About BUSHMILLS™ Irish Whiskey
BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey is hand crafted in small batches for a smooth taste at Ireland’s oldest working distillery, in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. The brand portfolio includes six award-winning whiskies: BUSHMILLS, BLACK BUSH™, BUSHMILLS 10 Year Old Single Malt, BUSHMILLS 16 Year Old Single Malt, BUSHMILLS 21 Year Old Single Malt and our anniversary edition, BUSHMILLS 1608.
THE OLD BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY: OVERVIEW
The Old Bushmills Distillery is a special place to make whiskey. How it is made is special, too. From a production perspective, there are some essential truths that make BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey unique.
Ireland’s Oldest Working Distillery
BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey is made at Ireland’s oldest working distillery - the original licence to distil whiskey in the Bushmills area was granted over 400 years ago in 1608. We’ve been continuously making whiskey for longer than any other distillery in Ireland.
A Special Recipe
The Old Bushmills Distillery is the only distillery in Ireland to use 100% malt barley to make triple-distilled malt whiskey, which is what creates the rich, mellow and distinct flavour that is our house style.
The Old Bushmills Distillery only uses the highest quality selected oak casks to mature its whiskey. These casks are only sourced from selected suppliers including: Spain, Sherry-seasoned casks; American Bourbon from Kentucky; and even Portugal and Madeira all for the distinct flavour they lend to our whiskey.
Provenance and Sense of Commitment
BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey is made by a community in the village of Bushmills in County Antrim on the far north coast of Ireland. The Old Bushmills Distillery is Ireland’s oldest working distillery and its longevity is testament to the lasting skill and commitment of the whiskey-makers at the distillery. They are at the heart of our distillery, our whiskey and our brand. It’s this shared understanding that is at the core of these lasting bonds that make BUSHMILLS a superior product.
The Old BUSHMILLS Distillery: History
On 20th April, King James I granted Sir Thomas Phillips - landowner and Governor of this district of Ireland – a licence to distill ‘Acqua Vitae’ or ‘uisce beathe’ in the Bushmills area. These are Latin and Gaelic words for ‘water of life’ - the latter referring to a spirit made from grain that would later be called whiskey. Distilling was already widespread in the area but until then was a clandestine, illicit practice - a favourite pastime of small farmers. The 1608 licence does not mark the start of whiskey production in the Bushmills area - far from it - but rather it is an indication of the reputation this region had acquired for its tradition of whiskey making.
Hugh Anderson registered the Old Bushmills Distillery and the Pot Still became its registered trademark. It’s still our mark of genuine distinction today.
A malt tax was introduced - drastically increasing the price of the malted barley used by Irish distilleries. While some distillers (such as the makers of Jameson and Power’s whiskies) substituted some of the malt with regular (unmalted) barley - enabling them to cut the tax and even increase yield – The Old Bushmills Distillery stayed true to the grain, confident that using 100% malted barley made for a superior whiskey.
On 25th November, a disastrous fire destroyed The Old Bushmills Distillery - but its whiskey was in such high demand that it was soon rebuilt and back in full production. Electricity was installed in the new ‘state of the art’ distillery and it made a great impression on the famed whiskey writer of the era, Alfred Barnard. On visiting Bushmills he described it as ‘alive to all modern inventions’.
1880s - Early 1900s
Old Bushmills’ ‘celebrated malt whisky’ won numerous prizes in international spirits competitions - including the ‘only gold medal for whisky’ at the Paris 1889 Expo where it shared headlines with a temporary exhibit called the Eiffel Tower. This was the golden age of Irish whiskey. The brand became so popular that BUSHMILLS had to commission its very own steamship - the SS Bushmills - to plough the seven seas, delivering whiskey across the civilised world.
The Old Bushmills Distillery was bought by a visionary Belfast wine and spirit merchant, Samuel Wilson Boyd, who set the distillery up for expansion. Boyd anticipated the end of US Prohibition and geared BUSHMILLS up for success - ensuring that there were stocks of mature whiskey ready for export when the time was right.
Prohibition was ended in the US and BUSHMILLS had ample stocks of whiskey - “probably the biggest shipment of Irish Whiskey that has ever left an Irish port” - ready to ship.
World War II brought the expansion of BUSHMILLS to a halt. Production stopped and Allied troops were billeted at the distillery. In one of many German air raids on Belfast Bushmills Hill Street headquarters were bombed and the company archives destroyed in the ensuing fire.
1950s - 1960s
Production resumed after the war and BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey became increasingly popular. Exports rocketed - particularly to the US. Not all Irish whiskies enjoyed such success however and many distilleries continued to close down.
John Power & Sons, John Jameson and Cork Distillers Company merged to form Irish Distillers Ltd (IDL).
In the early 1970s IDL began to consolidate production of all its whisky brands into one new colossal whiskey distillery in Midleton, Co Cork. In 1972 BUSHMILLS came under the ownership and control of IDL.
IDL switched all its production operations to its new Midleton plant, except for BUSHMILLS.
BUSHMILLS became Diageo’s first and only Irish Whiskey brand.
BUSHMILLS celebrated the 400th anniversary of the 1608 licence to distil, granted to the Bushmills area, and announced a landmark agreement with the Bank of Ireland for the Old Bushmills Distillery to feature on all new banknotes.
BUSHMILLS launched a new look bottle and livery. Production is increased and Diageo’s investment tops £10.5m.
In a truly incredible year for the brand, BUSHMILLS swept the board at spirits competitions across the world.
The BUSHMILLS Master Distiller, Colum Egan launched ‘Make it at Bushmills’, a global competition gave one person the opportunity to work and The Old Bushmills Distillery for 30 days and be the first person in history outside of the distillery to make their own blend of BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey.
On St Patrick’s Day 2011, Colum Egan announced that the world-famous Old Bushmills Distillery would ‘go on tour’ for the very first time.
He launched ‘Make it 2 Bushmills’, a competition that offered two friends the chance to work alongside him for two weeks, learning the skills of whiskey-making that have been alive and well in the Bushmills area for over 400 years.
Sean Tickner and Jonathan Oliff from South Africa were crowned as the winners of Make it 2 Bushmills at the global final of the competition, ‘Bushcamp’, which was held in Bushmills village in August 2011. They made their return to Bushmills in October, when they spent two weeks working at the distillery and had the chance to make their own blend of BUSHMILLS Irish Whiskey.
In December, as promised, Colum Egan packed up some of the equipment and whiskey (including Sean and Jonathan’s unique blend) from the Old Bushmills Distillery and departed for Cape Town, where he hosted the ultimate BUSHMILLS party in Sean and Jonathan’s honour.
BUSHMILLS™ – AN AWARD WINNING IRISH WHISKEY
BUSHMILLS whiskies have been winning awards since 1883. Today, the entire range continues to win prize after prize at awards ceremonies across the globe every year. See below for a full list of all of the awards that BUSHMILLS has won.