St. Columb’s Rill, Northern Ireland
The source of the magic for the infamous Bushmill’s Irish Malt Whiskey, these volcanic blessed waters are the lifestream of the elixirs produced at the Bushmill’s Distillery for over 400 years (1608). Saint Columb’s Rill is a tributary of the “an Bhuais” (River Bush) of Northern Ireland.
The Rill is actually a rivulet or really small stream, that rises in bogland five miles southeast of the Bushmills Village in County Antrim. It is named after the Patron Saint “Columba” of Derry/Doire. It is one of the inspired waters creating the art of Irish Whiskey known as “Uisce Beatha” Gaelic for “Water of Life”. It is the distinct mineral composition of these waters that gives Bushmills its distinct flavor, combined with the arts the distillery uses to distill them, triple distilled in copper stills, and matured to spirits in oak casks.
Saint Columba was a distinguished student of Saint Finnian in 546 C.E. (Common Era) when the monastic settlement of Derry was formed and established by him. Saint Columba was fascinated by magical and healing waters, and the Rill was no different legend states. Being concerned with the health of his community, he identified and recommended various springs and water sources for people to drink from. He was one of the twelve Apostles of Ireland who sailed across the Irish Sea in 563 C.E. beginning missionary work in the lands that became Scotland. They sailed to Iona, a small island where they created the “Cradle of Christianity” in Scotland.
Geology – The water that feeds Saint Columb’s Rill, comes up from limestone and sedimentary rock before passing through basalt and igneous rock gaining small quantities of calcium and magnesium which makes the water alkaline and slightly hard. This process feeds off the elements of the remains of former volcanic activity of the area that is much attached to the fabled Slemish Mountain 30 miles to the south which was the dormant plug of the volcano that created these stones. This mountain is riddled with faerie lore as well as Christian roots with being the home of Saint Patrick when he was taken to Ireland as a slave being the place he tended sheep and pigs in 405 C.E.
As The Rill moves northeast, it flows across acidic Sphagnum peatlands before making its way to the village of Bushmills. This colors the water brown and gives it its’ distinctive peat flavor. It is cherished so much by the region that it is protected and monitored by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency guaranteed not to be ever tainted or polluted. They had one incident in 2012 that was stopped once discovered that had to do with peat harvesting for fuel. The Bushmills Distillery lies in the direct path of Saint Columb’s Rill and captures some of the fast-moving waters into their private reservoir holding in excess of 2.2 million gallons at any given time. The rest of the Rill runs underneath the distillery and discharges into the River bush, finding its way into the Atlantic at Portballintrae where the Giant’s Causeway lies.
In earlier years, there were four other distilleries licensed to operate near Bushmills utilizing the Rill. These have purportedly been closed since. The Bushmills Inn opened the Saint Columb’s Rill Relaxation Room which provides guests with a range of homeopathic procedures and treatments using the Saint Columb’s Rill waters for spiritual and physical healing.