Tullamore Distillery (D.E. Williams) – Tullamore
1829 - 1954
The Tullamore Distillery was one of two distilleries opened in Tullamore in the 1820’s, although the first, the Pentland-Manley distillery only survived until 1841. Thankfully, it was quite a different story for the other Tullamore Distillery, built on the site of a previous distillery in 1829. It became over the next century and a half, one of Ireland’s most successful and famous distilleries.
By 1886 when Alfred Barnard visited, the distillery was owned by Captain Bernard Daly, a great nephew of the original owner, who, being more interested in his large estate outside Dublin, had appointed a Distillery Manager, Daniel E. Williams. This proved to be a most astute decision. Daniel E. Williams spent 60 years in total at the distillery, extending and modernising it, and making its whiskey into one of Ireland’s most successful export brands.
The distillery produced pure pot still whiskey and used a triple distillation process, and by 1886 it was truly a massive and very impressive distilling operation. The 11 warehouses alone covered nearly 5 acres and contained 900,000 gallons of whiskey. There were 8 granaries, 4 kilns for drying the barley, 4 malting barns, a mill building with 8 mill stones and 10 washbacks in the Back House. The Still House had 4 large pot stills, with adjoining Spirit Receivers and Stores, 2 large chimneys dominated the plant and the distillery even had its own coal yard. The distillery employed 100 people and the annual output was 270,000 gallons.
Daniel E. Williams was to give the Distillery not only the best production facilities but also its most famous brand: his initials D.E.W. became incorporated into the brand name and the whiskey became known as Tullamore Dew, very successfully advertised later on, with the famous motto ‘Give Every Man his Dew’.
The Tullamore Distillery survived the difficulties that dealt the death blow to other Irish distilleries: Irish independence and civil war, the loss of Commonwealth markets and American prohibition. However, trading conditions remained extremely difficult, and the distillery installed a Coffey Still in 1948 in the hope of copying the success of Scottish blended whiskies, but it was never a success. The year 1948 did however prove to be a turning point in the company’s fortunes. For many years the company had tried to find a lost 17th century recipe for a liqueur called heather wine, reputedly made from whiskey, herbs and honey. The family advertised their search throughout Europe and in 1948 an Austrian refugee arrived with an Irish recipe which he said had been passed down his family for generations. The whiskey liqueur Irish Mist was born, and it became the great Irish drink success story of the post war years.
In 1954, the decision was made to cease whiskey distillation at Tullamore and to focus all the company’s effort on the production of Irish Mist. In 1963, the company was running out of whisky from the old distillery for their production of Irish Mist and as the decision was taken that it would be too costly to start up the old distillery again, an agreement was reached with the Powers Distillery . Powers acquired the brand name Tullamore Dew, and started producing the brand from their John's Lane Distillery in Dublin and in exchange, they supplied the D.E. Williams company with whisky for the production of Irish Mist. Powers became part of the Irish Distillers Group and all production was transferred to the new Midleton Distillery in 1975, which is where Tullamore Dew is still distilled today. Tullamore Dew is now owned by William Grants, who made the exciting decision in 2012 to bring the brand home and build a new modern distillery in Tullamore. Building is due to commence in 2013 and the distillery should be operational by 2014.
Today in Tullamore, much remains of the old distillery for the whiskey enthusiast or industrial historian to discover. One of the bonded warehouses by the Canal has been turned into the Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre, which should be your first point of call when visiting Tullamore. Three of the four original stills from Tullamore can now be seen at the Kilbeggan Distillery. Some of the original distillery buildings can still be seen in a state of disrepair near the town's shopping centre, whereas others have completely disappeared. We recommend you call into the Heritage Centre first, then take a wander around this old fashioned, but thriving, Irish midlands town. All serious Tullamore Dew whiskey fans should find Patrick Street and the original entrance gates to the distillery, still bearing the date 1829 and the name of B. Daly Company. Then end your day in two of Tullamore’s most popular pubs, the Brewery Tap and Hugh Lynch's, where you can enjoy a full range of Tullamore Dew whiskeys in the cosy and friendly atmosphere of these old fashioned Irish pubs.
D.E. Williams Distillery - Patrick Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly
If you have any information, photos or know of any old bottles from the D.E. Williams Distillery in Tullamore, 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
Local Tourist Info and Accommodation: www.offaly.ie