Our Story

Portmagee Village

Portmagee is a picturesque fishing village in the very South West corner of County Kerry, Ireland. The village is located on the Iveragh peninsula and is the gateway to Valentia Island, The name Portmagee (Port Magee) comes from the exploits of Captain Theobald Magee, a notorious 18th-century smuggler. Having served in the army of King James II as an officer, Captain Magee ‘retired’ to a life of merchant shipping between France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

Thanks to the many inlets around the South West coast, his trade in contraband spirits, textiles, tea and tobacco was hard to police and therefore very profitable. He married Bridget Morgell, the widow of a rich Dingle merchant and also the daughter of the then representative for Dingle, Thomas Crosbie. Following Captain Magees death, Bridget and her sons continued the family business of smuggling and Portmagee itself developed into the fishing village as we know it today.

Portmagee Village Collage

Captain Theobald Magee

Despite his local prominence, little is known about Captain Theobald Magee, (1666 to 1727) - after all, he did make most of his fortune through illegal trading of sought after goods. With his wealth, he bought large amounts of property across Cork and Kerry and married Bridget Morgell, the widow of a rich merchant from Dingle. Together they created a family and a powerful trade partnership. It was this partnership, however, that may have been the death of the Captain.

One local rumour suggests that Captain Magee was exiled abroad by Bridget’s father - a powerful man who was a Member of Parliament for County Kerry and ashamed of the family connection to the smuggler. It is said that the Captain went to a Portuguese monastery for three years, where he died in 1727 by poisoning - never to return to Ireland. In his will, he gave farmland to his three sons and the smuggling business continued with Bridget at the helm. Even after his death, Captain Magee was still the ultimate lawbreaker.

Seine Boats

Seine boats are part and parcel of South Kerry history and tradition. The tradition of coastal rowing races dates back to the late 1800’s in South Kerry and every coastal locality in the region hosts its own Regatta during the summer. One of the favourite events is the Seine Boat race which is in fact the highlight of each Regatta. Seine boats are timber built boats that hold 12 oarsmen and a coxswain and were commonly used in the last century by fisherman in the Iveragh Peninsula. The origins of the Seine Boat tradition go back into history and since long ago they were used to haul fish captured in floating nets. This type of boat race is unique to South Kerry.

The Traditional Regattas in South Kerry are held in Callinafercy, Cromane, Kells, Cahersiveen, Over the Water, Valentia, Ballinskelligs, Waterville, Caherdaniel, Sneem, Templenoe and the final race of the season is always held in Portmagee.

All the races are a true test of strength, endurance and team work and are a great attraction for crowds of supporters and spectators who come every year to watch the races and enjoy the festival in each location. It’s an exciting day out for all the family and a great gathering of coastal rowing enthusiasts.

Every generation of the Murphy family that has grown up on Barrack Hill has found a place on an oar of a Seine Boat crew and this tradition is a proud one for the family. It is fitting that Portmagee Whiskey takes inspiration from the single biggest sporting event of the calendar in Portmagee and honours the mixture of wooden boat and wild Atlantic water with its own combination of oak wood and ‘Usice Beatha’, Irish Gaelic meaning the ‘Water of Life’.

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Barrack Hill

Portmagee Distilling and Brewing Company was founded in early 2017 by two brothers John and James Murphy who are from Portmagee, Co. Kerry. John and James Murphy have a site in Portmagee that used to be the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Barracks until it was burned down during the Irish War of Independence. The building subsequently belonged to the Murphy family and has been passed down from generation to generation with six generations of the Murphy family calling Barrack Hill home to this day.

The building and location is so synonymous with the Murphy family that locally they are known as the “Barrack” Murphy’s, a family name they are proud to own. It was the home of our grandfather and his parents before him, before changing use in the late 1950’s. It was last used as a cow shed up until 1999 before falling into a state of disrepair. The Murphy brothers are now in the process of restoring the building as part of the Portmagee Whiskey Experience where it will become the Irish Whiskey Tasting bar.

Meet the Makers

Meet our makers who makes Portmagee so special

John Murphy At Portmagee Visitor Center

John “Barrack” Murphy

John “Barrack” Murphy - An Irish Army Officer and Engineer, John is an adventurer by nature and has traveled all over the world with work, for pleasure and to take part in various adventure and endurance races. He is also a keen rower and looks forward to taking part in the traditional Seine Boat season every year. He is determined to develop the long term plans of Portmagee Whiskey and set the conditions for the next six generations of “Barrack” Murphy’s to be able to call Portmagee their home.

James Murphy At Bar

James “Barrack” Murphy

The creative mind of the team after spending over a decade running a video production company called ‘Bold Puppy’ and with a wealth of video production, editing and graphic design experience behind him. James is excited to be able to tell the stories that make Portmagee such a special place to live in and raise his family. Combining this storytelling with such an enjoyable procut as premium Irish whiskey seemed to just be the dream come through and all happening within his own backyard on top of Barrack Hill.

Meet the Makers - John, Stuart & James

Stuart McNamara

Stuart who joined the team in 2017 is a retired senior army officer, international sailor and whiskey writer. He is the creator of International Irish Whiskey Day on March 3. Holding post graduate qualifications in Brewing and Distilling, Stuart designs and crafts our uniquely nautical Portmagee Whiskey blends and finishes. A natural networker, communicator and entrepreneur, his wealth of knowledge and experience has been key to establishing  Portmagee Whiskey in the global whiskey world as The Spirit of the Sea.

Our Ethos

Explore Portmagee's core values, ethics, services, principles, and service to the community.

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For one another, our heritage, our community and our environment.

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To each other and to Portmagee as a village community.

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To do the right thing always, even when it is hard to do it.

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To create and promote opportunities for adventure for people to enjoy.

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To provide opportunities and support to our community so that it may thrive into the future.

Portmagee Old Story
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