Allman’s Bandon Distillery – Co. Cork
1826 to 1925
A story is told about the mother of the founder of Allman’s distillery – when a priest, Father Collins, was hunted by an Orange crowd in Bandon in 1820, she hid him for 3 days in her house and thus saved his life. As a reward for her kindness he prayed ‘that your children may make riches out of water’. And so it was that in 1826, James C. Allman converted a mill in Bandon to a whiskey distillery, drawing his water – and his forturne - from the nearby Ardnagira River and a local spring.
Allman’s quickly became one Ireland’s most successful distilleries, a major feat considering its location in the far south-west of Ireland. It had an annual output of more than half a million gallons and exported extensively, even establishing a strong market in Scotland. When Barnard visited in 1886, he was not only impressed by the workings of this distillery but also by the beautiful countryside and valley it was located in…and it would appear too by some of the women in West Cork (describing them as ‘real Colleen Bawns’)! Allman’s boasted its own railway line and sidings connected to the main railway line in Bandon and employed at the time of Barnard’s visit over 200 men. The barley mostly came from local farmers and the Bandon Distillery had massive grain lofts, covering 6 floors. The Chief Malt House was the second largest of its kind in Ireland, if not in all of the U.K, only being surpassed by that of Guinness in Dublin. The Still House was the oldest part of the Distillery and had 5 pot stills – 2 Wash and 3 Spirit Stills, indicating that Allman’s were triple distilling. Allman’s had 15 warehouses in total which contained 9,000 casks at the time of Barnard’s visit. Allman’s made all their own casks, with the exception of sherry casks they imported from Cadiz in Spain. Allman’s also had its own bottling store, the bottled whiskey being for export only. Interestingly they distilled both old pot still whiskey and pure malt whiskey, which they spelt 'whisky' as with most other rural Irish distilleries, and their whisky was held in very high regard both within and outside of Ireland.
Allman’s, like nearly every other Irish distillery, suffered extensively from the changed commercial and political climate during the first decades of the 20th century, and especially from American Prohibition. They ceased distilling in 1925 and wound up the business in 1929. The Distillery had at times employed more than 400 people and when the Town Commissioners heard with alarm of the closing of the Distillery, they protested against the dismantling of the plant and the excessive liquor taxation which helped to bring about the closure. Not only did the distillery workers lose their jobs, but the entire local farming community lost its main customer.
Stocks of whiskey, both bottled and casked, were probably not fully disposed of until 1939. Parts of the Distillery were used as a mill, then most of the buildings were demolished during World War II. The railway line was uplifted in 1942. There are however still some large buildings remaining on the site, most notably two of the original 6 storey grain stores. Where the warehouses once stood is now the local cattle mart, but the distillery offices remain. They were initially used as a school, and in 1960, converted into a pub by Denis Murphy. The pub remains, aptly named The Old Still Bar and is now owned by Louis Murphy. It still has one of the few known surviving bottles of Allman’s Whiskey – badly damaged by a fire in 1971 but a wonderful memento of what once was one of Ireland’s biggest whiskey brands. If you would like your Whiskey journey through Ireland to take you a little off the beaten path and to include a typical quiet country Irish pub, with a little history thrown in, then make the detour to Bandon and The Old Still Bar. The local heritage centre in Bandon, located in Friars Church on North Main Street, also has a small exhibit about the distillery, including many of the instruments that were used by the last Master Distiller.
Allman’s Distillery – Distillery Road, Bandon, Co. Cork
If you have any information, photos or know of any old bottles from the Allman's Distillery in Bandon, we'd love to hear from you, so please don't hesitate to contact us.
The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard