Kilbeggan Distillery, also known as Locke's Distillery, is located in the small town of Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, just off the main route from Galway to Dublin. It claims to be the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. The distillery produced Irish malt whiskey from 1757 until 1954. Reopened in 1982 as a visitor attraction and museum, 85% of the original machinery remains intact.
Tour of the Distillery and Museum
Compared to other, better-known distillery tours such as the Jameson Distillery in Dublin or Bushmills in Country Antrim, Kilbeggan, visitors usually describe the Kilbeggan Distillery as a more authentic experience of an old whiskey mill. Much of the machinery is old, worn and no longer functioning. But these giant copper pots, bulging casks and crumbly walls are what gives the Kilbeggan experience its charm. Not everything is obsolete -- the drive shaft, pulleys and pumps are all working; the restored water wheel still turns; and the steam engine is switched on occasionally. Small batches of whiskey are still produced in the newer section of the distillery.
Nice video of what to expect to see at Kilbeggan from Whisky.comThe museum tour, which can be taken Monday through Sunday, with or without a tour guide, for varying fees (see below) takes about 40 minutes, and gives an interesting insight into what use to be a thriving and countrywide industry in Ireland. With a guide, visitors get a step-by-step account of the ancient process of whiskey making, as the product moves from millstones through various procedures including fermentation, up to casking. There are various different types of tours bust most people opt for the "Silver Tour". See below. Tours includes a free tasting, so you must be over 18. Without a guide -- the "self-guided tour", you should still have a good experience, and you can figure a lot out just by looking. Staff are still very friendly and personable, and you will still get a sample of whiskey to take away with you at the end (if you're over 18). Tip: if it's a cool or cold day, wear appropriate clothing. Much of a the distillery is not heated, so it may be just as cold or even colder inside, at least in the older sections of the building.
Kilbeggan Whiskey's global brand ambassador, John Cashman, talks about the product
The Pantry Restaurant @ Kilbeggan Distillery
There is a nice little cafe / restaurant on site, known as the Panty Restaurant. It has its own entrance from the street, and is usually reasonably busy with locals who come here for breakfast / lunch / dinner -- not to visit the Distillery, which (to my mind, at least) is an indicator that the food is good. The Pantry has nice teas, coffees, "Irish breakfasts" and light lunches. They have a Facebook page with some photos of menus that you can just about make out, to get some indication of what's on offer, and also the nice ambience.
History of the Distillery
The distillery was established in 1757, and a copy of its original licence can be seen in the museum on the premises. The distillery was sold in 1843 by Matthias McManus to John Locke, who made it a family business. In the 19th century, there were many distilleries throughout Ireland, and whisky making was a good business to be in. 100 years later, the distillery had passed down through the family, and was being run by John Locke's granddaughters, Mary Evelyn Locke and Florence Emily Locke. Suffering losses and after succumbing to a fraud and subsequent political scandal, the Locke family's Distillery eventually ceased its whiskey production in 1954. The buildings gradually fell into disrepair until, in the 1980s, it was restored, by the local Kilbeggan community, who take pride in the building’s prominent place in the village, and its heritage. The distillery is now owned by Beam Suntory, an American spirits manufacturer.
November to March
- 7 days a week
- 10am to 4pm
April to October
- 7 days a week
- 9am to 6pm
Christmas / New Year Holidays Period Closed
Self Guided Tours (seems to be most popular overall)
- Adults €8.50 euros
- Student/Seniors €6.50 euros
- Children €5 euros
- Family Ticket €20 euros
- Groups €7 per person for groups of 10 or more
Guided Tours (Silver seems the most popular)
Gold Tours €25 euros per person (over 18s only) Includes meet and greet with a local distiller. Guided Tour. Tasting "masterclass" -- four unique Irish whiskeys.
- From November through March, Gold Medal Tours start at 12.30pm
- From April through October, Gold Medal Tours start at 1pm
Silver Tours €13 euros per person Guided Tour. Tasting "masterclass" -- three unique Irish whiskeys. Connoisseur Tour €75 euros per person A once-a-month "connoisseur tour" is also offered, limited to 12 participants. This includes a meeting with the company's "global brand ambassador", with lunch included at the end. Check the official site for more details.
Kilbeggan Distillery. Image by Serge Ottaviani