Imagine yourself happily producing whiskey in Ireland during its peak in the 1860s and 1870s. The industry is modern, forward thinking, enjoying a glorious heyday with around 28 distilleries churning out millions of gallons of whiskey every year. Within a matter of only a few years Irish whiskey is already in decline.
The focus on quantity has created over production while its reputation for quality spirit has not benefitted from as much attention. Irish spirit is being sold in bulk to be sold on as ‘Scotch’ blend. There is very public industry infighting and the dastardly successful and competitive Scotch industry is outflanking you.
Clearly the Irish whiskey industry had suffered from a series of bad decisions and was in trouble well before the unhappy sequence of world events hit the 20th century. After a world war, a war of independence, a civil war, a trade war, a war on alcohol and another world war, the Irish Whiskey Boom of the 19th century had very much ended. It continued to decline until, by the 1980s, just two of the original distilleries survived.
It’s the saddest of stories for whiskey enthusiasts, but are any of these Irish whiskeys still available to buy today?
Anyone who has searched for whiskies from lost Scottish distilleries will know how challenging the hunt can be but it’s even more difficult to taste specific closed Irish distilleries as you will see from our list!
So what were all these distilleries that didn’t survive the 20th century and when did they close?
Bow Street – John Jameson & Son
The Bow Street distillery sold whiskey by the barrel to Spirit Bonders and Publicans who then bottled the whiskey on their own premises using labels supplied by the distillery.
The distillery supplied the labels and capsules and the Publican inserted their own name on the label.
There was a Coloraine Irish Whiskey blend and a Coleraine Single Malt 1959 34 Year Old that occasionally turn up at auction.
When the Comber distillery was eventually sold in 1953 the new owners sold off the spirit and the distillery equipment was sold for scrap. James E McCabe bought the remaining casks (and brand name) in 1970 and sold as Old Comber.
John’s Lane – James Power & Son
Not to be confused with new John Power & Son Whiskey which has been distilled at the New Midleton Distillery in Cork since the mid 1970s.
Jones Road Distillery amalgamated to become part of the Dublin Distillers Company Ltd along with Marrowbone Lane Distillery and Thomas Street Distillery.
Kilbeggan – Locke’s – Brusna
Not to be confused with Kilbeggan or Locke’s which were later produced by Cooley.
Limerick – Walker’s – Thomond Gate
Marrowbone Lane – William Jameson & Co
Marrowbone Lane distillery amalgamated to become part of the Dublin Distillers Company Ltd along with Thomas Street Distillery and Jones Road Distillery.
Any bottles of Midleton distilled after July 1975 originate from the (New) Midleton distillery.
The Royal Irish – Dunville & Co
The Royal Irish Distillery most famously produced Dunville’s, not to be confused with Dunville’s relaunched since the 1990s.
Thomas Street – Roe Family
Thomas Street Distillery amalgamated to become part of the Dublin Distillers Company Ltd along with Marrowbone Lane Distillery and Jones Road Distillery.
Tullamore distillery produced Tullamore single Irish whiskey and Tullamore Dew which was a blend, not to be confused with the Tullamore Dew blend that began to be produced at the New Midleton after 1975 or Tullamore D.E.W. which was relaunched by William Grant & Sons after it bought the brand in 2010 and has its home at the New Tullamore distillery founded in 2014.
Also look for early bottles of Irish Mist that were produced at the Tullamore distillery in the 1950s.
Watercourse Distillery is most famouse for its Hewitt’s Whisky.