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Friday, 3 July 2015

Fire at Power’s Distillery

In 1961, a large fire broke out in the Powers Distillery on John’s Lane in Dublin. Fortunately, the fire occurred when the distillery was not in use, but it did destroy a storage warehouse containing about 4,000 casks of maturing whiskey. The fire drew a crowd of onlookers, some of whom were delighted to find the whiskey flowing through the streets. Perhaps it was mixed with the water from the firehoses, and had a great smoky flavour as well!

Happy onlookers at the Power's distillery fire
5 July 1961
The Powers Distillery had been almost completely destroyed by fire in 1859, and as a result, the company installed several fire safety features, including its own fire brigade. This brigade, as well as the fire brigade from Guinness, was requisitioned by the Dublin service during the 1916 Rising, when O’Connell Street and other parts of the city centre were engulfed in flames.

Powers distillery on fire
5 July 1961
After the 1859 fire, Powers rebuilt their distillery, taking advantage of the destruction to create a state-of-the-art facility; one that was much admired by all in the industry and as a beautiful piece of architecture also. However, when Power’s joined up with Jameson’s and the Cork Distilleries to form the Irish Distillers Group, it was decided to move all whiskey distilling to a purpose-built site in Midleton in Cork. After 1976, no whiskey was distilled again in Dublin until this year, when the Teeling Distillery opened in Newmarket Square (with a beautiful cafĂ© open to the public as well).

Tasting the blends
8 December 1965

Despite leaving their Dublin headquarters, Powers remained one of the leading whiskey brands in the country, well-known for sponsoring sports events such as the Irish Grand National. The National College of Art and Design took over the former site of the distillery, and voluntarily maintained some aspects of the original architecture.  The college is not officially open to the public, but if people ask politely at reception, the friendly staff have been known to show what is left of the distillery. A preservation order has now officially been placed on the remaining shell of the distillery, ensuring that the beautiful architecture will continue to last for prosperity.

Powers vans at Johns Lane
25 August 1965