By Richard Thomas
Ireland used to have the smallest distilling sector of the major, traditional countries, with just three big plants in operation: Bushmills, New Midleton (Jameson, among others), and Cooley. By the end of 2015, that number should climb above a dozen. Ireland is certainly in the midst of a major round of distillery construction, so the only real question is if rising sales will result in the round’s continuance.
With this flurry of activity in Irish whiskey, only the keenest observers can keep track. Some are old players striking out on their own in the wake of Beam Global buying Cooley and closing the spigot, while others are more or less newcomers. Here is a brief guide to all the projects seriously underway or recently completed:
- Belfast Distillery Company: In a move that would make many a puritanical American pundit’s blood boil, this outfit started up in 2005 with the word “distillery” in its name without having any copper to call their own. They are now making up for that, building Belfast’s first distillery in almost two centuries in the old Crumlin Road Gaol.
- Carlow “Brewstillery:” Alltech, the same animal feed corporation behind Town Branch in Lexington, KY, shipped a Vendome still to the Carlow Brewing Company and began operations last year. Word now has it that Alltech intends to move distilling operations from Carlow to Dublin, so the Carlow “Brewstillery” might not remain as such for much longer.
- Dingle Distillery: This County Kerry outfit is up and running as of 2012, but for the time being it has only gin and vodka on the market. Its whiskey won’t be available until 2018.
- Echlinville Distillery: Situated in County Down, Dunville’s Echlinville started producing last year and are already planning to put more copper in and expand. They do not expect to have any whiskey of their own ready yet, however, and will continue to source Dunville whiskey until 2016 at the earliest.
- Great Northern: John Teeling, the founder of Cooley and father of Jack and Stephen of Teeling Whiskey Company renown, purchased Dundalk’s old Great Northern Brewery from Diageo last year with the intent of turning it into a distillery. The operation expects to begin operations by this summer, and should not be confused with Teeling Whiskey Company.
- Portaferry Distillery: This micro-distillery project got its planning permission last year, and hopes to be up and running by the end of this year.
- Slane Castle: This independent bottler was shut out into the cold by Beam’s acquisition of Cooley, and responded by starting their own distillery. They intend to become a farm-to-still operation, and will have a visitor center in 2015.
- Teeling Whiskey Company: Jack Teeling’s medal-bedecked outfit was the first to announce intentions to return distilling to Dublin, and will likely be producing its first juice before the end of the year.
- Tullamore Dew: William Grant and Sons bought this venerable brand from Midleton a couple of years ago, and started a new distillery back in its hometown of Tullamore. They received their Forsyths copper only a few weeks ago.
- Walsh Whiskey: Alltech might be moving out of County Carlow, but Walsh Whiskey is moving in. They plan to have their new distillery up and running there by the end of 2016.