Old Bushmills is the oldest surviving licensed distillery in the world. Sir Thomas Phillips of Bushmills was granted a royal license in 1608. I toured the distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Records of whiskey made in Bushmills go back as long ago as 1276. A license was granted in 1608. Bushmills was not successful for many years, but gradually things improved. By 1890, Bushmills had a steamship, the SS Bushmills, delivering Bushmills whiskey to Philadelphia, New York City, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama.
The Prohibition was a huge financial setback to all of the Irish whiskey producers. Bushmills continued to make whiskey, stockpiling it. They managed to hang on until Prohibition ended and they had plenty of inventory to fill the demand.
Old Bushmills Distillery makes a lot of different types of whiskey and they all taste quite different. They are all made with water from Saint Columb’s Rill, a tributary of the River Bush, but some use more malt than others. Scotch whisky has a smokiness because the barley grain is dried with peat smoke. Peat is not used in the Irish whiskey malting process.
The finishing makes the most difference in the final taste of the whiskey. Bushmills Original whiskey is matured in American oak casks. There were stacks of casks labeled Jack Daniels, waiting to age Old Bushmills. Others are aged in old sherry, port or Madeira casks. Some are left to age longer than others. Some varieties have more malt than others.
Old Bushmills Distillery is on Bank of Ireland sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland.
I took the Distillery Tour and Tasting. “Here at Bushmills we invite you to experience for yourself the craft and skills of making an Irish Single Malt Whiskey. During our guided tour you will discover the secrets of the special water from St. Columb’s Rill, the malted Irish barley, triple distillation in copper stills and ageing for long years in oak casks.”
I bought a little sampler set for my son-in-law. That was the first souvenir I bought on my trip.