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For more than a century, Dunville’s Irish Whiskey was among the world’s finest and best-known whiskeys. An icon of its time, Dunville’s reign was ended in the midst of family tragedy. For almost 80 long years the only place to buy a bottle of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey was at auction, and even that was a rare find.

 

The Echlinville Distillery is now the proud custodian this iconic Belfast brand. It was their founding goal to bring The Spirit of Belfast back to the world and restore it to its place among the world’s best whiskeys.

 

Once the biggest and once more the best, this is the story of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

THE BIRTH OF A LEGEND

On 11th October 1808 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle carried an announcement that ‘William Napier and John Dunvill respectfully inform their friends and the public that they have commenced the wine and spirit business at No. 13 Bank Street under the firm Napier and Dunvill’.

 

From that day onwards, the name Dunvill (later changed to Dunville) would become synonymous with Irish whiskey.

 

Napier and Dunvill built a successful partnership. The business flourished and in 1825 John Dunvill bought his partner’s share of the company and the name was changed to Dunville and Company.

 

From there unfolded the story of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 11th October 1808. Courtesy of The Linen Hall Library

THE ROYAL IRISH DISTILLERIES

Dunville & Co. Ltd. thrived as the chairmanship of the company passed through five generations of the Dunville family.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland was producing 14 million gallons of whiskey per year. 2.5 million of which was distilled at The Royal Irish Distilleries – the home of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

With four vast malting floors, 16 washbacks, five huge pot stills, a Coffey still and even its own railway siding, Royal Irish was said to be the most modern and impressive distillery in Ireland.

But the impact and legacy of Dunville & Co. Ltd. reached far beyond the bricks and mortar of their distillery buildings and in to the very heart of Belfast and its people

THE SPIRIT OF BELFAST

The Dunville family were renowned for their philanthropy.

 

Steadfast in their sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees, the company built much needed housing for the working class people of Belfast.

 

To help ensure workers had access to leisure facilities, Dunville’s founded Distillery Football Club in 1880 and provided the club with its first football ground.

 

In 1890 the company donated 6.5 acres of land and £8,000 (around £1m in today’s money) for the building of Dunville Park, at the centre of which still stands the beautiful Dunville Fountain.

 

Today Dunville Park, Dunville Street, Distillery Street and Distillery Football Club remain a lasting legacy to the generosity of the Dunville family.

THE FALL OF A GIANT

In 1931 Robert Lambart Dunville, the fifth Chairman of Dunville & Co. Ltd., died suddenly at the age of 38. His brother, Lieutenant John Spencer Dunville, had lost his life during The Great War and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. With Robert’s only surviving brother William living in Australia there was no-one willing or able to take over the company.

 

The firm soon lost its way. Distilling stopped in 1935 and in 1936 the Directors liquidated the business.

 

Stocks and assets were sold and over the years that followed the Royal Irish Distilleries was razed to the ground.

 

The Spirit of Belfast was consigned to history. Or so it seemed…

Belfast News Letter, 1st January 1937

“If there is one distillery whose rise and demise parallels that of the Irish distilling industry as a whole, it is the Royal Irish Distilleries… Whiskey writers still lament its passing and scratch their heads about how it could have been allowed to happen. While every distillery lost to Ireland is a cause for sorrow, the loss of Royal Irish can rightly be called a tragedy.”

 

Brian Townsend, The Lost Distilleries of Ireland, 1997

THE RETURN OF AN ICON

Almost eight decades after the last drop trickled from the stills of the Royal Irish Distilleries, the sleeping giant has been awakened.

 

The Echlinville Distillery became the first newly licensed distillery in Ireland for more than 125 years, and with its birth came the rebirth of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

 

Proudly connected to its past and enthusiastically embracing its future, The Spirit of Belfast is back and its best is yet to come.

THE BIRTH OF A LEGEND

On 11th October 1808 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle carried an announcement that ‘William Napier and John Dunvill respectfully inform their friends and the public that they have commenced the wine and spirit business at No. 13 Bank Street under the firm Napier and Dunvill’.

 

From that day onwards, the name Dunvill (later changed to Dunville) would become synonymous with Irish whiskey.

 

Napier and Dunvill built a successful partnership. The business flourished and in 1825 John Dunvill bought his partner’s share of the company and the name was changed to Dunville and Company.

 

From there unfolded the story of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 11th October 1808. Courtesy of The Linen Hall Library

THE ROYAL IRISH DISTILLERIES

Dunville & Co. Ltd. thrived as the chairmanship of the company passed through five generations of the Dunville family.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland was producing 14 million gallons of whiskey per year. 2.5 million of which was distilled at The Royal Irish Distilleries – the home of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

With four vast malting floors, 16 washbacks, five huge pot stills, a Coffey still and even its own railway siding, Royal Irish was said to be the most modern and impressive distillery in Ireland.

But the impact and legacy of Dunville & Co. Ltd. reached far beyond the bricks and mortar of their distillery buildings and in to the very heart of Belfast and its people

THE SPIRIT OF BELFAST

The Dunville family were renowned for their philanthropy.

 

Steadfast in their sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees, the company built much needed housing for the working class people of Belfast.

 

To help ensure workers had access to leisure facilities, Dunville’s founded Distillery Football Club in 1880 and provided the club with its first football ground.

 

In 1890 the company donated 6.5 acres of land and £8,000 (around £1m in today’s money) for the building of Dunville Park, at the centre of which still stands the beautiful Dunville Fountain.

 

Today Dunville Park, Dunville Street, Distillery Street and Distillery Football Club remain a lasting legacy to the generosity of the Dunville family.

THE FALL OF A GIANT

In 1931 Robert Lambart Dunville, the fifth Chairman of Dunville & Co. Ltd., died suddenly at the age of 38. His brother, Lieutenant John Spencer Dunville, had lost his life during The Great War and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. With Robert’s only surviving brother William living in Australia there was no-one willing or able to take over the company.

 

The firm soon lost its way. Distilling stopped in 1935 and in 1936 the Directors liquidated the business.

 

Stocks and assets were sold and over the years that followed the Royal Irish Distilleries was razed to the ground.

 

The Spirit of Belfast was consigned to history. Or so it seemed…

Belfast News Letter, 1st January 1937

“If there is one distillery whose rise and demise parallels that of the Irish distilling industry as a whole, it is the Royal Irish Distilleries… Whiskey writers still lament its passing and scratch their heads about how it could have been allowed to happen. While every distillery lost to Ireland is a cause for sorrow, the loss of Royal Irish can rightly be called a tragedy.”

 

Brian Townsend, The Lost Distilleries of Ireland, 1997

THE RETURN OF AN ICON

Almost eight decades after the last drop trickled from the stills of the Royal Irish Distilleries, the sleeping giant has been awakened.

 

The Echlinville Distillery became the first newly licensed distillery in Ireland for more than 125 years, and with its birth came the rebirth of Dunville’s Irish Whiskey.

 

Proudly connected to its past and enthusiastically embracing its future, The Spirit of Belfast is back and its best is yet to come.