Phoenix Park

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

Phoenix Park Distillery, Dublin.

We had reserved this, our last day in Dublin City, for our excursion to the Phœnix Park Distillery. We were favoured with most brilliant weather, and our drive through the Park was most enjoyable. It is the finest and most extensive public park in the United Kingdom, and embraces an area of 1,760 acres, giving a circuit of over seven miles. It was formerly part of the monastery grounds of St. John of Jerusalem, is finely diversified with woodland and undulating ground, and well stocked with deer. It was first laid down by King Charles II. in 1662, who was in possession of the lands of Kilmainham, surrendered to him by the Knight Prior of St. John of Jerusalem. Shortly afterwards, by command of his Majesty, James Duke of Ormond purchased the adjoining lands of Chapel-izod and Newtown, in order to extend the park. At that time it extended on both sides of the Liffey; but being so much exposed to trespassers, Sir John Temple, a far-seeing and shrewd man, undertook, on condition of being paid two hundred pounds out of the King’s Treasury, to enclose the whole of that part on the north side of the river, and a grant was also made to him of all the excluded lands. Of late years it has received a terrible notoriety from the foul murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke, under circumstances of brutality never surpassed, the details of which must be strong in the memory of all. In the centre of the main drive there stands a fluted Corinthian pillar about fifty feet high, surmounted with a figure of a Phœnix in her burning nest. It was erected in the year 1747 by the celebrated Earl of Chesterfield, when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who did much to improve and beautify the Park. This column the proprietors of the Phœnix Park Distillery have adopted as an effective trade mark. The Park, however, takes its name from a corruption of Gaelic Fion-uise (fair water); so called from a spring at one time resorted to as a chalybeate spa.

We drove by the lower road to the little old-fashioned, but romantic, village of Chapel-izod, supposed to have derived its name from La Belle Isode, a daughter of one of the ancient Irish Kings, who had a chapel here. The village is chiefly remarkable for the beautiful scenery in its vicinity, especially along the banks of the Liffey towards Lucan, and for the extensive strawberry beds which are spread over the northern slope of the vale, a distance of nearly two miles.

The Distillery is situated on the banks of the Liffey, which runs through the property, and was established in the year 1878; previous to that date the premises had been used as a spinning-mill, and being very lofty and extensive, were easily converted into a Distillery. There is a stream tramway running past the works, which gives easy access to Dublin, which is distant about four miles. The Liffey at Chapel-izod is a beautiful clear stream, and quite unlike the Liffey at Dublin City. Its banks are finely diversified and display sylvan scenes of great beauty; skirting the demesne of Woodland they are covered with trees for more than a mile. Not far distant from the Distillery is the Salmon Leap, the lowest rapid on the Liffey; it is reached through the grounds of Westown, where the river enters a narrow ravine, through which it rushes among the rocks that impede its progress. About the middle of this ravine it throws its water over a wide broken ledge of rocks; at all times it is a beautiful sight, but when the river is swollen its magnificence is greatly heightened. The works cover five acres, and when the new Maltings, now in course of construction, are completed, will exceed six acres. The establishment is entered from the main road, through a handsome gateway, and the buildings are built in the form of a square. The offices are on the right, and are reached by a short stair; they contain, besides the general clerks’ offices, private rooms for the manager.

After making ourselves known, we were furnished with a guide, who first took us to the Grain Stores, which consist of a range of buildings, 90 feet long and 42 feet wide, wherein are nine lofts capable of storing 12,000 quarters of barley, oats, &c., to which are attached three Kilns where the grain is dried by hot air. We next bent our steps across the close to the Maltings, which are 110 feet long and 60 feet wide, and consist of three floors; but there are larger Malt Houses in course of construction at the rear of the premises, covering an acre of ground, which, besides being modern in appearance, have a fine lofty Kiln floored with new iron patent flooring. On returning to the Grain buildings we were shown the machinery by which the dried grain is removed to the Mill. It consists of two wide continuous belts, traversing the whole extent of the buildings, and it is wonderful to see that not a single grain of barley is lost in its onward progress. We next passed on to the Mill building, which is a lofty brick structure containing five pairs of stones. The belt delivers the grain into a hopper over this Mill, and after being crushed, the grist is weighted into bags and deposited on the grist loft adjoining, ready for use; this loft is 90 feet long by 42 feet wide. The Mash House is under the grist loft; therefore, the hoppers into which the sacks are emptied command the Mash Tuns. These are circular vessels, 30 feet in diameter and 9 feet deep, containing the usual stirring gear and draining plates. The Heaters supply the hot water to these vessels, and are placed above them. From the Mash Tun the worts descend into the two Underbacks, placed under the floor; whilst the grains which are left behind are pumped into a huge tank, and afterwards sold to the dairymen in the neighbourhood.

We next ascended a stone staircase and found ourselves in a spacious apartment, 140 feet square, called the Black Loft. It contains twelve Washbacks, each with a capacity of 18,000 gallons; the worts are pumped up from the Underbacks, through a Morton’s Refrigerator and coolers, into these twelve vessels by means of a three-throw pump, at the rate of 10,000 gallons an hour. From the Backs the fermented worts, which are now called wash, run into the two Wash Chargers, which are of a similar capacity, and so arranged that they command the Still, which holds 18,000 gallons, where it is distilled and condensed; thence it runs into the Low-wines and Feints Receiver, and is again subjected to a similar distilling process.

The Still House is a fine building, and fitted with every appliance. It contains four Pot Stills, holding 5,000m 11,000, 12,000, and 18,000 gallons respectively, all of them heated by furnaces. There is no steam power on the premises, the Liffey supplying all the motive power required, by means of a water-wheel, which stretches right across the river, and is said to be the largest in the kingdom, measuring 70 feet in breadth and 18 feet in diameter. We next proceeded to the Receiving Room, which contains, besides the Safe, ten Receivers. Contiguous to this department is the Spirit Store, containing two vats holding 16,000 gallons each. Retracing our steps, and passing the two Morton’s Refrigerators and two large Worm Tubs, we crossed the court to the Bonded Warehouses, which are six in number; two with two floors, other two with three floors, and the remaining two with four - holding in all 16,000 casks. Adjoining is a Racking Store and Cooperage, also a smithy and carpenters’ shop.

The Distillery is lighted by incandescent lamps; they have been recently installed, and give every satisfaction, not only saving money but insure greater security from fire. The electricity is supplied by an Ellwell-Parker dynamo, and the water-wheel supplies the motive power. In addition there are accumulators for storing the electricity, which are capable of supplying light to the works for six hours continuously without the use of the dynamo. With all the new improvements and machinery for saving labour, this Distillery, although the smallest, is the most modern of any of the Distilleries owned by the Distillers’ Company, Limited. The machinery supplied to the new Malt House being the most perfect mechanism for lifting and moving grain that has, up to the present time, been invented.

Sixty persons are employed on the premises, and seven Excise officers, the chief of whom is Mr. W. Armstrong.

The water used for distilling purposes is brought from the upper reaches of the river through a closed pipe.

The make is called Dublin Whisky, and the annual output is 350,000 gallons, which find a market chiefly in London and the Colonies.

Images of Phoenix Park