Williams, The Family and Tullamore Distillery

the story from 1829 to 1954 is reproduced here
A Famous Irish Distillery

TRADITION gives Tullamore an existence in the early years of the Christian era. There is the story of Cahir Mhor, Irish Chieftain from A.D. 120 to 123, who was said to have thirty sons, the eldest being called Ros Failghe-Ros of the Rings. Ros’s descendants formed the clan of Hy Failghe, who occupied a large tract of country in the Midlands. The tribal name exists today in the name of the county-Offaly.

Captain J. Williams, M.C  [died 1965]
(Former Chairman B. Daly and Co., Ltd.)

Nestling in the valley, under the heathery crest of the Slieve Bloom mountains, the clan had their meeting place-the great assembly, Tulach Mhor. Nowadays we call it Tullamore. It is the county capital, a prosperous market town for a rich grain-growing district. It is noted, above all, as the seat of a large Whiskey manufacturing industry-Bernard Daly’s Distillery, widely known now as The Tullamore Distillery.


Whiskey making in the Irish Midlands dates back to the dim Celtic twilight. A very simple process it was, too, in those days. The field of grain lay ripening in the sun. It was cut and harvested, and a sheaf offered in thanksgiving. Then flailed and winnowed, until the ears remained in a heap of pure gold the bread of life.

The grain was ground in a stone quern, and placed in a barrel of warm water to ferment. The fermented liquor was boiled in a pot, and as the steam came off it was condensed by means of a pipe laid in the cold water of the hill stream. And lo and behold! The crystal-clear distillate-Uisge Beatha. The ears of the barley sheaf, the bread of life, had been transformed into the magic distilled essence-the water of life.


The Offaly Whiskey in the Middle Ages was drunk largely for medicinal purposes; it was regarded as a “sovereigne remedie” for all ailments. Queen Elizabeth, I we are told, had a liking for it, and used to get an occasional sample of a “caske of usquebaugh”. And a substantial duty-free sample it was too! Hollinshed, writing in 1577 on this ancient beverage, says: “It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it relisheth the harte, it lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the hydropsie, it repelleth gravel . . . and trulie it is a sovereigne liquor if it be orderlie taken”.

Mr. Daniel E. Williams, who worked for nearly sixty years in the distillery. Father of Capt. J. Williams. Mr DEW was born in 1848 and died in 1921

The Whiskey of those days was quite a different beverage from the Whiskey now made at Daly’s Distillery. It was treble-distilled, and well laced with fruit juices, heather blooms, and herb infusions. It was what we now term a Liqueur. The Celtic Missioners carried the recipes for these Liqueurs to the Continent and they were lost to the Irish. But now, one has come back, the well-known Liqueur, Irish Mist. The very old Whiskey on which Irish Mist is based is made at the Tullamore Distillery for its associate company-The Irish Mist Liqueur Co., Ltd.-and Irish Mist has already acquired a world-wide fame, with a particularly wide distribution in the United States.


The present distillery, situated in the heart of the town, on the banks of the river Clodiagh[actually Tullamore river], was founded by a famed distiller, Michael Molloy, as far back as 1829. Soon the good name of his product spread through the country, and with a bottle of Whiskey at that time costing only a few shillings, a prosperous trade quickly grew up. On Mr. Molloy’s death in 1857 [died 1846] the property passed into the hands of his nephew, Bernard Daly, and in 1887 Mr. Daly’s son, Captain Bernard Daly, took charge of the distillery.

Captain Daly was a well-known sporting character in his day. He was Master of Hounds in the county and an international polo player. He was a prominent owner of racehorses, one of which won the Irish Oaks. It is said that he, and one of the distillery officials, by name Daniel E. Williams, had their shirts on it! And here we come to an important change in the management of the distillery, a change which was responsible for the remarkable development of this great Whiskey concern and the effect of which is felt even to this day. Captain Daly, with his various sporting activities had little time to devote to the distillery. Being a good judge of men, he saw at once that Daniel E. Williams, who had worked in the distillery since he was 15 years of age, was the man to be placed in charge.

Mr. Desmond J. Williams [died 1970]
(Director – D.E. Williams, Ltd., and the Irish Mist Liqueur Co., Ltd.)

So he promoted him from engineer to general manager of the distillery. This might well have been the origin of the well-known slogan “Give every man his Dew”.


Mr. Daniel Williams was an outstanding personality. Energetic and enterprising, he set out at once to enlarge the premises, and made substantial additions and improvements to the distillery and plant. Whiskey stocks were increased, and an extensive trade was built up both in the home and in the various foreign markets. This remarkable man carried on work in the distillery for nearly 60 years, and was still active at the time of his death in 1921. He was a noted benefactor of the poor, and his passing was mourned by all. The management was then taken over by his son, Captain John Williams, who had entered the distillery in 1918. Captain J. Williams served in the British Army in the first world war and was awarded the Military Cross. His son, Shaun, was killed whilst serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War.

Meanwhile, in 1903, the distillery had been formed into a company, as B. Daly and Co., Ltd., portion of the shares being held by Captain Daly and the remainder by the Williams family. In 1931 Captain Daly resigned as director of the board and the Williams family acquired all the shares in the company.

The present directors of the company are: Captain John Williams, former chairman; Mr. Daniel G. Williams, who entered the firm in 1938-present chairman of the board; and Mr. Richard J. Williams, who entered in 1942, and Mr. Daniel F. Williams (son of Capt. J. Williams) who entered in 1960.


The distillery premises cover an area of about 12 acres. The granaries hold 65,000 barrels of grain – all purchased
from the local farmers. There are capacious malting floors, a feature of the distillery being the old-style pagoda-like kiln for the drying of the malt. The grinding of the grain into meal is done as of old, by means of a water wheel and grinding stones this is said to make the best “mash”.

Mr. Richard J. Williams [died 1968]
(Director – B. Daly and Co., Ltd., and D.E. Williams, Ltd.)

In the brewing room are two mash tuns, each with a capacity of 15,000 gallons. Close by are four hot water tanks, capable of holding 8,000 gallons each, the water temperatures being controlled by steam coils. The wash backs are of cedar wood, and hold 15,000 gallons each.

The show piece of the distillery is the still house with its three shining copper pot stills. Flat-bottomed with tall tapering still heads, a pipe leads on to the worm, a long spiral copper tube in a cold water vat or worm tub. While the illicit still in the bog holds less than half a dozen gallons, the largest of these has a capacity of 18,000 gallons, and each of the others 10,000 gallons. Beside the wash still is the wash charger, a east iron vessel with a content of 18,000 gallons.

The extensive warehouses contain many hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of dutiable Whiskey. The distillery is capable of turning out half a million gallons a year.


And now a word on the making of the Whiskey. The harvesting and collecting of the grain in Tullamore, like vintage time in French villages, is one of great activity, aye and rejoicing. For the manufacture of the “Dew” is one of the town’s largest industries. Many extra hands are taken on during the working season, and all are concerned in the magic transformation of the ears of the barley sheaf into the finished Whiskey in the cask. And once the season starts the distillery works day and night. The best Whiskey, it is said, runs in the dim darkness of the night!

Mr. Daniel G. Williams
(Chairman – B. Daly and Co., Ltd.)


In making Tullamore Whiskey, unmalted grains barley, wheat, oats and rye – are used along with malt in the “mash”. For some years, however, the firm has also made an all-malt brew, to blend with their grain Whiskey for the export market.

The grain is brought in to the firm’s corn stores straight from the farms. It is first screened. Mechanical separators get busy with it and all the foreign matter from the corn fields goes one way through the shivering sieves, leaving the grain perfectly clean. The myriad grains are now in for a terribJe time. Great baths of water, known as “steeps”, are prepared for them. After this compulsory bath of two or three days, the water-sodden grains are spread out on the concrete malt floors. Maltmen scatter them about in showers with rhythmical sweeps of their wooden shovels, or shiels, and after sprouting for eight days they are dried in the kilns. The all-powerful malt is then ground into fine meal; the real job of Whiskey making now begins.


Two gigantic mash tuns are ready to receive the grist. Hot water from the tanks is poured in, and mechanically-operated rakes whirl round and mix the mash thoroughly. For some two hours the mash lies in a communion that gives birth to an important issue. The solid albuminous body in the malt, called diastase, has converted the starch in the grain into sugar. The cloudy insipid gruel in the mash tun has become a semitransparent sweet liquid.

The taps at the bottom of the tun are now turned on to allow the liquor to drain to the underback, whence it is pumped through the refrigerating plant to the wash backs. The grains are re-mashed three or four times before emptying the tun. The exhausted grains, or “draft”‘, are taken away each day in farm carts for cattle feeding. Fresh mashes are made every eight hours during the brewing period.

The Mill Wheel which grinds the corn for distilling – over 100 years old.


And now into the wash backs enters the mysterious yeast to set the whole in a ferment, a few hundredweights to each back. Down goes the lid very carefully. Innocently enough the trouble starts, by sending up bubbles that plop softly. Soon a frothy head forms and rises to the top of the vessel. Within half an hour a vigorous fermentation takes place; the backs rock and roar, with the automatic switches going at full speed. For two to three days the ferment rages, and then subsides the alcohol, Whiskey in embryo, is born. The yeast is dead, and sinks to the bottom. The wash is ready for the still.


The wash still is charged, fire belches underneath, and the liquor comes to the boil. The vapour rises, travels along the “lyne” arm of the still to the worm, where it is condensed and flows into the “safe”. This is a glass-sided structure, holding test tubes, and other mystic paraphernalia of the still man. From the safe the Spirit cascades with the music of a mountain stream into a large oak receiver.

This is distilled Spirits – but is it Whiskey? Not on your life. Back it goes for re-distillation and again a third time. Now we are coming to the baby Whiskey- but not quite yet. The first run, or foreshot, is a very strong Spirit, too heavily charged with oils to mature into a good Whiskey. Very carefully the still man, with his sampling beads, keeps testing the “run” until the Spirit, at the proper strength, shows clear in the glass.

This is now the “real stuff”- he switches the flow into the Spirit receiver. Towards the end the Spirits gradually weaken in strength and become impure, so back it goes for re-distilling. And this complicated sequence from receiver to still and back again goes on day and night during the distilling period, until eventually the pure Whiskey, collected in the receiver, is heavily padlocked by the Excise-man. He even secretes bits of paper, dated and signed, in the inner bosom of the locks, so carefully does he guard the precious liquid. Bank notes or bullion could not be watched over with greater care.

Laboratory Assistant at work in Tullamore Distillery.


This new Spirit is not yet suitable for drinking. Seven long years at least must pass before it matures -seven days of man’s tine and seven years of its own. Even a longer period must elapse before it is considered ripe for ble
nding as “Tullamore Dew”.


Let us now take you over to the Spirit store with its enormous vat of new Whiskey – a sight surely for the gods. The strength in the receiver was 50 o.p. It is reduced in the store vat to 25 o.p.; this is regarded as the ideal strength for maturation.

The young Spirit is filled into butts, hogsheads, puncheons, and quarter casks of American oak and Sherry casks. The distillery is fortunate in having as its associate firm Messrs. D. E. Williams, Ltd., whose extensive Wine trade enables them to supply a large quantity of Sherry casks.

The casks, in their thousands, the content and year marked on the head, are duly rolled into the distillery warehouses. Here, year in, year out, they lie, their long lines stacked in the dim half light, reminiscent of the cloisters of some old monastery. Dust grows on the casks and silence wraps the wood which contains the elements of the zest of life. The Whiskey grows old and matures. Don’t imagine, however, that the carefully distilled liquid in these ghost-haunted vaults is forgotten. Not at all. The dusty casks are constantly under the cooper’s care. Week after week, with his hand lamp or electric torch, he taps each cask to see that none of the precious liquid leaks through the staves.


What precisely takes place inside the magic wood of the casks during the long years in bond remains one of nature’s mysteries. Chemists have been unable to explain. But the palate knows right well. The Spirit when first bonded has a raw, nauseous odour and is quite undrinkable. But at eight years old what a change! The pungent taste of the baby Spirit has disappeared; the Spirit has become mild and pleasantly mellow. The flavouring oils, by contact with air through the pores of the wood, have undergone change into fragrant and delicious esters and ethers. Aromatic flavours are born and developed to their full richness, giving the Whiskey its characteristic bouquet.

Firing a Still – on peat.

To produce the perfect Whiskey, four things are said to be essential – sound barley, mountain air, pure water, and distilling craft. Here then in the centre of Ireland nature has provided all the requisites for Whiskey making. Well-ripened golden grain from the fertile fields of Offaly, fresh air from the Slieve Bloom hills, water laden with essences from local peat mosses, and a distilling tradition going back to the days of the illicit stills – all these combine to make “Tullamore” a classic Whiskey. It is, indeed, fit usquebaugh for connoisseurs.


The Cooperage – where all the casks are examined and coopered prior to filling – in an old orchard Initial stage of mashing operation. Capacity 13,000 gallons.
Refrigeration – reducing temperature of the worts before fermentation


End view of some distillery warehouses along the Clodiagh river.


Farmer drawing ‘sludge’ for cattle feeding. (Sludge is residue from brewing tank – liquid).


Excise officer ‘dipping’ a cask.





The distillery company and its associate firm, D. E. Williams, Ltd., have extensive vatting and bottling stores, which cater for their large number of branch retail establishments in the Midlands of Ireland, a wholesale Wine and Spirit trade covering the thirty-two counties, and their export markets.

Now to put the Whiskey into the bottle. Each cask has its own distinctive Whiskey, and a careful selection is made for vatting in order to produce a standard high-grade Whiskey worthy of the firm. In the vat the Spirit is reduced to within a few degrees of drinking strength, and when well roused the various Whiskies are allowed to rest for some time prior to bottling. This ensures proper mixing and helps the “marrying” process.

The bottling plant, with modern filters, labelling and capsuling machines, is the last word in efficiency. The Whiskey is pumped through a filter to a series of revolving syphon tubes every time the machine makes a complete revolution enough bottles to pack a case have been filled without spilling a drop. And what precious golden liquid the bottles hold – the brew of the barley sheaf. Whiskey from Bernard Daly’s Distillery, bottled by the House of Williams, ready to go out to the world’s markets under the label -“Tullamore Dew”. “Give every man his Dew”.


And these distillers, with their long tradition, keep a keen watch on current trends in the whiskey trade. As an adjunct to their pot still distillery, they installed some fi
fteen years ago the most modern type of patent distilling apparatus known as the Coffey still-invented by an Irishman, needless to say. Under one roof, so to speak, they produce all the ingredients for blends of malt, pot still and patent still whiskey. In addition to their “vintage” Irish whiskey of traditional standard they now ship to overseas markets a blended whiskey which competes on equal terms with anything produced on either side of the Atlantic. This whiskey is much lighter in character than the not malt Irish Pot Still product and is the only Malt and Patent Still Blend now being offered from Ireland. Although straight Irish Pot Still Whiskey is regarded here as the finest, consumer taste outside this country finds it somewhat different to the idea of whiskey flavour which has been acquired and developed through a knowledge of other long-established blended whiskies. Under its brand name “TULLAMORE DEW“, this Specially Light Blended Whiskey has aroused most favourable interest in the larger world markets where its merits are clearly illustrated by continually increasing and more widespread demand.


supplied-minister-coveney-tullamore-dew-005-390x285The above article was published in 1954. The new Tullamore distillery was opened in September 2014 at Clonminch, Tullamore.  See Tullamore DEW on the web for visitor details to the Tullamore DEW Visitor Centre. This picture was taken in September 2013 of laying of foundation stone with Minister Simon Coveney and the managing director of William Grant.