Irish Whiskey Dictionary

1 B C D H L M P S U

1608 ^
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 Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth), and on 10th January for the province of Munster (covering Midleton 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 exponentially.

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.

1915 Immature 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.

Butt ^
A butt is a cask type used for maturation in bonded warehouses. A butt holds 500 litres of spirit.

Connacht (Connaught) ^
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 Dundalk Distilleries.

Hogshead ^
A hogshead is a c
ask type used for maturation in bonded warehouses. A hogshead holds 250 litres of spirit.

Leinster ^
Eastern province of Ireland. Leinster consists of 12 counties and its capital city is Dublin.

Munster ^
Southern Province of Ireland. Munster consists of 6 counties and its capital city is Cork.

Parliament Whiskey ^
Common name for Whiskey legally produced by licensed Distillers. Opposite of Poteen.

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.

Shebeen ^
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.

Uisce Beatha ^
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.

Ulster ^
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 Derry 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.