Exploring the History and Distilling Process of the Old Bushmills Distillery

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Old Bushmills Distillery is one of the world’s most iconic and oldest distilleries, with a rich history dating back to the 18th century. Today, it is known for producing some of the finest Irish whiskey, enjoyed by whiskey lovers worldwide. In this article, we will delve deep into the history and distilling process of the Bushmills Distillery.

Opening Times

OLd Bushmills Distillery Shop – Image BY andrealicalzi

The Distillery welcomes visitors throughout the year, offering a chance to explore its fascinating premises and sample its world-renowned whiskeys. The general opening times are as follows:

  • Monday to Thursday: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (last admission at 4:00 pm)
  • Friday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (last admission at 3:00 pm)
  • Saturday: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (last admission at 3:00 pm)
  • Sunday: 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm (last admission at 3:00 pm)

Please note that these hours may be subject to change, especially during public holidays or special events. It’s advisable to check the official Distillery website or contact them directly to confirm the opening times before your visit.

How to Get to There

Located in the picturesque village of Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Bushmills is easily accessible by various modes of transportation.

By Car

If you’re traveling by car, the distillery is conveniently situated just off the A2 road, approximately 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Belfast. Simply follow the signposts to Bushmills, and you’ll find the distillery located on Distillery Road, off Main Street. Ample parking is available nearby.

By Public Transportation:

If you prefer to use public transportation, several options are available:

  • Bus: Regular bus services operate from Belfast to Coleraine, with connections to Bushmills. From Bushmills, it’s a short walk to the distillery.
  • Train: Take a train from Belfast to Coleraine and then transfer to a bus or taxi for the final leg of the journey to Bushmills.
  • Tours: Various guided tours are available that include transportation to the Old Bushmills Distillery. These tours often depart from major cities or tourist hubs and provide a convenient way to reach the distillery while enjoying additional sightseeing opportunities.

Once you arrive in Bushmills, the Distillery is the prominent landmark in the village, making it easy to locate. The distillery is within walking distance of the town center, and signposts will guide you to its entrance.

It’s recommended to check local transportation schedules and plan your journey in advance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit to the Old Bushmills Distillery.

Old Bushmills Distillery Tour

Tasting Old Bushmills Whiskey on the Tour – Image andrealicalzi

Embark on a journey through time and taste at the Old Bushmills Distillery on the stunning North Coast of Ireland. With a legacy dating back over 400 years, this historic distillery offers visitors an exceptional experience to explore the art of whiskey-making, delve into rich heritage, and savour the world-renowned spirits produced here. Join them as they take you on a captivating Old Bushmills Distillery tour, where tradition meets craftsmanship.

  1. Heritage and History: Step into the Bushmills Distillery and instantly immerse yourself in centuries of whiskey-making heritage. Knowledgeable guides will walk you through the captivating story of the distillery, highlighting its origins and sharing tales of the local area. Discover how this iconic distillery has withstood the test of time, producing exceptional whiskey since its establishment in 1608, earning it the prestigious title of the world’s oldest licensed distillery.
  2. The Whiskey-Making Process: Prepare to witness the meticulous process behind creating the liquid gold that is Bushmills whiskey. As you navigate the Bushmills distillery tour, you’ll encounter the various stages of whiskey production. From the malting of barley to the crushing of grains, the fermentation process, and the art of distillation, every step is expertly explained, showcasing the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into every bottle.
  3. Distillery Facilities: Marvel at the historic buildings that make up the Bushmills Distillery. The Bushmills distillery tour takes you through the enchanting cobbled courtyard, where you can explore the working stills, traditional copper pot stills, and blending rooms. Learn about the different types of whiskeys produced here, including the smooth and distinctive Bushmills Original, the rich and honeyed Black Bush, and the rare and aged expressions in the Distillery Reserve Collection.
  4. Tasting Experiences: No Old Bushmills Distillery tour worth its salt would be complete without indulging in a whiskey-tasting session. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through a sensory journey, offering insights into the unique flavours and characteristics of Bushmills whiskey. Sample a selection of their finest offerings, allowing your palate to appreciate the nuances and complexities of each distinct expression. Whether you’re a seasoned whiskey connoisseur or a curious beginner, there’s a tasting experience tailored to suit your preferences.
  5. Gift Shop and Visitor Center: Before bidding farewell to the Distillery, take some time to peruse the well-stocked gift shop and visitor centre. Here, you’ll find an array of whiskey-related merchandise, including limited-edition bottlings, branded glassware, and unique souvenirs. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring home a piece of Irish whiskey history or find a special gift for the whiskey aficionado.

The Bushmills Distillery tour offers an unforgettable experience that combines history, craftsmanship, and the opportunity to taste exceptional whiskey. From the moment you step foot on this hallowed ground, you’ll be transported through time, gaining a deeper appreciation for the artistry behind whiskey-making. Whether you’re a whiskey enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a memorable experience on the North Coast of Ireland, the Bushmills Distillery tour is a must-visit destination that will leave you with lasting memories and a newfound love for whiskey.

A Brief History of Old Bushmills Distillery

The Origins of Bushmills

The Bushmills Distillery was founded in 1784 by Hugh Anderson in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. However, the distillery’s history can be traced back to the 13th century when the area was known for producing fine spirits. It is said that the monks of nearby Abbey had perfected the art of distillation and had been making spirits for centuries.

Anderson saw the potential in the area and decided to establish a distillery, which would go on to become one of the most iconic whiskey brands in the world. The distillery’s location was chosen for its proximity to the River Bush, which provided a water source for the whiskey-making process.

Image by brittas_bay

Over the decades, Bushmills Distillery has changed ownership several times, with each owner bringing their unique techniques and practices to the distilling process. Today, the distillery is owned by Jose Cuervo, the world’s largest tequila producer. Despite the change in ownership, the distillery has remained true to its roots and continues to produce its signature whiskey using traditional methods.

The Evolution of the Old Bushmills Distillery

Over the years, the Old Bushmills Distillery has undergone several transformations to keep up with the changing times and improve the whiskey-making process. In 1838, the distillery upgraded its stills to copper vessels, which allowed for a smoother, more consistent whiskey. This was a significant development in the whiskey industry, as it paved the way for the mass production of Bushmills Irish whiskey.

Additionally, a railway line was built in the area, making it easier to transport raw materials and finished products. The distillery also installed a steam engine to power its machinery, further increasing its production capacity.

The distillery’s commitment to innovation and quality has earned it numerous accolades over the years. In 1887, it was awarded a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, which allowed it to use the title “Royal” in its name. Today, Bushmills Distillery is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, with visitors coming from all over the world to learn about its history and sample its whiskey.

The Impact of Prohibition and World Wars

The SS Bushmills

Like many distilleries, the Old Bushmills Distillery was impacted by Prohibition in the 1920s, as the United States was one of its largest export markets. The distillery was forced to shift its focus to the domestic market, but its iconic whiskey continued to be appreciated worldwide.

The two World Wars also impacted the distillery’s production, as supplies of raw materials were limited and transport routes became unsafe. Despite these challenges, the distillery kept producing its signature whiskey, albeit in smaller quantities.

Today, Bushmills Distillery continues to produce its award-winning whiskey using the same traditional methods that have been passed down through generations. Its commitment to quality and innovation has made it one of the world’s most respected and iconic whiskey brands.

The Distilling Process at Bushmills

Aerial View of Old Bushmills Distillery – Image BY travellernorthernireland

The Importance of Water and Barley

The distilling process at Bushmills is a meticulous and time-honored craft that begins with the sourcing of the finest raw materials. The water used in the process comes from the nearby St. Columb’s Rill, which provides a unique mineral profile and a distinct taste to the whiskey. The water is carefully tested and filtered to ensure that it is of the highest quality and purity.

The barley used in the process is also of high quality, with a high sugar content, which is essential for the fermentation process. The barley is carefully selected and sourced from local farmers who have been growing and harvesting barley for generations. The barley is then malted and dried, a process that enhances the flavor and aroma of the whiskey.

The malting process involves soaking the barley in water and allowing it to germinate. This process activates enzymes in the barley that convert the starches into sugars. The barley is then dried using hot air, which stops the germination process and preserves the sugar content.

The Mashing and Fermentation Process

Image by bushmillsjp

The next step in the distilling process is mashing, where the malted barley is mixed with hot water to release the sugars. The resulting liquid, known as wort, is then transferred to the fermentation tanks.

The fermentation tanks at Bushmills are made of stainless steel and are carefully monitored to ensure that the temperature and pH levels are optimal for yeast growth. The yeast is added to the wort and left to ferment for around 48 hours. During fermentation, the yeast breaks down the sugars in the wort, producing a liquid known as wash, which has an alcohol content of around 8-10%. This process gives whiskey its distinctive flavor and aroma.

Distillation and Maturation

Bushmills Distillery Stills – Image bushmillsjp

Distillation is the next step in the process, where the fermented wash is distilled in copper pot stills. The stills at Bushmills are unique in that they are smaller than those typically used, resulting in a more refined and fruity whiskey.

The whiskey is then aged in barrels made of American oak, which have previously held bourbon. This maturation process imparts flavor and character to the whiskey; the longer it is aged, the more complex it becomes. The barrels are carefully stored in warehouses that are kept at a constant temperature and humidity to ensure that the whiskey matures properly.

The Art of Blending and Bottling

Image by bushmills_fr

The final step in the process is blending and bottling. At Bushmills, the master blender carefully selects the barrels of whiskey that will be used to create each blend. The blends are then aged for a further period to allow the flavors to meld together and create a harmonious taste profile. The blends are then bottled in iconic, square-shaped bottles, ready for distribution around the world.

The process of distilling whiskey at Bushmills is a true labor of love, with each step carefully crafted to produce a whiskey that is of the highest quality and taste. The attention to detail and commitment to excellence have earned Bushmills a reputation as one of the finest whiskey distilleries in the world.

The Whiskey Portfolio of Bushmills Distillery

Bushmills Distillery is one of the oldest distilleries in Ireland, with a rich history that dates back over 400 years. The distillery is located on the north coast of Ireland, in the town of Bushmills, and is surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Causeway Coast.

Bushmills Original

Bushmills Original is the flagship whiskey of the distillery and is the most widely distributed of them all. This whiskey is triple-distilled for an exceptionally smooth and clean taste and is made using a blend of malted and unmalted barley, which gives it a unique flavour profile. The whiskey is then aged for at least three years in oak casks, adding depth and complexity to the flavour.

Bushmills Original is a versatile whiskey that can be enjoyed in various ways. It is perfect for mixing in cocktails but can also be enjoyed neat or on the rocks. The whiskey has a light, sweet aroma with hints of vanilla and honey and a smooth, mellow flavour with a slight hint of spice.

Black Bush

Black Bush Bushmills Whiskey – Image by greatbritishfood

Black Bush is a premium blended whiskey made with a high proportion of malt whiskey aged in sherry casks. This gives it a rich, dark colour and a fruity, nutty flavour. The whiskey is then blended with a small amount of grain whiskey to create a smooth, well-balanced flavour profile.

Black Bush is best enjoyed neat or with a splash of water. The whiskey has a complex aroma with notes of dried fruit, nuts, and toffee, and a rich, full-bodied flavor with hints of vanilla, spice, and oak.

Bushmills 10-Year-Old Single Malt

Bushmills 10 Year Old Singe Malt – Image By barcacoi

Bushmills 10-Year-Old Single Malt is a classic whiskey, aged in bourbon and sherry casks for a minimum of ten years. This extended aging process gives the whiskey a smooth, balanced flavor with notes of vanilla and toffee, and a long, lingering finish.

The whiskey has a rich, golden color and a complex aroma with hints of fruit, spice, and oak. The flavor is smooth and mellow, with a slight hint of sweetness and a subtle smokiness that lingers on the palate.

Bushmills 16-Year-Old Single Malt

12 and 16 Year Old Bushmills Whiskey Bottles – Image scotchandbranch

Bushmill 16-Year-Old Single Malt is a premium whiskey aged for 16 years combined with bourbon and sherry casks. This extended ageing process gives the whiskey a rich, complex flavour with hints of chocolate, oak, and honey and a sweet, long-lasting finish.

The whiskey has a deep, amber colour and a complex aroma with notes of dried fruit, nuts, and spice. The flavour is rich and full-bodied, with a smooth, creamy texture and a subtle smokiness that adds depth and complexity to the flavour profile.

Bushmills 21-Year-Old Single Malt

21 Year Old Bushmills Whiskey – Image By javigarciarubio

Bushmills 21-Year-Old Single Malt is the distillery’s most premium whiskey, aged for 21 years in bourbon and sherry casks. This extended ageing process gives the whiskey a floral, fruity aroma and a complex, full-bodied flavour with notes of dark chocolate, spices, and fruitcake.

The whiskey has a rich, deep colour and a complex aroma with hints of dried fruit, nuts, and toffee. The flavour is smooth and mellow, with a subtle sweetness and a long, lingering finish that leaves a warm, comforting feeling in the mouth.

Overall, the Bushmills whiskey portfolio offers a range of options for whiskey lovers of all tastes and preferences. From the smooth and mellow Bushmills Original to the complex and full-bodied Bushmills 21-Year-Old Single Malt, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


The Bushmills Distillery has a long and fascinating history and is committed to producing high-quality whiskey that has stood the test of time. From its humble beginnings in the 18th century to becoming a global whiskey powerhouse, the distillery continues to innovate and improve the distilling process.

Whether you’re a long-time whiskey lover or a curious newcomer to the world of Irish whiskey, visiting the Bushmills Distillery is a must-do experience. The stunning natural surroundings and iconic whiskey production make it an unforgettable destination for whiskey enthusiasts and travellers alike.

About the author

Originally from Scotland, Colin now resides near the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart on the Causeway Coastal Route. By day he works in IT and by day off he spends much of his time travelling around the Island with his young family, writing about his experiences for many sites both locally and nationally.

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