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Issue 73 - Giant killers

Whisky Magazine Issue 73
July 2008

 

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Giant killers

Gavin D Smithdelves intothe history of Dunville & Co's Royal Irish Distilleries

While researching his 1887 volume The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom,Alfred Barnard visited 28 working distilleries in Ireland, but today that number is just four, with only Bushmills operating in what is now Northern Ireland.

Historically,we tend to think of Dublin as the centre of the Irish distilling industry, but north of the border Belfast boasted three distilleries from Victorian times until the economically harsh years between the two World Wars, which killed off so many distilleries in Scotland, Ireland and the USA.

Best known of the Belfast plants was Dunville & Co's Royal Irish Distilleries, established in 1869/70 on what was then the outskirts of Belfast, close to Grosvenor Road and the marshalling yards of Great Victoria Street Station.

Dunville's was a major blender, responsible for the popular Three Crowns brand and VR, launched after the accession of Queen Victoria to the British throne in 1837.Royal Irish was a large-scale distillery, and when Alfred Barnard visited, output from the two pot stills stood at 1.5 million litres per annum.By 1890, that figure had risen to 2.5 million litres,and around 1900 a Coffey still was added, increasing output even further and giving the capability to produce grain whiskey.

Royal Irish was a great success story, with its whiskeys winning a plethora of medals in international competitions and being widely exported.Dunville & Co managed to survive many economically precarious times, and benefited from the demise...

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