Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Irish Whiskey royal grant of 1616 - a close rival to the Bushmills 1608 claim

I came across the above reference in the extensive footnote by Rev George Hill in his edition of The Montgomery Manuscripts, that renowned resource about life in Ulster in the 1600s, referring to the Presbyterian-inclined English brothers James and John Clotworthy who lived in Antrim town. It appears that they were granted a licence by King James I on 5 July 1616 to sell ‘wine and spirituous liquors’ – in Newry and all places throughout the county of Down' and also throughout most of Co Antrim and in Ardee in Co Louth. Here is a portrait of John Clotworthy, from the National Portrait Gallery

It is interesting that the Clotworthys were excluded from Dunluce, which is close to the world-famous Bushmills. Some time in the 20th Century the marketing people at the Old Bushmills Distillery decided to claim the year 1608 as their origin (thereby laying claim to the regional Sir Thomas Phillips royal grant of that year, a close forerunner of the Clotworthy's) – whereas up until then they'd used 1784, which was the authentic year the distillery complex was built. The photo below is a beautiful mirror in the visitor centre there.

The big difference is that Phillips' licence was to distil (the text says "to make, drawe, and distill such as soe great quantities of aquavite, usquabagh and aqua composita, as he or his assignes shall thinke fitt") whereas the Clotworthys' appears to have been only to sell. Further research needed.


Tony said...

Hi Mark

Do you have an email I can contact you on?

Mark Thompson said...

Hello Tony - thanks for making contact - wmthompson@btinternet.com