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The Old Bushmills Distillery

The "Old Bushmills" Distillery is the world's Oldest Licensed Whisky Distillery and has been legally producing Irish Malt Whisky since 1608 when Sir Thomas Phillips was empowered to issue licenses by King James I. Although as early as the 13th century, there is mention of Uisce Beatha - The Water Of Life in Gaelic. Daily guided tours illustrate how the golden liquid is produced , and after there's the opportunity to sample!!! If you're feeling a bit hungry call into 'The Distillery Kitchen' for a snack. The distillery is nestled in the small village of Bushmills which is about 10 miles from Ballycastle using the inland (less scenic) route or about a mile from the Giant's Causeway.

You may recognise some of the above?

The Ingredients

Irish Malt Whiskey is made from the finest  natural raw materials: malted barley, yeast and crystal clear river water. The uniqueness of the Malt Whiskey distilled in Bushmills lies in the character of the barley grown in Ireland, in the special water from Saint Columb's Rill, a tributary of the river Bush which runs beside the distillery, and it's distinctive triple distillation process.
The barley is first germinated under spring-like conditions and dried is closed kilns without the use of peat smoke, giving it an unpeated taste, free of the smokiness present in Scotch Whiskies. This process is called, 'Malting', gives rise to the term Malt Whiskey.
The water for the making of the whiskey flows over basalt, the volcanic rock that forms the famous Giant's Causeway, just one mile away from the "Old Bushmills" Distillery.

The Process

Whiskey making is a slow unhurried process consisting of five main steps:

1. Mashing

After the Malting, the barley is ground into a coarse flour called 'Grist'. This is then mixed with hot water and allowed to settle in a large vessel called a 'Mash Tun'. The starches in the mash transform it into a sugary liquid called 'Wort'.

2. Fermentation

The liquid 'Wort' is separated from the residual mash and transferred to a large vat known as a 'Washback'. Yeast is then added and the resulting fermentation converts the sugar in the wort into alcohol and the resultant liquor known as 'Wash'.

3. Triple Distillation

The 'Wash' is then pumped to the 'Still House' where it is distilled three times in large copper Pot Stills of traditional design.The process of distillation involves separating alcohol and the flavours derived from the malt from water. The alcohol in the 'Wash' evaporates at a lower temperature than the water. The resulting alcohol vapour is condensed and then distilled again a second and third time, becoming purer with each repetition. The condensed liquid from the first distillation is called 'Low Wines', from the second, 'Feints' and from the third, 'Spirit'.

4. Maturation

The pure 'Spirit' is collected in a 'Spirit Receiver' and it's strength is reduced by adding water. It is then transferred into oak casks and put away to rest for years in vast, dark, aromatic warehouses where the spirit will slowly mature into whiskey. The casks used in "Old Bushmills" previously contained Oloroso Sherry, Bourbon or Port leaving the wood perfectly seasoned for maturing Irish Malt Whiskey.

5. Vatting

The Master Distiller of "Old Bushmills" regularly assesses the taste of the maturing whiskey, a difficult task you might say!!! When completely satisfied, he will assemble in a vat, according to a secret formula, precise quantities of whiskeys from different casks. During vatting, these whiskeys are allowed to marry to achieve the ultimate aroma and taste which is characteristic of each brand. The whiskey will then be bottled, ready to be enjoyed anywhere around the world.

Guided Tours

November, December, January, February
Monday - Friday 9.30 - 17.00
(First Tour 10.00 and last Tour 15.30)
Saturday & Sunday 12.30 - 17.00
(First Tour 12.45 - 15.30 last Tour)
Last admission to Restaurant 16.30 & Gift Shop 16.45

Monday Saturday 09.15 - 17.00
Sunday Opening October 12.00 - 17.00
Sunday Opening September 11.00 - 17.00
Last admission to Restaurant 16.45 & Gift Shop 17.00
Last Tour 16.00 each day

On occasions, including weekends, parts of the plant may be non-operational.
Occasionally the Distillery may have to close without prior notice.
Children under 8 are welcome to visit the Distillery but are not permitted to join guided tours.
The tour is not suitable for persons with walking difficulties or wheelchair users.
Admission charge applies.
For security and safety reasons we do not permit large back packs to be carried on tour. Back packs, luggage or motorcycle helmets cannot be stored on site.
Bookings can only be made for groups of 15 or more.

Tel. +44(0)2820731521

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