Ireland’s Echlinville Distillery Revives Historic Old Comber Irish Pot Still Whiskey

By Gary Carter / June 13, 2021

The Echlinville Distillery recently announced it is bringing back the Old Comber Irish Whiskey brand after a near 70 year absence. One of the original Irish whiskey giants, Old Comber Whiskey was founded in 1825 and produced at the Comber Distilleries, which were located about 10 miles from where the Echlinville Distillery now stands.

Comber Distilleries fell silent in 1953 and Old Comber joined the list of Ireland’s lost whiskeys. In testament to their continued commitment to put County Down back on the world whiskey map, Echlinville unveiled its first release of Old Comber Irish Pot Still Whiskey – a pot still blend finished in Ruby Port casks and bottled at 92 proof.

Jarlath Watson, of The Echlinville Distillery, said Old Comber was one of Ireland’s most celebrated whiskey brands, famed for its quality and bold flavor and its loss was lamented by whiskey enthusiasts around the world.

Old Comber Irish Whiskey

Old Comber Irish Whiskey (image via The Echlinville Distillery)

“Anyone who knows Echlinville will know that we are incredibly proud of our roots,” he said in a prepared statement. “From rolling barley fields to huge malting houses and one of the largest distilleries in Ireland, County Down and the area around Strangford Lough in particular, has a strong whiskey heritage. Comber and its distilleries was widely regarded as the home of double distilled pot still whiskey.”

He said the team at Echlinville is honored to bring Old Comber Whiskey back to its County Down homeland. In homage to the brand’s origins, their first Old Comber Irish Pot Still Whiskey release is a blend of pot still whiskeys, predominantly double distilled at Echlinville, just down the road from where the Comber Distilleries once stood.

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“Old Comber was renowned for its port and sherry cask finishes. In honor of that tradition, this new release has been aged in American oak and bourbon casks in the Echlinville warehouse and finished in the finest Ruby Port casks,” Watson explained. “Deep amber in color, this whiskey boasts notes of fresh vanilla pods, toffee apples and Battenburg cake on the nose.”

On the palate, he said, it has a creamy pot-still mouthfeel with treacle toffee, apple tarte tatin spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, opening up to rosewater, raspberries and cream. “Those toffee and spice notes continue through to a medium finish with pecan nuts fading out to mellow oak tannins and sweet spice in its final notes. This limited release stays true to the Old Comber name and marks a new chapter in the story of Old Comber, Echlinville and the ongoing Irish whiskey revival,” he said.

Echlinville Distillery is also custodian of the famous Dunville’s Irish Whiskey brand, another giant of Irish whiskey history Echlinville revived in 2012.

Watson said that their corner of Ireland has quite the story to tell in terms of its role in Ireland’s whiskey heritage.

“If Dunville’s was The Spirit of Belfast then Old Comber, one of its closest whiskey neighbors, was the spirit of County Down. In fact, both brands featured in BBC2’s recent Whiskey Talkin’ program, which explored the history of Irish whiskey, the Dunville’s return and our collaboration with Fionnán O’Connor to recreate the original Old Comber mash bill – a whiskey that we hope to release when it reaches the seven-year mark.”

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He explained the importance of these old brands in whiskey history, saying that throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, they built an industry that was the envy of the world.

“Dunville’s and Old Comber dominated whiskey production in the north of Ireland, but they had much more in common than huge distilleries and vast warehouses. In 1872, James Bruce was a director in Dunville’s and his brother Samuel Bruce, whose initials feature on the Old Comber bottle, was the owner of Comber Distilleries. We like to think that in reviving both historic brands, we are not only restoring a cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s distilling history but are in some way reuniting the Bruce brothers, at least in spirit.”

Old Comber Irish Pot Still Whiskey has a suggested retail price of £45.