Whiskey distilling officially returned to Ireland’s County Carlow after a two century absence today as Bernard and Rosemary Walsh, the founders of Walsh Whiskey, officially opened their €25 million Irish whiskey distillery by the banks of the River Barrow. The Royal Oak-based facility is now distilling Walsh Whiskey Distillery’s whiskeys, The Irishman and Writers Tears, which are already sold in 40 countries worldwide.
Officiating at the opening with the Walshes was Augusto Reina, Chief Executive of Illva Saronno SpA of Milan (owners of drinks brands Disaronno and Tia Maria) which has a 50% share in the Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak.
Located on an 18th century estate comprising 40 acres of pastoral land, the distillery is the only independent Irish whiskey distillery producing all three styles of Irish whiskey: pot still, malt and grain, from its two production lines using both pot stills and column stills.
At full tilt the Walsh Whiskey Distillery at Royal Oak has the capacity to produce 650,000 cases (2.5 million liters of pure alcohol (LPA’s) or 8 million bottles) of whiskey annually, which would account for 9.7% of the total Irish whiskey exports as it was measured in 2014.
The company actually went operational and commenced distilling on Easter Sunday this year, and is laying down stocks for use in releases from 2019 onwards, after the minimum three year maturation process has been completed. The choice of casks in use include bourbon barrels from Kentucky (USA); sherry butts from Jerez (Spain); Rum barrels from Saint Lucia (Caribbean); and Marsala wine casks from Illva Saronno’s own Florio Marsala Winery in Sicily (Italy).
The distillery at Royal Oak will also come to include two maturation houses with a capacity for 60,000 barrels. Work on these buildings will commence in 2017.
Walsh Whiskey Distillery will allocate up to 15% of its annual production to contract sales, thereby becoming a player in supplying independent bottlers, and has recently sealed its first deal with Altia (a leading wine and spirits company in the Nordic and Baltic countries).
The distillery, which is also designed as a visitor experience, will be open to the public from this July. The tours will also incorporate the 18th century Holloden House (c.1755) in a few years when renovations are complete. A total of 75,000 ‘whiskey tourists’ are expected to visit annually by 2021.
There was a strong attendance by the company’s international distribution partners with representatives from 22 of the 40 countries across 4 continents that already distribute The Irishman and Writers Tears. The countries represented were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Malta, Northern Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom & the United States of America. There were also some interested observers in the form of drinks industry executives from India and Australia.
The operations at Royal Oak will create a total of 55 permanent and part-time jobs in the Carlow area, over 5 years. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, through Enterprise Ireland, is supporting the project.
“After 17 years in business, the opening of our own distillery is both the fulfillment of Rosemary and my own dreams and a game changing moment for the company,” said Bernard Walsh. “We are now in control of our destiny and have the capacity, variety and relationships to play our part in the continued revival of Irish whiskey which is one of this country’s great traditions. That we can do this in a place like Royal Oak which is blessed with an abundance of the best natural ingredients as well as being a place of beauty and tranquillity is idyllic. We look forward to sharing our whiskeys and Royal Oak with the world.”