The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.
North Mall Distillery, Cork.
Continuing our Distillery pilgrimage, we duly arrived at Cork, surnamed the “Beautiful City,” the capital of the county, and charmingly situated on the River Lee.
The poet Spenser thus describes the river:-
“The spreading Lee, that like an island fayre,Encloseth Corke with his divided flood.”
On reaching the station we at once made for the Imperial Hotel, where we took up our quarters for a few days. After refreshing the inner man, we chartered a car and drove round to see the city. Cork is associated with the earliest history of Ireland, and is celebrated in romance and song. It was the abode of St. Finbar, who founded the cathedral church, and to whom, in the early days of his mission, such numbers of disciples flocked from all parts of the country, that the desert on which the cathedral stood soon became a noted city.
For more than 300 years the Danes repeatedly plundered the place and desolated its religious houses. In the year 1080 the city was destroyed by lightning, but was shortly afterwards rebuilt. Eight years later Dermot O’Brien, “the Violator,” laid waste and plundered the town, carrying away with him the relics of St. Finbar, and from this time to the seventeenth century the history of this dear old city is full of incident.
In 1492 Perkin Warbeck, in his assumed character of Richard, Duke of York, landed here from Lisbon, and after a brief stay embarked for France. The mayor of the city, however, was hanged for countenancing the impostor. In the year 1568, during the absence of her husband, the Lord President of Munster, Lady Warham St. Leger, was besieged by the insurgents; and how the noble lady defended herself until Sir Henry Sidney’s arrival from England with 400 men; is an interesting chapter of history.
Early next morning we made our way to the Distillery, which is situated in the suburbs of Cork. Passing along the main thoroughfare, we crossed a bridge and wandered beside the river, until we came to the North Mall Establishment. It is built on the banks of the Lee, and lies beneath the hollow of a rock, which is terraced with houses as far as the eye can reach. In the centre of the river there is an island, reached by a bridge, which has been utilised by the Company for workshops, coal and hay deposits, &c.
The Distillery buildings are erected on the site of the old Dominican Friary, called the Abbey of St. Mary of the Island, which was very extensive. They have a frontage of 684 feet, and were erected in 1779 by the father and uncle of the late Mr. Francis Wise, from whom the Company purchased the works, and who lately died worth three millions of money, besides possessing large estates in Cork and Kerry counties.
After presenting our credentials to the Manager, we were conducted over the place, and first visited the Corn Stores, which stretch along the whole of the higher ground of the works, and are reached by a roadway outside the boundary walls. They are stone buildings of several floors, and are capable of holding 30,000 barrels of barley, and nearly that quantity was then stored ready for winter’s use. In this department the barley, before proceeding on its journey, is passed through a patent cleaning machine, like those previously described. Crossing these floors, we came to four spacious drying Kilns, of lofty and handsome elevation. When the barley has been properly dried in these Kilns, it is conveyed to the Grain Deposit rooms, and some idea of the size of these two apartments may be imagined, when we state that they contained 10,000 barrels, and there was room for more. The dried grain is sent by elevators from these floors to the Mill. Passing under an archway, we next found ourselves in the principal avenue, crossing which we came to the Mill building. It is five stories high, and built on arches over the stream, so as to enclose a water wheel, which is 25 feet in diameter, and drives six pairs of stones and all the ponderous machinery. The upper floors of the Mill are appropriated to meal rooms, &c. The grist is conveyed across a bridge over the roadway to the Grist Lofts, which are in the main building, whither we next bent our steps. They are spacious apartments, and conveniently situated for the Mash House. Descending a staircase, we found ourselves in the south gable of the brewing department, which contains two Mash Tuns, each with head cover and curtains, and measuring 30 feet in diameter and 8 ft. deep, with the usual stirring gear and draining plates. The Underbacks are in the same house, also the Coppers for hot water. Emerging from the Mash House, we found ourselves in the Tun Room, in which are nine fermenting vats, holding from 30,000 to 45,000 gallons each.
The Wash descends from these vessels by gravitation to the Wash Charger, a handsome circular timber vessel, which holds 35,000 gallons, built over the stream, and is a prominent object from the other side of the river. The intermediate charger is in the Still House, and to that place we next paid a visit. It is a capacious and lofty building, with paved floor and well lighted. It contains three old Pot Stills (there are no other on the premises); the Wash Still has a capacity of 22,000 gallons, and the others 20,000 gallons and 16,000 gallons respectively.
We ascended a few steps from the floor, to inspect their respective Receivers and Chargers, and from this point we observed that the Still-men were so absorbed in their occupation that they hardly noticed us as we passed along. This house is interspersed with other vessels besides the Stills, and contains several powerful pumps and other machines. We made a special visit to the river, to see the cooling pipes, which are laid in the bed of the Lee. Watching this beautiful river, and hearing the bells chime out from a neighbouring steeple, we called to mind the following lines:-
“On this I ponderWhere’er I wander,And thus grow fonderSweet Cork of thee!With thy bells of Shandon,That sound so grand onThe pleasant watersOf the River Lee.“The Bells of Shandon.
From the river side we once more returned to the Distillery proper, passing on our way three capacious metal Worm Tubs connected with the Stills, and a Cooling House, where there are four of Morton’s Patent Refrigerators. On entering the Can-pit Room our guide informed us that after the Spirit has undergone two distillations it runs through the Safe into the Spirit Receiver, placed in this apartment, which holds 8,000 gallons, from whence it is pumped into the Spirit Store. Turning to the right, at the end of the wall, we came to the latter place, and were shown three Spirit Vats of unusual proportions, each being of 7,000 gallons content. In this house the Spirit is reduced 25 o.p., casked, weighed, and then sent into the bonded Warehouses.
By passing through the Still House and another building, we reached the Warehouses much sooner than by going round the road. They are placed at the east end of the Distillery, and consist of eleven buildings, and it took us some time to inspect them all. They contained 7,210 puncheons of Whisky, of various ages; and it may be stated that there is another Warehouse, a three-decker building, which contained 3,000 butts.
On leaving these Warehouses we were taken to see the Maltings, which are a separate work, although connected with the Granaries before referred to. We entered them from the main road, and found them to consist of four spacious Malting Floors, with the usual Steeps, and at the end two Kilns, each of which is floored with Worcester tiles, and, like the rest of the works, kept beautifully clean; indeed, this is a marked feature of the whole Distillery.
Retracing our steps, we passed through the front entrance gate, and on turning to the right, found ourselves in the Engine Department, where there are two capital engines, by Rowan, of Belfast, of 60 and 40-horse power respectively, and six of Galloway’s patent tubular boilers, 30 feet long by 8 feet in diameter, and eight sets of three-throw pumps. Formerly there were six chimney stacks on the premises, but, some few years since, in order to divert the smoke from the city, they were demolished and the Company, at a cost of
The offices of the Company are in Morrison’s Island, in the heart of the city. They consist of a handsome pile of buildings, containing general offices for twenty clerks, private ones for the Directors, and a commodious Board-room. Under the offices, and in a range of buildings at the back, the Company have large export Bottling Stores, and our guide informed us that they bottle nothing less than five-year old Whisky, with an average strength of 10 u.p. At the top of the grand staircase is placed the show-case used in the Philadelphia and Paris Exhibitions, in which are exhibited medals of award from Philadelphia, Paris, Sydney, and Cork Exhibitions, also samples of their make at Midleton and North Mall Distilleries. In the latter place there are 250 persons employed, and the Distillery is under the personal management of Mr. Maurice Murray and his son, Mr. Daly Murray, the local Managing Directors. For over a century the whisky made in this establishment has been popular in Cork and the neighbouring districts, but the name of Wise’s Old Whisky is equally well known and imbibed all over Ireland, England, the Colonies and America.
A local bard, who was born and reared on the banks of the Lee, near the Distillery, thus sung of it:-
“Much I’ve heard about the RhineWith vineyards gay and castles stately;But those who think I care for wineOr lofty towers, mistake me greatly:A thousand times more dear to meIs whisky by the silvery Lee.”
The make at North Mall is called Wise’s Cork Old Pot-Still Whisky, and the annual output is 510,000 gallons. As the Company have now concentrated all their works in Cork at the North Mall Distillery, and the capacity of both this and the Midleton Distillery have been more than doubled, the Green, Watercourse, and John Street Distilleries have been turned into Maltings, Corn Stores, and Warehouses. We paid a visit to them, as they were all within a mile or two distance.
The Watercourse Work is about 300 yards square, and contains three Granaries, which hold 40,000 barrels of barley; four Kilns, drying 450 barrels daily; a Steam Mill for grinding and Meal Stores, which are five stories high; seven Bonded Warehouses, which contained 6,000 casks of Whisky, and stabling for 20 horses. The buildings and ground adjoining cover fifteen acres.
The Green Distillery is almost of similar proportions, but of somewhat less contents. The John Street Distillery, which consists primarily of Warehouses and Granaries is somewhat larger.