, the roof of which is appropriated entirely to the Coolers already referred to. Ranged along the wall are six large timber Washbacks, each capable of holding 24,000 gallons. After fermentation has ceased in these vessels, the liquor, which is now called wash, is pumped up to the Wash Charger holding 26,000 gallons by a single Pump, from whence it runs by gravitation into the Wash Still. On emerging from this house, our attention was called to the great elevation and size of the water tank, which supplies all the water-power of the establishment. We entered the Still-house by the eastern end and found ourselves in a fine building, roofed with corrugated iron 55 feet high and 50 feet square. On one side are placed the Old Pot Stills, comprising a Wash Still 26,000 gallons content, and a Spirit Still 5,600 gallons content. The Worm Tub, connected with these Stills, is placed on pillars 50 feet high in the court-yard, and contains 250 tons of water; from the Worm the spirit runs through the Safe into the Spirit Receiver in the Can-pit Room; here also are the Low-wines and Feints Receivers and Chargers. From the Receiver the pure spirit, which has undergone two distillations, is pumped into the three Spirit Vats, placed in the Spirit Store, where we followed it. We found the workmen busy racking off the spirit into casks; when filled, they are weighed and marked under the superintendence of the Excise, and then sent to the duty-free Warehouse.

At the suggestion of Mr. Cassidy we visited some of the Warehouses, of which there are seventeen in all, containing, at the time of our visit, 7,210 casks of Whisky. They are all built of stone, dry and well ventilated, and are built round a courtyard, having together a frontage in the quadrangle of 800 feet. Crossing the yard we came to the Grain Tank, which is erected over the Engine House, where the grains are pumped from the Mash Kieve. A spout, depending from its side, serves to convey the grains into the farmers’ carts. In close proximity there is a similar arrangement for the spent wash, which is collected into a metal tank, 120 feet long by 14 feet deep, and disposed of in the same way. We passed through the Engine House, where there is an engine of 30-horse power, and two steam boilers, 35 feet long by 8 feet in diameter, and came to the cooperage, which consists of several buildings, wherein we saw nine coopers at work, some of them manufacturing and others repairing casks, which we saw in their various stages from stave to barrel. In our perigrinations we observed a duty-paid Racking Store, which contained, at the time of our inspection, 3,000 gallons of duty-paid Whisky for the convenience of local customers, and at each end of the court, a steam crane for hoisting both full and empty casks into the floats. The chimney shaft, which rises from the back of the Boiler House, is built in the old-fashioned style of one chimney inside the other, so as to equalise the draught.

Returning to the general offices by another way, we inspected the Carpenters’, Smiths’ and Engineers’ Shops, Sheds, and Cart Houses; these last are roofed with corrugated iron. We next visited the Stables, which are very extensive, and contained thirty horses of a superior class, Mr. Cassidy being celebrated throughout the district for his fine breed of horses. The establishment is lighted throughout with gas, the proprietor having some time since erected a gasometer and built gas-works on the property. Within the boundary-walls of the Distillery there is a commodious house for the brewer and other officials. The proprietor’s residence, a two-storied mansion, built in the Italian style, is within sight of the Distillery. It stands in a small park, bounded by pretty plantations, attached to which there is a grass farm.

Monasterevan is a very compact Distillery, and is easily worked. From the manager down to the smallest boy, every employ

The Whisky manufactured is of exactly the same character as the celebrated Dublin make, and the annual output is 203,000.

We tasted some of the “make,” six years old, and considered it a fat, creamy Whisky, suitable both for blending and to use as a self spirit. Mr. Cassidy sells all he makes in the locality, except about 40,000 gallons to Messrs. Twiss and Browning for export, and a few thousand gallons to a Bristol firm. Three Excise officers are in attendance at the Distillery, Mr. J. Ryan being the chief.

Having completed our inspection of the Distillery and Corn Stores, we proceeded, in company with Mr. Cassidy, to the Maltings, which are situated near the railway station. They are built of stone, in one range of over 200 feet square, and hold 4,000 barrels of corn, whilst the Kiln at the end gives a handsome finish to the whole.

Images of Monasterevan