The below is taken from The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard first published in 1887.
Royal Irish Distilleries, Belfast, co. Antrim.
Pursuing our pilgrimage from Dundalk we arrived in Belfast, the capital of Ulster. The town is certainly the most celebrated in Ireland, alike for its manufactories, commerce, and the public spirit of its inhabitants. It is situated on the western bank of the river Lagan, which here expands into a noble estuary called Carrickfergus or Belfast Lough. Belfast itself is flat, being but six feet above high water-mark; nevertheless, its general appearance is most prepossessing and cheerful, and its streets abound with stately buildings and handsome warehouses. The surrounding scenery is richly diversified and mostly picturesque. From a stage on the roof of the Distillery we obtained a fine view of distant mountains and the famous Cave Hill, the latter the most prominent feature in the landscape, the slopes covered with a dusky mottling of dark green, dotted here and there with a bit of plantation.
The Distillery is situated in the outskirts of the town; it was built in the year 1869, and covers about seven acres of ground. The Company own some seven acres besides, whereon to build should they require so to do.
The Establishment is supplied with fine water from Lough Mourne, twelve miles distant, and there are two splendid wells on the premises 160 feet deep. The whole of the works are enclosed, and entrance is gained by a handsome gateway, or through the lobby of the office contiguous.
We were conducted, first of all, to the Granaries, a modern four-storied red brick building of good architectural proportions, having a frontage of 160 feet with a depth of 80 feet, capable of holding 250,000 bushels of grain; at the time of our visit it contained 200,000 bushels. The grain is delivered to the receiving floor of this building, and, after being examined, is hoisted by elevators to the different floors. Connected with some is the Barley Kiln, exceptionally spacious; it is able to dry 1,600 bushels every twelve hours, and is floored with the patent steel plates, so much in vogue in the North of Ireland. The dried grain is sent by Archimedian screws across the roadway to the Mill-building which is a four-decker, where there are five pairs of stones; from thence the grist is moved on by the screws to the large Grist Lofts capable of holding nearly 100,000 bushels of meal. On our way to the Mash House we were shown the two Heating Tanks, of large dimensions, heated by steam containing each 30,000 gallons. The capacity of the three Mash-tuns averages about 30,000 gallons each, one of them a fine vessel being entirely enclosed, and the hot air carried off therefrom by Louvres. The two metal Underbacks are of a similar capacity, and in the same building are to be found the Refrigerators, by both Morton and Miller. In the Back Room we were shown sixteen Washbacks, each with an average capacity of 36,000 gallons, and an intermediate Charger of similar capacity.
The Still House is a fine, lofty building, fitted up in a most complete and modern style; it contains three old Pot Stills, containing 11,240, 6,551, and 5,255 gallons respectively, which are worked by fire, and there are besides two Steam Stills, bright and clean. On the gallery of this building there are eight Receivers and two large Safes and Sampling Safes. Our conductor pointed out to us the ingenious method adopted for extinguishing fire, consisting of, first of all, a water tank which covers the whole roof, tapped in the centre by a large pipe, from which smaller ones are struck off like the branches of a tree, all of them perforated and so arranged that they cover the building in case of fire. On turning a tap a continuous stream of water drops like a heavy rain shower on and over every part of the establishment.
The Malting department is in close proximity to the other buildings, and conveniently arranged, each floor being reached by a covered outside stair-case, whilst a glass door gives admittance therefrom to each flat. The top floor, at the time of our visit, contained 800 tons of barley. Whilst it is being delivered a steam fan is in operation, which blows the dust out of the barley, and effectually cleans it before the delicate operation of malting commences. The three malt floors are below, and it may here be remarked that they are all 180 feet long by 90 feet broad, and that the stone Steeps connected herewith will work 80 tons of barley. Adjoining are two Malt Kilns forty feet square. From here the malt is sent through endless screws to the malt deposit room, thence it is landed on the top floor of the mill, to be ground and made ready for the Mash-tun.
The roof of this Malting is entirely covered with a water-tank, the size of a small lake; it is five feet deep, and covers at least 10,000 square feet. On the premises are two engines, one of them a fine machine of 40-horsr power, fixed in a handsome room, and kept in a very bright state. There are several sets of ponderous three-throw pumps, and three boilers, 30 feet long by 7
Most of the bonded Warehouses are in the town, but there are three in the Distillery containing some 10,000 casks. The Company have fine offices in Calendar Street, where 50 clerks are employed; also the Board Room and other apartments for the use of the Directors, fitted up and decorated in a most princely style.
The bonded Warehouses are on a large scale, covering 13 acres of ground, and containing at the time of our visit some 30,000 casks of whisky. Here also there is a cooperage and bottling department, and about 300 men are employed.
The Whisky made by Messrs. Dunville and Co. is well known and is shipped to all parts of the world. The annual output is 1,500,000 gallons, and this Company are said to be the largest holders of Whisky in Ireland.
Messrs. Dunville and Co. have obtained first gold medals at every Exhibition at which their whisky has been exhibited.