Is it a marketing myth that Bushmills is the oldest working distillery in Ireland or is it a fact? Sure is that the first official license for Bushmills was granted in 1784. We know about a license for Kilbeggan dated earlier in 1757. But who can tell how long distilling had been common here at Bushmills without official permission?
Irish whiskey production has left the traditional path of using peat long long ago. Thus the typical Irish style today is unpeated, very smooth, light and fruity. Bushmills whiskey is a perfect example for this style because triple pot still distillation makes is very clear and light.
There are basically three different types of whiskey produced at Bushmills:
First one is the Original Bushmills, a blended whiskey made of 55% single malt produced here at the Old Bushmills Distillery itself. 45% grain whiskey is taken from Midleton Distillery.
Then there is Black Bush which is a blend with a higher percentage of malt: 80% single malt and 20% grain whiskey are used which have been age in abound 70% sherry casks and 30% bourbon casks.
Last but not least there are Black Bush Single Malt Whiskeys of different ages and different kinds of maturation history. The 10 year old single malt whisky stayed in 90% ex-bourbon casks for at least a decade which delivers notes of vanilla, honey and milk chocolate. The 16 year old Bushmills is aged in ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks in equal volumes, married and matured in port wine casks for some more months. The rich aromas of fruits, spice and nuts make this single malt very special and exquisite. A combination of Oloroso and bourbon casks is the basic for the Bushmills Single Malt 21 years as well: After 19 years the whiskey matured in those casks is given into Madeira casks for 2 more years of maturation. Deep aromas of dried fruits, raisins, spice, malt and nuts characterize this premium release of Bushmills Single Malt Whiskey.
Bushmills is chill-filtered and usually bottled at 40% ABV.
Besides of these three types of Bushmills whiskey another product should be mentioned that gained much popularity during the last years, especially in America: the flavored whiskey Bushmills Irish Honey.
Triple distillation is the open secret of Bushmills Distillery that makes its whiskey unique and smooth. After Midleton Distillery Bushmills is the second biggest Irish distillery with an annual production capacity of 4.5 mio liters and stills are running seven days a week. After Jameson and Tullamore Dew Bushmills is worldwide the most famous and demanded Irish whiskey.
Seven days a week and around the clock the stainless steel mashtun of Bushmills is in use, filled with malt and water from St. Columb’s Rill, the water source of the distillery.
The washbacks of Bushmills are no traditional wooden ones but are made of stainless steel. They are closed and the carbon dioxide that develops during fermentation is led outside.
Ten big pot stills and six spirit safes are the heart of the Old Bushmills Distillery and they perform the triple distillation that is typical for Bushmills whiskey. . Production is modern and computerized at Bushmills and it only needs one man to conduct the fermentation- and distillation process.
The number of warehouses differs in articles and reports about Bushmills. Let it be 10 or 12 – sure is that in 2013 three new and modern warehouses were completed that can take 20.000 barrels each. Three bottling plants ensure that not only Bushmills whiskey can be bottled here in sufficiently large numbers but also to a small amount other labels by order of Jameson or others.
When Hugh Anderson officially registered the Old Bushmills Distillery whiskey production had already taken place here for a long time. Bushmills started with pot still distillation using nothing but malted barley and it still does today. When due to the introduced malt tax in the middle of the 19th centuries many Irish distilleries changed their production starting to use grain as well Bushmills stick to its original recipes. A big fire destroyed the Old Bushmills Distillery in 1885, but it was rebuilt soon and started production again. In the booming years of the beginning 20th century 37 distilleries were spread all over Ireland, but only three of them survived: Bushmills, Cooley and Midleton. In 1972 Irish Distillers Company took control over all Irish whiskey production and also controlled Bushmills.
In 1988 the French group Pernod Ricard purchased Irish Distillers who sold Bushmills in 2005 to Diageo.
Being modernized and well managed by Diageo Bushmills grew and increased its production even in the hard times when Irish whiskey got into the shadow of the up growing Scottish single malt whisky industry. So it was quite a surprise when in November 2014 news came up that Diageo had sold Bushmills to Mexican spirit giant Jose Cuervo, owner of a famous tequila. Diageo had already held 50% of the Tequila brand and with this 408-million-Dollar-deal got the other half as well. The price for Diageo was the waiver of been part of the recent Irish whiskey’s come back.
Bushmills is situated in a region that attracts many tourists: The natural phenomenon called “Giant’s Causeway” that was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1986, is nearby so the distillery is not only visited by whiskey enthusiasts but also by many other Ireland-discovering-tourists. No wonder Bushmills has seen 92.000 visitors in 2012. We don’t know the figures of the last years but they probably have even increased.
Tours are offered and last about 40 minutes. Reservation is recommended.
There is also the chance for tasting experiences to learn more about the range of Bushmills whiskey. Contact is necessary to book these events.
March - Oct
Mon - Sat 9:15 - 16:45
Sun 12:00 - 16:45
Last tour commences at 16:00, gift shop closes at 16:45
Feb, Nov - Dec
Mon - Sat 10:00 - 16:45
Sun 12:00 - 16:45
Last tour commences at 15:30, gift shop closes at 16:45
The Old Bushmills Distillery
2 Distillery Rd,Bushmills, County Antrim BT57 8XH
+0044 (0) 28 207 33218 | +44 (0) 28 207 33272