Old Bushmills Distillery
The Old Bushmills Distillery is a distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. As of December 2014, it is in the process of transitioning from ownership by Diageo plc to Casa Cuervo. The distillery is a popular tourist attraction, with around 120,000 visitors per year. According to the company, a distillery by this name was first recorded in 1743, although at the time it was "in the hands of smugglers" (in a quote attributed to Victorian whiskey journalist Alfred Barnard)
All of the whiskey bottled under the Bushmills whiskey brand is produced at the Bushmills Distillery. A licence to distill in the area was granted to Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1608 by King James I, and the 1608 date is printed on the labels of the Bushmills brand whiskey. It uses water drawn from Saint Columb's Rill which is a tributary of the River Bush.
The Bushmills Distillery claims to be—and is almost unanimously considered to be—the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
The area has a long tradition with distillation. According to one story, as far back as 1276, an early settler called Sir Robert Savage of Ards, before defeating the Irish in battle, fortified his troops with "a mighty drop of acqua vitae" In 1608, a licence was granted to Sir Thomas Phillipps by King James I to distill whiskey
The Bushmills Old Distillery Company itself was not established until 1784 by Hugh Anderson. Bushmills suffered many lean years with numerous periods of closure with no record of the distillery being in operation in the official records both in 1802 and in 1822. In 1860 a Belfast spirit merchant named Jame McColgan and Patrick Corrigan bought the distillery; in 1880 they formed a limited company. In 1885, the original Bushmills buildings were destroyed by fire but the distillery was swiftly rebuilt. In 1890, a steamship owned and operated by the distillery, the S.S. Bushmills, made its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to deliver Bushmills whiskey to America. It called atPhiladelphia and New York before heading on to Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama.
In the early 20th century, the U.S. was a very important market for Bushmills (and other Irish Whiskey producers). American Prohibition in 1920 came as a large blow to the Irish Whiskey industry, but Bushmills managed to survive. Wilson Boyd, Bushmills' director at the time, predicted the end of prohibition and had large stores of whiskey ready to export. After the Second World War, the distillery was bought by Isaac Wolfson, and, in 1972, it was taken over by Irish Distillers, meaning that Irish Distillers controlled the production of all Irish whiskey at the time. In June 1988, Irish Distillers was bought by French liquor group Pernod Ricard.