10 of the World’s Oldest Distilleries by MER Patrimony

10 of the World’s Oldest Distilleries

Imagine a small distillery tucked away in the countryside of 18th century Scotland’s wilderness. As the sun dawns, the mill and distillery spring to life. The master comes in the great hall filled with glimmering copper cylinders and tubes. The air inside is saturated with aromas of oak and spirits. Each pot still and reflux coil is meticulously checked before the workers begin to add water and grain mash. Such started another day of spirits distillation resulting in whiskeys that we all know and love today. 

There are many whiskeys, bourbon, and rum distilleries worldwide that trace their history several thousand years back. The liquors they produce stood the test of time and are enjoyed worldwide. We decided to share the stories behind 10 of the world’s oldest distilleries in the world! 

There are many whiskeys, bourbon, and rum distilleries worldwide that trace their history several thousand years back. The liquors they produce stood the test of time and are enjoyed worldwide. We decided to share the stories behind 10 of the world’s oldest distilleries in the world!

Old Bushmills Distillery In Ireland

The Old Bushmills Distillery in Ireland holds the claim of being the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. The license was signed by King James I in 1608. However, according to legal technicalities, the distillery was founded and recognized in 1784. The name comes from the mills scattered along the banks of river Bush. 

Bushmills Distillery enjoys the global fame of one of the most prestigious whiskey producers. Famous first and foremost for its single bland whiskeys, the distillery is both a pioneer and innovator when it comes to perfecting whiskey production. 

Despite facing many challenges, both historical and new, Bushmills Distillery remains one of the world’s largest producers of high-quality whiskey. Currently, the tourists’ facilities are closed due to the ongoing global health crisis, yet, the distillery remains a beacon for all whiskey lovers worldwide. 

  • Irish Sour is a great classic cocktail to enjoy the profound character of Bushmills Whiskey.

Kilbeggan Distillery in Ireland

Kilbeggan Distillery may not be the oldest in Ireland or in the world when it comes to operation history. Still, it is the oldest licensed Irish whiskey distillery! Founded by Matthew MacManus in 1757, the distillery had a humble start with a comparatively modest output of 1500 gallons a year. 

Facing many ups and downs, Kilbeggan Distillery was shut for several decades during the 18th century. Nevertheless, after the change of ownership, the distillery bounced back to life, producing whiskey ever since.

Single malt whiskeys were among the first produced by the distillery back in the day. Presently, Kilbeggan Distillery is ramping up its production and offers a wide range of single malt and blended whiskey of refined taste. The double-distillation process is used to preserve and retain more flavor of the liquors.

  • Spring Dew is a refreshing contemporary cocktail that captures the deep flavor of Kilbeggan whiskey. 

Buffalo Trace in Frankfurt 

Bourbon is a great liquor that is often confused with whiskey. The confusion can be rightfully forgiven since all bourbons are whiskey, though not all whiskeys are bourbon. The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfurt, Kentucky, is, perhaps, the oldest bourbon distillery in the world. It is also a prominent part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

According to history, the distillery takes its name from the buffalos that used to cross the Kentucky River at that spot. Brothers Hancock and Willis Lee established the operation in the early 1770s. Buffalo Trace distillery managed to operate, although many natural and men caused hindrances. Even during the Prohibition era, the distillery remained fully functional as it produced so-called medicinal whiskey. 

Though historical records are ambiguous about the early liquors produced at Buffalo Trace, the first one to gain fame and global recognition was Blanton’s single barrel bourbon produced in 1984. To these days, Buffalo Trace distillery proudly preserves the traditions of the past while tirelessly inventing for the future. 

  • Whisky Smash is an effervescent and fruity cocktail that will let you enjoy the richness of Buffalo Trace bourbon. 

Burk’s Distillery in Kentucky

Burk’s Distillery earned its venerable reputation and place at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail thanks to the uncompromising quality of its staple Maker’s Mark bourbon. Founded in 1889 by George R. Burks on the premises of the old water mill, the distilling facility operates till the present day. 

The distillery went through a tumultuous history of changing owners, going out of business for several years, and finally reopening in 1958. 

The Maker’s Mark bourbon introduction caused turmoil in the bourbon industry due to its refined taste and deep character. Each bottle of Maker’s Mark is stylishly sealed with red wax, further highlighting the uniqueness of the liquor. 

  • Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail centered around the deep character and flavor of the Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Glenturret Distillery in Scotland

Claiming to be the oldest whiskey distilling facility in Scotland, Glenturret Distillery has a long and rich history to share. Officially founded in 1763, the facilities were even used before that by distillers avoiding taxes. While changing its names throughout time, Glenturret always remained a highly reputable distilling company.

The distillery has its own water supply directly from the mountainous Loch Turret. The quality of the water is believed to contribute to the deep and refined character of the liquors. Malt whiskeys were the first to be produced at the distillery. As the popularity of Glenturret grew around the country, the distillery ramped up its production of aged malt whiskeys.

Currently, the Glenturret Distillery markets a wide range of liquors under its brand name. Aged and limited series whiskey are much sought after as one of the best examples of traditional scotch making. 

  • Rusty Nails is a strong and spicy cocktail that requires the great aged whiskey to be good. That is where Glenturret whiskey comes in.

Oban Distillery in Scotland

Neatly situated in the Scottish west, this relatively small scotch distillery attained respect and recognition in the industry. Established in 1794 by the Stevenson brothers, it changed many hands before becoming the trending distillery of today. Oban Distillery had to halt its operations for several years in the first half of the 20th century. However, it rapidly sprang back when new facilities were built.

Diaego, the current owner of Oban Distillery, respectfully cherishes the traditions and history of the place. The single malt whiskeys produced at Oban Distillery are marketed as a part of the special release series of liquors. 

  • Penicillin is a manifestation of spicy and sour classic cocktails. Oban whiskey is excellent as a foundation for this drink.

Mount Gay in Barbados

Some say that rum is the condensed essence of the Caribbean, and it may be rightly so. At least, the world’s first rum distillery is located on the island of Barbados. Mount Gay Distillery received its deed in 1704 but operated even before that. The distillery and the sugar cane plantation are situated on Mount Gay in the eastern part of the island. 

The distillery was named after Sir John Gay Alleyne, renowned for his invaluable contribution to the plantation. Sir John was employed by the owner of the Mount Gilboa Plantation to renovate and revitalize the business. The success of Sir John’s management was outstanding, and the plantation along the distillery were renamed to honor him. 

The first rums produced at Mount Gay were both aged and unaged molasses liquors. Currently, Mount Gay Distillery Ltd. exports its rums to 110 countries around the world. Thanks to fantastic quality, Mout Gay rums made their way into respectable bars globally. 

  • Barbados Rum Punch is a fruity and refreshing classic cocktail that benefits the most from Mount Gay rums. 

Appleton Estate in Jamaica

The history of this Jamaican rum began back in 1825 when John Wray opened a small tavern in the port city of Kingston. As the town grew and prospered, Wray requested the assistance of his nephew Charles James Ward. Together they developed a large sugar cane plantation and founded a distilling facility. 

Rum produced and bottled at their distillery saw a stellar rise in fame and recognition by the end of the 19th century. Wray and Nephew won many prestigious awards on both sides of the Atlantic ocean, forever sealing the reputation of their rums. 

Appleton Estates rums were among the first and highly praised rums produced at Wray and Nephew Estate. These rums come in standard and exclusive releases, with later being sought after by rum appreciators. 

  • Jamaican Breeze is a contemporary classic cocktail filled with fruitiness. Appleton Estate rums are the rums-of-choice for this drink.

Plymouth Gin Distillery

The only gin distillery on our list, Plymouth Gin distilling company, is the oldest of its kind in the United Kingdom. Also used to be known as the Black Friars Distillery, it was licensed in 1793 and remains operational today. The distillery occupies one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth that dates back to the 1400s. The Fox & Williamson distilling business is regarded as the initial owner of the facilities.

Plymouth Gin Distillery operated relatively unscathed throughout the centuries producing many varieties of liquor. Presently the distillery produces and bottles original, navy strength, and sloe gin. Though no longer the largest producer of gin in the country, Plymouth Gin Distillery holds its standing as the producer of some of the finest gins in the world. 

  • Gin Fizz is an amazingly zesty and flavourful cocktail. Trying this drink with Plymouth gin is a great idea.

George Washington Mount Vernon in the US

If being the founding father of the whole nation was not enough, George Washington also left a heritage of being the most extensive whiskey producer of the day. The distillery founded by the first president of the United States operates to this day. 

It all started with a gristmill when James Anderson, who managed the farm, proposed to bill a distillery. Washington agreed, and in 1797 commercial operations began. By the end of 1799, the distillery was the largest of its kind in the recently established country. 

Whiskey produced from the mixture of grains and corn was the first liquor produced at George Washington Mount Vernon distillery. Unlike today, the whiskey was not bottled but directly sold in barrels to the merchants. Today, the distillery sells aged whiskey under its own brand name and enjoys a great deal of recognition among whiskey lovers. 

  • Bourbon Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail that embodies the spirit of fine bourbons. Bourbons of Mount Vernon distillery are ideal for the drink.

Drinking Culture & History

There is a belief that the culture of drinking often requires knowledge of the history of the liquors we enjoy. Such knowledge greatly enhances our appreciation of the fine spirits that were created thanks to the vision of the generations of talented brewers. 

Here at MER Patrimony, we share this belief and encourage our readers to learn more about all the gorgeous liquors and wines the world has to offer. 

Become a true connoisseur by learning more about drinking culture on our Beverage page. Learn more about the best wines, exclusive whiskies, and other liquors while you enjoy the journey to the world of refined taste and exclusivity.

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