A great flood once swept through a major city, killing many and causing millions worth of damage. But unlike other floods, this was not a flood of water… It was whisky – good quality, well aged, thick, creamy whisky. This is the story of the great whisky flood.
Dublin Whisky Flood
By the mid 1800s, Irish whisky was a big business. More than a thousand distilleries operated in Ireland, brewing and storing massive quantities. But before it can be sold, whisky must first be aged in barrels. The epicenter of the business was Dublin, where the 5 biggest distilleries were based. Among them was Malone’s bonded storehouse, which primarily stored whisky, hence the otherwise pointless name Five thousand large barrels of whisky were held there at the time, which in today’s money is worth more than 6 million US dollars. In a time when most people lived in abject poverty, that was a lot of money. So if anything were to happen to all that whisky, it would be a disaster. In 1875 a disaster struck.
The crisis began with a fire – a large blaze that spread through the storehouse in the afternoon of June 18th. For several hours it raged without anyone noticing. By evening it had gotten so hot the barrels began to explode. As whisky is flammable, this only made the fire worse, causing more barrel explosions. Compounding this even further, the whisky was undiluted, meaning it burned much quicker than bottled whisky. So even when the fire was noticed, nothing could be done to stop it. The tragedy had been set in motion. The amount of whisky now released was too much for the warehouse to hold, spilling out onto the streets of Dublin. Onlookers were horrified by what they saw – a flood of flaming alcohol racing towards them.
Those too close to run were entirely consumed by the flood. It was chaos, which is normal for Dublin, but even with that considered, it was an insane situation. Locals were panicking, running in all direction while humans and horses were killed by the whisky.
Fighting Fire With Fire
It was almost like a volcano had erupted in the middle of the city. As one of the more poor areas of Dublin, many animals were in the street – especially chickens and pigs – and it was not their lucky day. Fire fighters soon arrived, but it’s hard to put out a fire that’s moving. Everything they did failed. Then finally they decided to contain the flood fire by building a dam-like structure. The building material they used was horse manure – and, amazingly, it worked, halting the whisky. This meant the fire could eventually be put out. But by that time, a ridiculous amount of damage had been done.
It remains one of the great tragedies in Irish history… not because people died, but because so much whisky went to waste. If you don’t believe me, what happened next will prove it. People ran out into the street to drink some of the now cool whisky, scooping it up in their shoes and hats. But since the whisky was undiluted, 24 people got alcohol poisoning. In total 13 people died.
The Glasgow Whisky Flood
Amazingly, this was not the only whisky flood in history. In 1906 another one happened in Glasgow. In this case, there was no fire. Instead, a large industrial vat collapsed, releasing 50 thousand gallons of whisky. Flowing from the top floor of distillery, it gushed into the street and swept up passers by. It was so much whisky that one man had his clothes swept away. Since there was no fire, it was a much more simple rescue operation. Less people tried to drink the booze after, and only one person died. But the distillery died with them, going out of business just one year later.
The Pepsi Flood
A more modern example is the Pepsi flood of 2017. When a Pepsi warehouse collapsed in Russia, 28 million liters of fruit juice flooded out into the streets. Luckily nobody died, and Pepsi paid for all damages. But for a while after, the roads were drenched in juice, which you can see in this footage.