The Nationalist and Leinster Times 31 December 1892
Cassidy & Co., Monasterevan
A Flourishing Local Industry
Visit of a representative of ‘The Nationalist’ to the distillery and brewery of Messrs. Cassidy and Company at Monasterevan, Co. Kildare.
How the Whiskey, Porter, and Ale are made.
Some time back a representative of The Nationalist paid a visit to the Distilling and Brewing Establishments of Messrs. Cassidy & Co., at Monasterevan. Monasterevan, as many of our readers are aware, is a pretty little town situate on the River Barrow. It stands in the midst of a desolate waterlogged country indeed, but then its immediate environs are pleasing to view, and the picturesque park of Moore Abbey, the residence of the Drogheda family, has its principal gates opening into the main street. But then the big thing in Monasterevan is “Cassidy’s.” It is the central point around which everything revolves – the heart which gives the life current to nearly every institution in the community. In fact, Monasterevan maybe said to be only another name for “Cassidy’s,” and what Salt is to Saltaire and Carnegie to Homestead “Cassidy’s” is to the flourishing little town in which it is placed. Like most other big industries, the establishment of Messrs. Cassidy & Co. is a venerable one. For many generations the family has carried on the business, and its present highly developed state is due to the watchful care and attention bestowed upon it by successive members of the firm, aided by faithful and devoted servitors, who in many instances could claim almost as extended a personal and family connection with the place as the principals themselves. Although opinions may differ as to the utility from a national point of view of a distillery or a brewery, and although some people may view them in relation to the drink question as being each in its way, the fons et origo mali, still it will hardly be questioned that as long as drink is consumed it is better that we should consume the native product manufactured by Irishmen from the produce of the soil than imported foreign spirit, which is often foul adulterated stuff indeed. Arrived at the Distillery, our representative was ushered into the presence of Mr. James Dowling, General Manager. Mr. Dowling’s connection with the place extends over a period of forty years, and to his fine business qualities and devotion to the interests of the firm much of the prosperity that has shone on the establishment may be traced. Mr. Dowling received our representative most courteously, and readily acquiesced with the desire of the latter to inspect the huge pile of buildings and see the process of manufacture. To facilitate his inspection our reporter was placed in the hands of Mr. Wm. Kennedy, a gentleman who holds a position on the commercial staff of the Distillery. Mr. Kennedy, by the way, has occupied a prominent place in the athletic world, and the number of medals which he wears as trophies of past victories in the football field and on the racing track would be sufficient to decorate half a regiment of veterans. He proved a most courteous and instructive cicerone, fully informed of every detail of the business.
Before proceeding on our tour of inspection Mr. Kennedy introduced me to Mr. Brannick, the gentleman who has come lately to take charge of the distilling department. Mr. Brannick is recognised as being in the front rank of his profession. For several years he has acted as distiller in the Dublin Whiskey Distillery Company, and he had filled a similar position at Banagher Distillery. The appointment of Mr. Brannick is certain to give business at Monasterevan a filip. He has a first rate connection in Dublin where it is intended to put the spirit on the market, and where an agent has been appointed, for strange as it may seem, Messrs. Cassidy’s whiskey has been hitherto chiefly known in the immediate locality, and in the London market. With the many facilities for manufacture which exist it is expected that the spirit can be put before the trade at a price that will command a ready sale, especially as its quality will be equal to anything made in Ireland, and nothing will be left undone to produce a superior article fit to compete with the best Dublin brand. Mr. Robert Cassidy, who will shortly attain his majority, bids fair to follow in the footsteps of his late respected father. He takes an active interest in the business, and he is at present engaged under the tutelage of Mr. Brannick in mastering the details of practical distilling.
A description of Messrs. Cassidy’s establishment may be prefaced by the remark that the business of brewing and distilling are highly technical, and that full details can hardly be set out in the limits of a newspaper article. The buildings which form the brewery and distillery cover some thirteen acres. The offices, which are handsome and commodious face the street, and stretching behind are the buildings in which the various processes of manufacture are carried out. Messrs. Cassidy, as may be supposed are large buyers of corn, the farmers from a large district round finding at all seasons of the year a ready market for their barley, oats and rye. The business of corn buying was in full swing at the time of my visit and scores of carts laden with grain were being unloaded. The corn which it is intended to grind is brought up from the ground floor by means of elevators driven by water power, whilst the malting barley is sent to the malthouse just across the street where it is converted into malt after the most approved fashion. The corn after being dried on the kilns is ground by three mill-stones, and in the same building is a set of rollers for grinding the malt before it is put into use for brewing and distilling purposes. The first step in the process of manufacture is that of infusion of the prepared corn or malt in the ‘kieve’ or mash tun. The mash tun is an immense circular iron vessel, capable of containing up to 40,000 gallons of liquid, and the hot water which is poured on the grain is conveyed by means of pipes from a building in another part of the premises, where it is heated in four large coppers. Mr. Michael Dunne is in charge of this department and his father filled the position before him. The liquid at this stage is known as malt ‘worts.’ It is of brownish hue and sweetish. From the mash tun it is pumped to the ‘back’ house. This is a large building in which are placed seven large ‘backs’ or immense vats, capable of containing 28,000 gallons each. The liquid is now cooled down by being passed through refrigerators and by being run through pipes which are placed in a pond on the other side of the street at the back of the malthouse. It is now passed through the wash charger and afterwards through the wash still, where the liquid known as wash is separated from it. This is sold to the farmers of the district, and is very valuable for feeding dairy cows as are also the grains from which the spirit has been extracted. After leaving the wash still the liquid goes through the low wine still, where the process of distillation takes place. The vapour arising in the still is conveyed to the ‘worm’ which is a spiral, metallic pipe, placed in a huge tub or vat. An idea of the size of the ‘worm’ may be gained from the fact that the vat which contains it is as high as the roof of the lofty building which adjoins. This vat is kept filled with cold water, and in passing through the ‘worm’ the vapour is cooled and condensed and becomes whiskey. From the ‘worm’ the spirit is conveyed by pipes to the spirit room where it is casked. In the yard there are 18 double warehouses, capable of affording storage room for an immense quantity of spirit. In these the whiskey is allowed to mature till ready for sale. There is an office of Inland Revenue on the premises, and one or more gentlemen connected with the department are always on the premises. There are eighteen large warehouses for the storage of the manufactured article. The lighting throughout is by gas, and this is manufactured on the premises. There are also an engineer’s shop where fitting and smith work of all kinds are done and a cooperage. These places of industry give employment to a considerable number of skilled artisans.
After completing my tour of the Distillery, I was conducted to the Brewery which immediately adjoins. This important department is in the charge of Mr. Symes who has occupied the position for years. He is now assisted by his son. Porter, XX and plain are manufactured, and also plain and X ale. I was afforded an opportunity of tasting these beverages, and I can honestly attest that each is excellent of its kind. Mr. Symes’ long experience and practical skill is indeed a sufficient guarantee that none but good honest liquor will be turned out. It is well known that pure water is of the utmost importance in the manufacture of fermented liquors, and recognising this Messrs. Cassidy have at considerable expense sunk an artesian well to a depth of 110 feet. For the last four or five years water from this well has been used, and the result has been an immense improvement in the quality of the different products.
In conclusion it may be mentioned that Messrs. Robert and Edward Cassidy have shown praiseworthy desire to provide means of amusement for their employees, and I was shown an excellent billiard and reading room which they have recently provided. The interests of the firm on ‘the road’ are well looked to by Messrs. John O’Neill and T. Byrne. On the whole, Messrs. Cassidys’ establishments are most flourishing ones, and a future of even increased prosperity seems to be in store for them.
Re-typed by Kevin O Kelly