Kilbeggan Distillery

  • Ireland
  • Worldwide Whiskey of the Year (2009), Consistent Excellence – IWSC Gold Medals, World’s Best Blended Irish Whiskey (2008)
Phone Number
  • +353579332134
  • Lower Main St, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, Ireland

Kilbeggan Distillery entrance with vintage car.

History of Kilbeggan Distillery

The Founding of Kilbeggan Distillery

The Kilbeggan Distillery, founded in 1757 by Matthew MacManus on the River Brosna in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, Ireland, stands as one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the country.

Early Operations and Growth

In its initial years, Kilbeggan operated with a 232-gallon still, producing about 1,500 gallons annually. By the early 19th century, John and William Codd managed it, and later, in 1843, taken over by John Locke, under whose leadership the distillery flourished.

Community Involvement and Challenges

The distillery’s strong ties to the local community were evident in 1866 when Kilbeggan’s townspeople funded a replacement boiler. However, in 1878, a fire caused significant damage, with locals playing a crucial role in saving much of the stock.

Kilbeggan in the 20th Century

The 20th century brought numerous challenges for Kilbeggan, including prohibition in the United States, trade wars, and world wars. After a temporary closure from 1924 to 1931 and financial struggles, the distillery eventually ceased operations in 1958.

The Distillery’s Transformation

In 1962, German businessman Karl-Heinz Möller purchased the site, converting it into a pigsty, which led to local dismay. The original stills and worms were sold for scrap in the early 1970s.

Revival and Preservation

The Kilbeggan Preservation and Development Association was formed in 1982, spearheading the restoration of the distillery and its conversion into a museum. The Cooley Distillery acquired its assets in 1987, relaunching the Kilbeggan whiskey brand.

Rebirth and Modern Innovations

On its 250th anniversary in 2007, distillation recommenced at Kilbeggan, marking a new era. The distillery now features a restaurant and a restored 19th-century waterwheel and has introduced new products like Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye, reminiscent of 19th-century Irish whiskey-making.

Awards Won by Kilbeggan Distillery

  • Worldwide Whiskey of the Year (2009):
    • Awarded at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).
    • Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey won the prestigious Brown Forman Trophy.
    • Notable as the first Irish Whiskey to receive this honor.
  • Consistent Excellence – IWSC Gold Medals:
    • The distillery earned consecutive IWSC Gold medals.
    • A testament to their consistent quality and excellence in whiskey production.
  • World’s Best Blended Irish Whiskey (2008):
    • Recognized at the World Whiskies Awards.
    • This award highlights Kilbeggan’s superior skills in blending craftsmanship.

Kilbeggan Distillery Tour Information and Experience

The Kilbeggan Distillery in County Westmeath, Ireland, offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors interested in the art and history of Irish whiskey making. Dating back to 1757, it’s acclaimed as the oldest distillery in the world. Here’s what you can expect from a visit:

Historical Insights

The tour takes you back to 1757, offering a glimpse into the traditional whiskey-making processes of the past. You’ll learn about the families that owned the distillery and the significant impact of the local community on the brand.

Traditional Methods on Display

The tour showcases traditional mashing in oak mash tuns and fermentation in Oregon pine vats. You’ll also see the Kilbeggan malt spirit being distilled from ancient pot stills.

  • The Original Waterwheel: A key attraction is the original waterwheel, which once powered the entire distillery and is still on display. This blends beautifully with the picturesque River Brosna that runs alongside the distillery.
  • Blend of Old and New: The tour offers a mix of history and modernity, taking you from the old production and distillation processes to the current small-batch whiskey production.

Whiskey Tasting

Concluding the tour, visitors can sample various Kilbeggan whiskeys. Tastings include the Kilbeggan single grain, known for its smooth and sweet flavor, as well as the double-distilled blended whiskey and Tyrconnell single malt.

Additional Amenities

The Kilbeggan Whiskey Bar and the Pantry Restaurant provide perfect spots to relax and enjoy a hearty meal or browse an extensive range of whiskeys. There’s also a gift shop for souvenirs.

Booking Information

Tours are available for both guided and self-guided visits, each ending with a complimentary whiskey sample. The distillery is open year-round, including weekends, and offers free car and coach parking.

Flask & Barrel Review of Kilbeggan Distillery

As a seasoned whiskey collector who has toured many distilleries, I recently had the pleasure of visiting Kilbeggan Distillery, and I must say, it was a standout experience. Here’s my take on it, with a rating of 4.7 out of 5.

From the get-go, Kilbeggan’s rich history, dating back to 1757, sets a tone of authenticity and tradition. The guided tour started with a dive into this storied past, and I was thoroughly impressed by the detailed recounting of the distillery’s evolution. The blend of historical narratives with the current whiskey-making process offered an enlightening and engaging comprehensive understanding.

The distillery’s original waterwheel and the working steam engine from 1887 were particular highlights for me. There’s something about seeing these old technologies still in use that adds an extra layer of charm and character to the whiskey they produce.

And speaking of production, witnessing the traditional methods, like mashing in oak mash tuns and fermenting in Oregon pine vats, was fascinating. It’s a rare glimpse into the whiskey-making process that maintains its roots in tradition.

Now, let’s talk about the whiskey tasting – an absolute delight! The Kilbeggan Single Grain was a standout, offering a smooth, sweet flavour that really showcased the quality of their craftsmanship. The Double Distilled Blended Whiskey and Tyrconnell Single Malt were also exceptional, offering a complex and satisfying taste experience.

The only slight drawback which stops me from giving a full 5-star rating, was the size of the tasting portions – a bit more generosity would have been appreciated. However, the staff’s knowledge and friendliness more than made up for this.

What To Do Nearby Kilbeggan Distillery

Lough Boora Discovery Park: Located about a 30-minute drive from Kilbeggan, this is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Lough Boora is a transformed peat bog that now features walking and cycling trails, a sculpture park, and a fairy trail for the little ones. It’s also a great spot for angling and birdwatching, with four lakes and over 130 bird species recorded.

Church of the Assumption, Tullamore: This church, almost destroyed by fire in 1983, was beautifully rebuilt with donations, including stained glass windows from the Harry Clarke studios and a historic baptismal font. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Kilbeggan.

Birr Castle: Around 45 minutes from Kilbeggan, Birr Castle offers a glimpse into history with its reconstructed Leviathan of Parsonstown, once the world’s largest telescope. The castle grounds also feature Ireland’s oldest wrought iron bridge and beautiful gardens.

Tullamore Town Park: Just a short 20-minute journey from Kilbeggan, this park is perfect for a relaxing stroll, a picnic, or keeping up with your exercise routine.

Tullamore Show: If you’re visiting in August, check out the Tullamore Show, a one-day livestock and agriculture fair with a host of activities including live music, craft stalls, and an artisan food fair. It’s a great way to experience local culture and customs.

Slieve Bloom Mountains: A 30-minute drive will take you to one of Europe’s oldest mountain ranges. These rolling hills are perfect for hiking, with trails for all abilities and the opportunity to see wildlife like deer and red grouse.

Durrow Abbey: History buffs will enjoy this site, about a 20-minute drive away. Founded in the mid-6th century, the abbey complex includes a range of medieval monuments, a holy well, and an Irish High Cross.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Kilbeggan Distillery?

Larrigy’s Pub: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. Their address is 55 Lower Main St, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, N91 YFK1, Ireland and their contact number is +353579332021.

Browne’s On The Green: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. Their address is The Crescent, Tyrrellspass, Co. Westmeath, N 91 XD39, Ireland and their contact number is +353449221755.

Tyrrellspass Castle: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. Their address is Main St, Tyrrellspass, Co. Westmeath, N91 XY75, Ireland and their contact number is +353449223105.

What hotels are near Kilbeggan Distillery?

Bridge House Hotel: It has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. Their address is Bridge St, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland, and their contact number is +353579325600.

New Forest Estate, Courtyard Lodges: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. Their address is New Forest Estate, Higginstown, Tyrrellspass, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, and their contact number is +353449221100.

Tullamore Court Hotel: It has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. Their address is O’Moore St, Spollanstown, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, Ireland, and their contact number is +353579346666.