John’s Lane Distillery

John’s Lane Distillery, Ireland.

Extract from Alfred Barnard’s historic tour of every whisky distillery in Great Britain, published in ‘1887’

In the year 1791 this hostelry was converted into a small Distillery, making about 6,000 gallons annually; its chief motive power being a horse mill. But it did not long remain at that small output. The founder was a man of energy and enterprise, and year by year, as his business increased, he continued to extend the Distillery. Since 1871 the whole place has been rebuilt in a handsome and modern style, and every known appliance in the art of distilling added thereto. The establishment now covers six-and-a-quarter acres of ground, and the offices, which abut on the busy thoroughfare of Thomas Street, form a neat and substantial frontage to it.

A noble-looking building is the Still House. It is 68 feet long, 66 feet wide, and 57 feet high, containing five Pot Stills, all kept as bright and clean as burnished gold; the wash flows by gravitation to the two Wash Stills, each holding 25,000 gallons, and said to be the largest Pot Stills ever made. The product from these stills called “Low Wines” is pumped up to the Low Wines and Feints Receiver and Charger, both of which hold 10,000 gallons each; passing from thence into the Low Wines Stills, each holding about 20,000 gallons, and afterwards to the Feints or Spirit Stills, each of the same capacity, where, by the various distillations, the spirit becomes perfected Whisky. At one end of this house there are five Spirit Receivers, each with an average capacity of 7,000 gallons.

On the north side of the yard, connected with the Still House, there are three circular wrought iron worm tubs, the only iron ones we have seen; they are 30 feet high and 20 feet in diameter, and contain a compilation of copper coils, ranging from 13 inches in diameter, in which the spirit is condensed. The Can Pit Room is opposite the Still House, and only separated by a narrow passage. In former days cans were placed in the pit underneath the Receivers to catch the spirit, hence the name of Can Pit. In this room we were shown the safe, a very handsome and elaborate instrument, 20 feet long, composed of solid mahogany and brass, the most ingeniously-arranged one we have ever seen; it was designed by Mr. Henry Angus, the late distiller in this establishment. Following the progress of the Whisky, we next visited the Spirit Store, a lofty apartment, where there are three vats to receive it, of an average capacity of 3,500 gallons each. Here the spirit is reduced with water to an average strength of 25 over proof. It is then filled into casks, weighed, and taken account of by the excise, before being sent to the different Warehouses. Of these there are seventeen in the Distillery, which contained at the time of our visit, upwards of 12,000 casks. At the suggestion of our guide, we proceeded to visit these spacious bonds by way of the cask track, an incline tram rail, some 300 feet in length, on which the filled casks glide down to the Warehouses. The path opened into a long avenue of casks, waiting their turn to be deposited in the various bonds. Arriving at the end, a large opening appeared, and we were asked to step on a platform, when “hey presto,” we descended to the depths below, but not into darkness, as we expected, but to a well-lighted chamber, some 200 feet by 80 feet, filled with casks of Whisky of various ages.

This Warehouse consists of four floors, all equally well filled. On ascending to the ground level, we visited No. 12 Warehouse, which is 120 feet long by 80 feet, a dry and well-ventilated bond; the other fifteen we did not enter. The firm have splendid bonds at Westland Row and The City Markets; we drove down to see them both, and were amply repaid for the trouble.

On returning to the Distillery, we proceeded to the Engine Department, at this establishment a special feature, one of the members of the firm being a practical engineer. The following is a brief description of some.

Last, but not by any means the least, comes the No. 5 Engine House, lately erected, which is well worth a visit. It is built with Athy stock and Staffordshire bricks, with chiselled granite base, granite window sills; the windows are 13 feet high and 5 feet wide, filled by one sheet of plate glass. Inside it is lined with enamelled bricks from floor to ceiling, and the interior of the roof with pitch pine, panelled. In the wall, set in granite, there is a splendid double-faced clock, visible day and night from inside and outside.

The model Stables, which attract many visitors who are fond of equine pursuits, next claimed our attention. They were built under the immediate superintendence of one of the partners, who is a noted breeder of hire horses. The Stall Stable is built of enamelled bricks and has an ornamented open roof, the sides of each stall being lined with close fibre matting and paved with blue Staffordshire bricks. From the lofts at the side are corn sluices running down to the manger, by touching a button one bait of corn only is delivered at a time. Adjoining these Stables is the Harness Room, containing the usual Weighing Machine and other appliances. On the other side are three loose Boxes, and across the court a Horse Hospital, or “Slick Boxes,” built of enamelled bricks, same as the stables, and paved with blue Staffordshire bricks. The Coach House and other buildings complete this department.

There are twenty-five clerks and two hundred and fifty workmen employed on the premises. The water used in this Distillery is principally from the “Vartry,” hereafter described in another chapter. Some of the old-fashioned customers of this firm still send with their orders two empty casks – one to be filled with whisky, and the other with water from a special tap on the premises, with which they reduce their whisky on its arrival at its destination, thus uniting once more the same natures so rudely separated by the Still!

The Distillery, altogether, is about as complete a work as it is possible to find anywhere; being built on a hill, and running down from the main street to the quay, it thus has the advantage of natural gravitation.

The annual output is 900,000 gallons. The chief Excise officers are Messrs. Jarr, Davy, Lees, Royston and Smith.

As the frontispiece to this volume, we give an etching of a curious old portrait of the founder of the firm, which hangs in the private room of the senior partner. It is quaintly and beautifully worked in coloured silks, the face being painted by hand and ivory. It is said to be an excellent likeness of this famous pioneer of the Irish Whisky trade, and our artist has succeeded in catching the portrait with true fidelity.

“This Trowel was used by Sir John Power, Bart., of Roebuck, co. Dublin,

Cost not one patriotic life,