The Old Bushmills Distillery was founded in 1608 and is now owned by the major drinks company Diageo. Bushmills whiskey is produced, matured, and bottled on-site at the Bushmills Distillery in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The distillery is a tourist attraction, with around 110,000 visitors per year.
Despite a lack of historical evidence, it is believed that troops of King Henry II drank Bushmills some 400 years before the distillery became officially licensed in 1608 by King James I. In 1784 the Bushmills Distillery became an officially registered company. From 1740 to 1910 Irish emigrants to the USA spread the word of Bushmills, as did the product’s wins in international spirit and whiskey competitions.
In the early 1900s, the USA was a very important market for Bushmills (and other Irish Whiskey producers). Prohibition in 1920 came as a large blow to the Irish Whiskey industry, but Bushmills managed to survive. Wilson Boyd, Bushmill’s director at the time, predicted the end of prohibition and had large stores of whiskey ready to export. After the Second World War, the distillery was bought by Isaac Wolfson, and, in 1972, it was taken over by Irish Distillers, meaning that Irish Distillers controlled the production of all Irish whiskey at the time. In June 1988, Irish Distillers was bought by French liquor group Pernod Ricard.
In June 2005, the distillery was bought by Diageo for £200 million. Diageo has significantly increased production at the distillery and hopes to double production by 2011. This is in contrast to the serious neglect that the brand suffered during its time under Irish Distillers, during which the whiskey stocks at Bushmills were severely decreased in order to increase the market share of Jameson Whiskey, which is Irish Distillers’ main brand. Diageo have also announced a large advertising campaign in order to regain a market share for Bushmills.
In May 2008, the Bank of Ireland issued a new series of sterling banknotes in Northern Ireland which all feature an illustration of the Old Bushmills Distillery on the obverse side, replacing the previous notes series which depicted Queen’s University of Belfast.