The Old Bushmills distillery used to dispute being the world's oldest licensed whisky distillery with The Old Kilbeggan Distillery (Locke's), another Irish distillery. Bushmills now claims to be 'Ireland's oldest working distillery' and 'Ireland's oldest whiskey distillery' (the latter appearing on the labels) while The Old Kilbeggan Distillery is the "oldest continually licensed distillery in the world".
In 1608 King James I granted a royal licence to distil 'uisce beatha', (whiskey) to Sir Thomas Phillips in 'the territory of the Rowte' in Co. Antrim, the area where the present day Bushmills Distillery lies. The present Bushmills operation did not start until 1784, whereas Locke's was built and started operations in 1757. Locke's was forced to close in 1957 and its buildings were subsequently used as a piggery. It is now a museum whereas Bushmills has proudly survived wars, Prohibition and the demise of Irish whiskey.
Formerly part of Pernod Ricard's Irish Distillers, Bushmills was acquired by Diageo in in July 2005.