As the oldest licensed distillery of its kind in Ireland, the Kilbeggan Distilling Company has seen its share of trials and triumphs. Founded in 1757, the distillery spent the next 200 years making a whiskey beloved the world over. So when tough times ground its gears to a halt, the town came together to save the whiskey that built the town. It wasn’t quick or easy, but they persevered. Today, every bottle produced stands as proof that the spirit of Kilbeggan never wavered.
When the doors of the Kilbeggan Distillery were shut in 1953, the people of Kilbeggan could’ve easily accepted defeat. They could’ve acknowledged that times had changed, and that fate had dealt them more than their share of bad breaks. They would do no such thing. The distillery meant too much to too many in the town. They would never let its smokestack be reduced to a monument, no matter what the world threw at them.
When we started, there was no money. If we wanted to get something done, we had to do it ourselves. We got the key and walked in one Saturday morning in 1983. Every place was covered in rubble and falling timbers. Totally derelict. All the roofs had fallen in, all the windows were blown out. It was a huge, sprawling complex of dilapidated buildings and we had absolutely nothing. Everybody brought their own tools. Chisels and hammers and saws, that kind of stuff. All I brought was a sweeping brush.
There was something very appealing about the waterwheel. The sound of the water on it. The sight of it. It affected everybody really deeply. They realized that there was something more to the restoration of the distillery.