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Issue 79 - A rare bird indeed

Whisky Magazine Issue 79
April 2009


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A rare bird indeed

Gavin Smith looks at the history of Phoenix Park in Dublin.

The name ‘Phoenix Park' resonates in the Irish consciousness. It has been described as “Dublin's playground” and is the largest urban, enclosed park in Europe. In its time ‘The Park' has played host to motor racing and horse racing, and on 6th May 1882 the newly arrived chief secretary of Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and his under-secretary, Thomas Burke,were stabbed to death there by members of the Invincibles, a radical Irish nationalist secret society.

Alfred Barnard wrote, after passing through ‘The Park' in 1886, that “Of late years it has received terrible notoriety from the foul murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr Burke, under circumstances of brutality never surpassed, the details of which must be strong in the memory of all.” At the time, Barnard was on his way to visit a relatively recently established distillery, named after Phoenix Park, and it is one which claims a unique place in Irish distilling history.

For devotees of whisk(e)y themed quizzes and trivia it is worth noting that Phoenix Park is the only Irish distillery to have been established by a Scottish distiller. The distiller in question was the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL), familiar to regular readers of this feature for the role it played in sustaining the Scotch whisky industry through some tough economic times in the years between the two World Wars,and then for its radical programme of distillery closures during the 1980s.

In 1878 the DCL had only been in existence for a...

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