Bushmills Distillery claims today to have been
established as early as 1608, based on the undisputed fact that a
license to distil was granted on 20th
April 1608 to Sir Thomas Phillipps, King James I's deputy in the
province of Ulster, for the "Countie of Colrane" (Coleraine) where
Bushmills is located. However, similar licenses were granted for
several other areas in that year: On 23rd
March for the province of Leinster (covering
Distillery in Co. Louth), and on 10th
January for the province of Munster (covering
Distillery in Co. Cork). So, any of the three distilleries in Ireland
today can claim to have a license to distil since 1608.
1779 Distilling Act
Following this act of parliament in 1779, Distillers were taxed
heavily on stills capacity and - theoretical - throughput. This
caused a drastic decline of the industry. From several hundreds of
licensed distillers in the 1770s, the number dropped to 121 in 1802,
and 40 in 1822. An average still held only 200 gallons, the biggest
no more than 750. In contrast, the number of unlicensed stills rose
1823 Excise Act
This act of parliament stopped the taxation on stills capacity
and only taxed actual spirit production at a far lower rate than
before. Distillers had to obtain a license costing 10 Pounds a year,
and minimum still size was set to 40 gallons which, in theory, made
it impossible for the illegal distillers to dismantle and quickly
move their stills as they had been doing before. The 1823 act lead
to bigger distillery plants, most notably in Dublin and Cork. In
Midleton, Co. Cork, a Wash Still of 32,000 gallons capacity was
installed in 1825.
Spirits (Restrictions) Act
In order to conserve grain, the imports of which into the UK
were severely damaged by German submarines during World War I, the
government passed this act which prohibited the delivery of Whiskey
for consumption in Britain unless it had matured in
bonded warehouses for at least three years. This badly affected the
big grain distilleries, mostly in Ulster who, until then, would sell
their produce to blenders straight from the stills.
A butt is a cask type used for maturation in bonded warehouses. A
butt holds 500 litres of spirit.
Western province of Ireland. Connacht consists of five counties and
its capital city is Galway.
Distillers' Company Ltd. (DCL)
Established in 1877 as an amalgamation of six grain distilleries in
the Lowlands area of Scotland, DCL held the key position in the
Scotch Whisky Industry for the next hundred years. DCL acquired all
"Big Five" Blending companies and countless Malt Distilleries, it
ruthlessly closed down plants after taking them over, to avoid
over-production and shut down competition. As it grew too big, DCL
itself was taken over in 1987 by Guinness, and is now part of the
Diageo fold. DCL's interest in Ireland included
Phoenix Park Distillery in Dublin, and the Limerick and
A hogshead is a cask
type used for maturation in bonded warehouses. A hogshead holds 250
litres of spirit.
Eastern province of Ireland. Leinster consists of 12 counties and
its capital city is Dublin.
Southern Province of Ireland. Munster consists of 6 counties and its
capital city is Cork.
Common name for Whiskey legally produced by licensed Distillers.
Opposite of Poteen.
Illegally produced Whiskey by unlicensed Distillers. The Inishowen
Peninsula in Co. Donegal was a Poteen production stronghold with an
estimated 800 unlicensed stills in 1822.
As stated in a 1903 Act of Parliament, "the word shebeen shall mean
and include every house, shop, room, premises or place in which
exciseable liquors are trafficked in, by retail, without a
certificate and excise license in that behalf." Shebeen also refers
to public houses with a poor reputation.
Irish Gaelic translation of the Latin Aqua Vitae (Water of life) and
the name of the Irish spirit derived from distillation. It was first
recorded in 1276. The name was absorbed into the English
Whisky/Whiskey (uisce - usky - whisky) by the soldiers of King Henry
II's in Ireland in the 12th century.
Northern Province of Ireland. Six of the nine counties are known as
Northern Ireland and are governed by Great Britain. Ulster's capital
city is Belfast.
United Distilleries Co. Ltd. (UDC)
UDC, established in 1902, was an amalgamation of two
Belfast Distilleries, Avoniel and Connswater, and two
Distilleries, Abbey Street and Waterside, whose owner,
Andrew A. Watt, became chairman of the organization. It was one of
the largest producers of Whiskey (mostly Grain) in the United
Kingdom and was in direct competition to the Scotch Whisky Industry.
UDC entered an agreement with DCL to divide trade and limit
production of Grain Whiskey so as to prevent a saturation of the
market and a catastrophic fall in prices. After the 1915 Act of
Parliament, UDC got into difficulties, and badly hit by the
introduction of prohibition in the United States, it was taken over
in 1922 by DCL who closed all UDC plants within few years.