You are standing on a walkway over the lower circular underback. On your right is the upper underback. From the mash tuns, the worts drained down into the upper underback, flowed out into copper piping which was laid in the bed of the river Brusna to cool the worts. The cooled worts then collected in the lower underback. The set of pumps behind the lower underback were used to pump the cooled worts up to the fermentation vats.
The water to turn the wheel is brought from the river Brusna, in the mill race. The waterwheel is an undershot wheel. The weight of the water forces the paddles down and causes the wheel to turn.
The drive shaft turns all the machinery in the distillery. One end is connected to the water wheel and the other end is connected to the steam engine. The power of the water wheel alone was used until the 1880s when the steam engine was installed as an alternative source of power.
The steam engine was used about 3 or 4 days a year if the water wheel needed repair or if the water level was not right to turn it. The steam for the engine came from boilers in what is now the restaurant.
This is where small repairs to casks would have been made. New casks are never used for Irish whiskey. Originally the casks used had previously held sherry and were made of oak. The oak wood and sherry gave a distinctive flavour to the whiskey. The cooper removed the top and burnt the inside of the cask (known as charring). This burning gives the colour to whiskey. Today oak casks from America that previously held bourbon are used.
The spirit store consists of the Blue Vat and the filling and weighing apparatus. The freshly distilled whiskey was filled into the Blue Vat where they added distilled water to bring it to the correct strength. They then filled it into the casks and brought them to be stored in the warehouses to mature.
On your left you will see the Copper Pot Still which was installed by Cooley Distillery and first run on the 19th March 2007 to mark the 250th Anniversary of the Old Kilbeggan Distillery. This pot still was made in the early 1800s and is the oldest working pot still producing whiskey in the world today. This freshly made Pot Still Whiskey is then filled into small oak casks to be matured in our warehouses.
The casks that you see here are casks of maturing whiskey. Today, by law, all Irish whiskey must mature for a minimum period of 3 years and 1 day, before you can call it legally "Whiskey", although some of our whiskies are much older. During this period of maturation, the whiskey absorbs the flavours from the wood. Whiskey also develops its rich golden colour in the casks. Some of the whiskey is lost through evaporation, and this is called the "Angel’s Share"!
Visit our gift shop to find the perfect present for a whiskey lover, or a momento from your visit.
Refuel after your visit with a trip to our on-site restaurant or get cozy by the log fire with a coffee, here.
Sample a taste of Kilbeggan® in our whiskey bar or compare with one of the range of whiskeys produced by the Kilbeggan Distilling Company
The water from the Brusna River was filled into three large brewing vats, and was heated by steam.
The grain was ground in these three mill stones. The top stone turned approximately 115 times per minute. The grain went down into the centre of the stones and came out, ground, at the sides. The grain elevator on the pulley belt behind the stones brought the ground grain from the millstones up to the loft.
These containers are made of iron with a perforated tile floor. They act like giant food mixers. The hot water was let in from the brewing vats through the perforated false floor and a mixture of grain through the sacking chute from the overhead loft. The water and grain was mixed for 3 to 4 hours breaking down the starches in the grain into sugar which was absorbed by the water, making a sugary liquid called wort. The worts drained out through the two openings at the side of the mash tuns. The spent grains that were left were sold to farmers which provided excellent cattle and pig feed.
The wort was pumped into these vats and yeast was added. The yeast converted the sugars into alcohol, releasing carbon dioxide in the process. This took place over for 3-4 days until the yeast had “worked its way through”. When it was finished the liquid was now called wash. The wash was like a frothy beer and was about 7-8% alcohol. The workers called it “pig ale” as it was so rough to swallow.
This was the "office" of the Revenue officer for when he would visit to check on all distilling processes onsite. To this day you must have a desk available for a member of the Irish Government Revenue office should he or she choose to visit.
The stills were first filled with wash and fires were lit underneath. The stills were initially heated by locally produced turf, later, imported coal was used. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water and with steady heat the alcohol evaporated. This evaporated alcohol was condensed by passing it through copper pipes in cold water tanks. The condensed liquid collected in the canpit room. When enough had collected the liquid passed out to the stills to be distilled again. After distilling a clear strong alcohol called First Shot was produced. It was not unlike good poitín (illegal Irish whiskey).
People often ask us if what you see here is really 260 years old, and how we feel working to preserve such important heritage. Why not find out yourself by taking a virtual
tour of the distillery.
People often ask us if what you see here is really 260 years old, and how we feel working to preserve such important heritage. Why not find out yourself by
taking a virtual tour of the distillery.
No ordinary distillery, no ordinary tour, it’s an experience you will never forget.