On the Money

For 400 years, the Bushmills distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, has been producing and bottling “uisce beatha”—Gaelic for “water of life,” or whiskey. King James I initially licensed the distillery in April of 1608, and Bushmills single malts have been steadily conquering the world ever since. So maybe it makes sense that the Bank of Ireland has decided to print the image of ye olde distillery on its new bank notes. The picture, to be featured on the reverse sides of £5, £10, and £20 notes, will replace an image of Queen’s University in Belfast.

I was going to say that it’s hard to think of an American equivalent—a whiskey distillery replacing the Lincoln Memorial on the $5 bill is what NPR’s Marketplace program jokingly suggests—but then I remembered my history. In fact, there’s a strange link between distilleries and money in the United States. The first U.S. mint was established in an old Philadelphia distillery. And when George Washington, Mr. $1 Bill, ended his presidency in 1797, he spent his retirement operating a whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon. Last year, the Mount Vernon estate reopened the distillery, after a five-year restoration project, and the estate now sells the whiskey it makes on the grounds.

So, there you go. There’s whiskey in money, and there’s money in whiskey. I’ll drink to either one.

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