In 1608, Bushmills was awarded a license to distill, making the distillery the oldest licensed whiskey distillery on record. Though the distillery has faced a series of challenges -- taxes, fires, and America's experiment with prohibition -- wooden barrels continue to be filled with golden liquid to mature and be bottled by experienced distillers. Bushmills, named for the many mills dispersed along Northern Ireland's River Bush, has developed a community around the distillery, and the label's single malts have attracted not only awards but also devout connoisseurs. With over four centuries backing up the product, it's no wonder the distillery has its formula on lock.
Though whiskey in Ireland can be traced to documents dating to 1405, a 1556 Act announced by the English Parliament decreed that only those with a license granted by the Lord Deputy could distill spirits. At the time, the declaration was a difficult one to reinforce. King James I began issuing licenses in 1608, both to Old Bushmills and Kilbeggan Distillery, and though Kilbeggan experienced periodic closures, Bushmills has remained a constant.
Preserving The Taste Of History
Even when taxes on malted barley increased, Bushmills remained committed to their ingredients and process. The distillery's compliance and stalwart prudence resulted in medals and awards, and even a mention from James Joyce in "Ulysses." The distillery continues to produce single malt and signature whiskey blends by using the waters from the River Bush to proof distillation, and all barely used for mash is strictly from the island of Ireland.
Visitors to the distillery can sample whiskey in buildings dating back to the time of the original 1608 license and savor smooth and mellow tasting notes while basking in a setting seeping with history. Bushmills' triple-distilled whiskey offers rich, sweet sips, and limited-edition collectors' bottles (there are only 40 available) that can run close to $13,000. Whether served straight, stirred into Irish coffee, or mixed into Bushmills in the afternoon cocktail recipes, Bushmills is a whiskey label you can reliably depend on. As Master Distiller Colum Egan has confidently declared, "We are not the best because we are the oldest, we are the oldest because we are the best."
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