Kilbeggan Distillery – Westmeath, Ireland - Atlas Obscura
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Westmeath, Ireland

Kilbeggan Distillery

The oldest licensed distillery in Ireland. 

Midway between Ireland’s bustling capital city of Dublin and the traditionally Irish Galway City, stands the oldest licensed distillery in the country. In a warehouse of wooden casks, the golden spirits ages and transforms, just as it has for over two and half centuries. 

However, the Kilbeggan Distillery was nearly lost. After a period of financial hardship it stopped production in 1954 and closed in 1957. Slowly, the building began to fall apart. It wasn’t until 1982 that the local community galvanized around the distillery, repaired the buildings and reopened it as a distillery museum. In 2007 the distillery began making whiskey again. 

Much of the old building and equipment has been transformed into a museum, although a small copper pot still, manufactured in the early 1800s, is still continuously used and maintained. It is the oldest working pot still in the world.  Other items seen on the tour are large mash tuns, grain mill stones, and a functional, although not in use steam engine. A small section of the museum contains maps and tools illustrating the old way of life.

Snaking through the verdant landscape, the River Brosna supplies the water used in the whiskey making process. The iconic waterwheel, laden with moss, churns tirelessly (and without purpose) though it once powered the whole operation. 

According to local legend, alcohol isn’t only spirit dwelling within the distillery’s cool stone walls. A spiritual medium was brought in and reported that the original founder, former proprietor, and final owner were all still hanging around and were pleased that the distillery had once again begun making whiskey.

Know Before You Go

Tours are offered with a guide or without, and there are various vintages to taste and compare at the end. Park in the rear of the building. Some of the exhibit is outside, so watch the weather.