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Issue 42 - Home of the Black art (Bushmills)

Whisky Magazine Issue 42
September 2004


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Home of the Black art (Bushmills)

Ireland isn't normally associated with single malts, but at Bushmills they're investing heavily in producing outstanding whiskeys. Dominic Roskrowwent there

At the start of every week Colum Egan goes on the internet, looks up his list of oil suppliers, picks up the phone and plays broker for a few hours. And right now, with pressure on oil prices unlikely to ease up, Monday mornings are becoming increasingly important and significant.

Colum is master distiller at Bushmills in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and while fuel costs affect most companies, they take on an even greater significance at a distillery that produces single malt requiring triple distillation.

“It's a big investment on the part of the distillery,” he says. “While most distilleries require 0.6 to 0.8 litres of fuel to produce a litre of alcohol, here it's about one litre of fuel. That is between 25 per cent and 66 per cent more. There was a time when we could get a guaranteed price for a year but with the market as volatile as it is now that's no longer the case, so I have to do it on a weekly basis.

“We use about 60,000 litres of heavy fuel every week and so we are at the mercy of the oil markets. It's one clear reason why it is hard to compete over price with many other whiskeys. We have higher costs.”

Bushmills sits close to what is widely regarded as one of the world's great sights, the Giant's Causeway, some 40 minutes north of Belfast. It is a pretty, virtually self-contained distillery, and it boasts the world's first whiskey-producing licence. It was granted in 1608 though the folk at Irish Distillers will claim that whiskey was produced ...

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