The following is from Alfred Barnard's 'The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom' originally published in 1887.
Bandon Distillery, Bandon, County Cork.
This fine Distillery is situated at Monerone, a beautiful valley, half a mile from the thriving English-looking town of Bandon, and nearly three miles from the ancient and historic town of Innishannon, near which, on the lands of Barnas, there is an extensive circular fortress surrounded by a double rampart and fosse, in which Barry Oge, who helped to make many a page of history, encamped when driven from Downdaniel Castle, which he had built.
It may be of some interest now, as the Bicentenary of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes has lately been celebrated, to refer to an attempt made early in the last century to introduce the manufacture of silk into Innishannon. Mr. Addersley, the then owner of the village, invited some Huguenots, skilled in the rearing of silk-worm and weaving of silk, to settle there. He built houses for them, and planted out small plots of ground with mulberry trees. Owing to the unsuitability of the climate and other causes, however, the attempt proved an utter failure, but the survival of the names "Mulberry Field," where no fruit or trees of that description can be found, and that of "The Colony," whence the colonists have long since departed, attest the accuracy of this historical fact.
The lovely Vale of Innishannon, which extends almost to the Distillery, is covered with hanging woods, and the scenery is beautifully picturesque. Opposite the works, and on one of the hills on the other side of the river, Mr. Richard Lane Allman dwells in a stately stone-built mansion. The view therefrom of Bandon, the river, and surrounding country is all that an artist could desire. The River Bandon is navigable up to Innishannon, and flows past the Distillery, where it is joined by the Ordnagira, or Silver Stream, a lively dashing little rivulet, which runs right through, and in some places under the works; its water is used by Messrs. Allman for driving and distilling, and is noted for its brightness and purity.
A short distance from the Distillery is Kilbrogan Churchyard, where are buried three of Clancarty’s soldiers, who were slain in the attempt to take the town of Bandon for James II; but, beyond this, the district has been made classic by Spenser in his "Fairëe Queene." His daughter resided for a long time in Kilbeg Castle.
Having somewhat digressed, we now proceed with a description of the Bandon Distillery. It was in ancient times one of the old manorial mills, and dates back to the year 1700. We were able to trace the name of Allman in connection with the building to the year 1750, and at that time they were well known in the town and district for their patriotism and benefactions.
In the year 1826 the present proprietors turned the buildings into a Distillery, and when first fitted up, the works did not turn out more than 60,000 gallons yearly, but the Statistical Records of the country inform us that, after spending many thousands of pounds on improvements, in the year 1836, the Bandon Distillery was making nearly 200,000 gallons annually, and employing upwards of a hundred people. Even then, the Distillery buildings were of little note: now in this year of grace, 1886, they are the chief feature of the locality, and the proprietors are the largest employers of labour in any distillery outside of any city in Ireland.
The history of this fine establishment would occupy more than our available space; suffice it to say that from time to time every new patent and appliance known, and used in distilling, has been added, and the Messrs. Allman have spared neither time nor money in making this establishment as complete as possible.
The main block of buildings extends some 464 feet eastwards, whilst northwards they run back 340 feet, and nearly all of them are five and six storied. The works and grounds cover about eight acres, and their general appearance from the road and railway is commanding and picturesque; the premises are connected by a siding with the Cork and Bandon Company’s line of Railway. The corn, which is principally grown in the district, is purchased at the Distillery and neighbouring markets. At the time of our visit the courtyards and roadway resembled a fair, so animated was the scene. The farmers’ sons who had driven in the loads of corn, dressed in their Sunday best, were accompanied in a good many instances by their sisters (some of them real Colleen Bawns). We counted more than seventy carts laden with barley, each waiting their turn to deliver at the Granaries, and were informed that 1,200 barrels, on an average, are delivered daily, the payments for some from October 1st to Christmas amounting to about
Some of the Grain Lofts are of six floors, and at the time contained 50,000 barrels of grain, but this does not at all represent the requirements of the season. The mode of receiving the corn into these huge Granaries is unlike any we have seen in our travels. The loaded carts wait their turn in passing through a covered way to the Receiving Corn Hopper, which, in shape, is not unlike a pulpit, at an enclosed corner of which presides the corn sampling clerk, who duly tests the grain, which is tumbled form the sacks into this receptacle, where, through an opening at the lowest part, it falls into a metal scale below, which holds about a barrel of grain; here stands another clerk, who, without touching the scale, by the movement of a balance handle, registers the weight and tips the corn into a hopper below, across the bottom of which is stretched an iron riddle or grill to catch the straws or husks before the corn falls into the elevators. It may here be stated that the sampling clerk has the command of a semaphore on the top of the buildings, which indicates the destination of the barley, either for grinding or malting floors.
The corn is lifted to the various floors by patent elevators, which consist of ingeniously devised, malleable cast chains and wheels; the steel plate cans attached thereto are thin, light, and clean, and there is more than half a mile of these elevators in the establishment. The finest barley is selected from the stock for the two Malting floors, spacious and lofty apartments, which contain the usual Steeps. Connected with these floors there is a fine double Malt Kiln, with Hermann’s patent wedge-section wire flooring, said to be the best and most durable yet invented. The chief Malt House is the second largest of its kind in Ireland, if not in the Kingdom; it consists of two growing floors, each 168 feet long, by 42 feet wide, and 8 feet high, and vies with those of Messrs. Guinness, of Dublin, which are only 4 feet longer and 2 feet wider.
But to return to the Corn Department. After the grain has been thoroughly cleaned in the five machines, or separators, it is dried in the three Grain Kilns, and from thence lifted by elevators and belts, and conveyed by a series of shoots across the public road, at an altitude of 20 feet, from one section of the buildings to another, into the Mill, a three-flatted edifice, which adjoins the Mash House, and contains four pairs of stones, and a fine set of malt-rollers for crushing the malt. From here the pulverized grain is elevated to the Grist Lofts, which command the three Mash Tuns - two of them hold 33,000 gallons and the other 18,000, all of them having the usual patent stirring rake-shafts. The wort runs from these tuns into a huge Underback. We should here state that there are seven heating tanks for supplying the hot water to the Mash Tuns and other vessels.
There are four sets of three-throw pumps to send the liquor from the Underbacks through the coolers, which are laid in the bed of the millstream, and there is also a large Morton’s Refrigerator commanding the fermenting Tuns. The 18 Washbacks, or fermenting Tuns, are fine timber vessels, each holding from 15,000 to 28,000 gallons, and the two Wash Chargers have a capacity of 15,000 gallons each.
The Still House, an angular stone building, with its outer walls covered with lichens, moss, and ferns, is the oldest part of the works, and contains five Old Pot Stills - two Wash and three Spirit - heated with open furnaces. Their contents are severally two of 16,000, one of 12,000, and two of 4,000 gallons.
The Worm Tub connected with the Stills is of timber, and placed in the open air; it contains 36,000 gallons of water, besides which there are other condensers at the rear of the Still House. The Running Room contains five Receivers, and the Safe commands them all, whilst they also command the Stills. There are in all, four Low-wines Receivers, capable of containing each 6,000 gallons, and one Spirit Receiver of the same capacity. The vat in the Spirit Store holds 15,000 gallons.
The fifteen Warehouses, dry and well ventilated, are conveniently arranged as basement and sub-basement to the Granaries, and contained 9,000 casks.
In the Boiler House we saw one of the Galloway’s Patent Steam Boilers, and there are two others besides, constantly working. Wilson, of Stafford, has just fixed one of his Patent Gas Producers, through which all of the coal for steam-raising purposes is passed and converted; the gaseous products being finally consumed in the boiler flues in the usual manner.
All the work of the Distillery is done by gravitation and water power, the Millwheel over the stream is 36 feet by 8 feet. The aqueduct runs from a deep glen at the back of the Distillery, where the proprietors are making preparations to form an artificial lake (estimated to cover some 50 to 60 statute acres), for the ponding of water during floods, their requirements of power having of late years, so much increased. This lake will cost them a considerable sum. They are, however, assisted by the natural formation of the ground, the stream passing at the place chosen for the embankment and sluice being a narrow rocky gut of not more than 6 feet wide and 40 to 50 feet high.
The firm also possess a fine spring of the purest water in the adjoining meadow, used only for reducing purposes. With the exception of Cadiz Sherry wood, which they have to buy, Messrs. Allman & Co. make all their own casks and have a fine cooperage. Their repairs are also done by their own workmen; hence there isto be seen quite a village of industries - carpenters, coppersmiths and fitters, engineers’ and harness makers’ shops, supplied with steam lathes and other machinery, and there is the veritable village blacksmith under the spreading tree.
Nearly 200 men are employed, and there is besides a large staff of clerks.
We noticed a fine bottling store, but were informed that Messrs. Allman and Co. bottle for export only, to oblige their customers in the colonies.
In a fine building there are capital offices for the general clerks, managers of departments and the partners, and good accommodation has been provided for the Excise gentlemen.
Messrs. Allman & Co. make both Old Pot Still Whisky, designated Irish, and Pure Malt Whisky, both of a superior quality, a large trade in which is done in Ireland; their principal business is, however, with England, Scotland, and the Colonies. The annual output is a little over 500,000 gallons.
The partners are Mr. Richard Lane Allman and Mr. James C. Allman, J.P. The operative distiller and brewer is Mr. C. McPherson.
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Learn more about the Bandon distillery
What's the difference between a Closed & Lost distillery?
A lost distillery refers to a building or site which has been demolished, a closed distillery could potentially re-open. We've identified some distilleries such as Brora and Port Ellen as closed rather than lost as there are plans to revive these distilleries, others such as Cambus (now a Diagio cooperage) which could theoretically be revived but would have little relationship to the original site and so are marked as lost.