On April 20th, 1608, King James I granted a license to distill whiskey at what is now Bushmills Distillery, which claims to be—and likely is —the oldest licensed distillery in the world.
Besides a tour of the distillery and an education on the process of making triple-distilled whiskey, there are a few features I remember quite vividly about visiting Bushmills. First, that the Irish don’t produce their own oak aging barrels — they buy them used, mostly from bourbon distillers in the southern USA and sherry growers in Spain (imparting some of the color and flavor of the original product to Bushmills). Beyond that I was very impressed by the profund British influence in Northern Ireland. Witness the typical English phone booth and mailbox in these photos taken at Bushmills). Such red icons of the monarchy are also found in large numbers throughout Northern Ireland and completely absent from the Republic of Ireland