Kilbeggan Distillery is a defunct distillery found in pretty historic buildings, complete with white washed walls, brick chimney stack and old timber water wheel, which is still operational. It is located in Kilbeggan in Westmeath in the heart of Ireland, it is the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland, dating back to 1757. The distillery did cease production and closed its doors in 1954 making it one of the last distilleries to close in Ireland. The good news is that in 1970 local people saw fit to protect the distilling licence and maintain most of the equipment, 85% of the original machinery remains intact. It is once again distilling and maturing whiskey and has opened its doors to visitors to see the old age methods used.
During a guided tour guests will discover all about the heritage, culture and production of Irish whiskey, through the distilleries 250 year history. Killbeggan has seen some tumultuous times but it is once again producing some fine whiskey’s. During a tour visitors will be transported back in time, where they will see traditional methods used like the mashing in oak mash tuns, and fermenting in Oregon pine vats. Visitors will then be brought to present times where they can hear, smell and taste Kilbeggan Irish whiskey as it is distilled today, in small batches.
Amongst the numerous distillery artefacts on display are the 19th century water wheel, that is still operational and used, and the steam engine, this is fired up on special occasions. There is an ancient pot still that was last used in the 19th century however, to mark 250 years of existence it was diligently rebuilt and fired up, 54 years to the day when distilling had last occurred here. This pot still is considered to be the oldest operational pot still worldwide. A second smaller still was installed and visitors can see the whiskey flow directly from these stills. Although much of the machinery is worn and not working it only serves to add charm and appeal of the experience
Outside there is more to discover including three much bigger and interesting stills, they are the old stills from the Tullamore Distillery.
The tour concludes with a complimentary sample of the award winning Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey. On each tour two guests are selected to take part in a special sampling of all the whiskey’s they produce. Tours take about an hour and are informative and interesting and the experienced guides are animated and knowledgeable, they take visitors through the step by step processes involved in the manufacture of whiskey. Visitors also have the option of taking a self-guided tour and these take about forty minutes.
For the true whiskey connoisseur there is the Gold Medal Tour, this is a two hour tour that includes a Premium Testing, a complete tour of the old distillery, a visit to the on-site maturing warehouses as well as a personal tour of the new working distillery.
Kilbeggan is open throughout the year from 9.00am to 6.00pm, with guided tours taking place several times a day.
Kilbeggan Distillery makes for a fascinating and authentic whiskey experience and is not just for those interested in whiskey, also providing an insight into what was a thriving and countrywide industry in Ireland. The setting along the River Brosna is gorgeous, and make time to visit their lovely restaurant, The Pantry where visitors can enjoy delicious home cooked dishes and tasty treats.