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The world's oldest distillery and practically a pilgrimage for lovers of whiskey


Distilling Equipment
Storage & Bottling
Old Bushmills is the oldest licensed distillery in the world. Its permission to make whiskey was granted in 1608 by King James I. Of course, by then, illegal production had already been going on in Ireland for some time. Even as far back as the 13th century, warriors would take a bit of liquid courage before charging into battle.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The Bushmills name and company weren't established until 1784. At first business was difficult. Things weren't helped by a fire in the 1880s, which burned the distillery buildings to the ground. Thankfully repairs didn't take too long, and despite the accident Bushmills began to build a reputation for itself. Its products were exported across oceans, to the US and beyond. In modern times, the distillery is such an important part of Northern Irish history that it even appears on newer banknotes.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The Bushmills whiskeys are award winners. They're the only ones in Ireland to be triple-distilled. This rare technique has been passed down through the generations, barely changing over hundreds of years. The resulting liquids are stored in reused sherry or port barrels, imparting some of the wine's flavour.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The distillery is not only the oldest in Ireland, but the only one open to the public that actually still produces whiskey. There are plenty of other visitor centres and museums, but at Bushmills you can see the real deal. If you're interested in finding out exactly how the drink is made, this is the place to come. You can take a close look at every stage of the process, from production to bottling. Everything happens at the same site - a rare occurrence in modern times.

Did You Know?

Black Bush Finest Blended Whiskey, produced at Bushmills, received double gold medals at the 2007 and 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competitions
Before you begin the tour, it's worth bearing in mind that the fumes are extremely strong inside the building. Some people begin to feel light-headed by just walking around! For whiskey fans, the smell is sure to tickle the taste buds, so the tour's tasting session will be very welcome indeed. Happily, it's on the house.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Bushmills takes pride of place among the nation's whiskeys. Scotland's products are more famous around the globe, but it's suspected that they originally learned distilling techniques from their Irish neighbours. Scotch usually has a strong, distinct smokiness. Ireland's drinks come without that flavour, making them a favourite of many connoisseurs. Even Queen Elizabeth I was a fan; she had barrels shipped into London on a regular basis.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The Bushmills Distillery is only a mile or so from the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland's geological marvel. The water used for the whiskey actually flows over basalt, the same rock that makes up that famous landmark. As you sip a glass of Bushmills, if you close your eyes, perhaps you can even taste Northern Ireland itself.
Visitor Information
Old Bushmills Distillery is open daily 9.15am to 5pm (from 12noon on Sundays). There is a gift shop and restaurant. Guided tours are sold on a first come first served basis. Cost per tour is around £6 for adults. Old Bushmills Distillery, 2 Distillery Road , Bushmills, Co. Antrim, BT57 8XH. Tel: 028 207 33218
The Giants Causeway and Bushmills Railway transports passengers on steam trains between Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway. Trains run on Saturdays and Sundays, plus daily from July to August. Trains depart between 11am to 5pm (hourly). Return tickets cost around £8 for adults, £6 children. Giant's Causeway Station Runkerry Road, Bushmills, BT57 8SZ. Tel: 028 2073 2844

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