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Northern Irish whiskey to start distilling by 2020

The new Quiet Man Distillery and Visitor Centre in Derry, Northern Ireland is expected to open for business in 2020, managing director Ciaran Mulgrew has revealed.

Mr Mulgrew, managing director of Niche Drinks, also in Derry, which founded The Quiet Man (An Fear Ciuin) Irish whiskey brand and which also runs an Irish cream liquor manufacturing and bottling plant in the city, said it was hoped the new distillery at Ebrington would be open by early 2020.

The stills for the Derry plant had already been manufactured by experts in distillation technology in Italy and are ready to go. In fact, Mr Mulgrew said, most of the equipment needed for the new distillery is now ready.

Planning permission for the £12 million investment was granted back in February, 2017. “We have only become involved with the site over the last two years,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “You put in your planning application, you wait for it to go through, get planning approval and then you have got to raise the money.

“From start to finish it will take 15 months and we are hoping to start whenever we get everything in place, by the end of the year, although it is always hard to be certain.

“All the whiskey will be distilled on the Ebrington site and then what we will do is bring the whiskey up to Niche Drinks to put into casks and store it. It has to be stored in oak casks for three years before it is legally whiskey, but we will probably store some of it for a lot longer than that. If you produce an eight–years or 12–years–old single malt then you have got to store it for eight or 12 years, there’s no shortcut to that.

“We are already storing quite a lot of whiskey, maturing it, blending it and bottling it here.

“We have been producing cream liquors for 30 years. We thought we’d move from Irish cream into Irish whiskey.

“They are things that are important for us. The product has to come from a certain region just as Champagne can only come from Champagne and Parma ham can only come from Parma.

“We decided we would build the distillery quite some time ago and initially we thought about putting it in another part of the city, but then the longer I thought about it, I realised the distillery is going to be either one of two things: You are either going to have a factory which in effect produces whiskey and that’s it, or you can have a distillery that produces whiskey that is also a marketing tool.

And if you get people in through the doors you have the chance to tell them the story of the history of distilling in Derry and then to put the reintroduction of distilling back in that context of the history of distilling. Then you get to tell the story of the Quiet Man and our own whiskey. It’s all about making an emotional link with those coming through the door.”

“We have the design for it well advanced. Then we will need tour guides, people with language skills, people willing to tell stories.

In all Mr Mulgrew said there will be about 35 people employed in the Ebrington facility. Visitors to The Quiet Man will be able to follow the whiskey making production process from grain milling through to the distillation in copper Pot Stills. They will also be able to take the weight off their feet and sampling The Quiet Man in a walled whiskey garden.

Whiskey was once a booming industry in Derry, and the massive Watts distillery was the largest producer of whiskey in Ireland by 1880, while several others were also in operation up until the early 20th century. The Quiet Man will revive that once booming industry, but Niche Drinks has already been busy ahead of the construction starting.

Following development, The Quiet Man whiskey was introduced to the market three years ago and was something of a trailblazer in the revival of Irish whiskey production.

The past few years had seen the profile and popularity of Irish Whiskey soar across the globe.

Mr Mulgrew continued: “There has been a real revival in interest in it and there’s quite a number of new ones in the process of being built and a couple of new ones have been commissioned as well.

“Irish Whiskey has had quite a resurgence and volume has increased in each of the last seven or eight years fairly strongly. From our point of view, we first bottled The Quiet Man in 2015, and at this stage our distribution has grown very steadily,

And The Quiet Man brand had had quite a journey in such a relatively short space of time, with Mr Mulgrew and other representatives travelling the globe on a mission to showcase and promote the brand. This has included advertising and promoting the Quiet Man everywhere from Belfast International Airport to Moscow, South Africa, Hong Kong and New York.

Our main markets are North America, Canada, central Europe and Scandinavia. We are trying as best we can to get it out there. It’s sold in the airports, including Belfast International, George Best, Dublin, Cork and London too,” he adds.

 “We have won many gold medals, we won double gold in the San Francisco Spirits competition for both our blended whiskey and our eight–years–old single malt. We won silver in 2016 and 2017 in the International Wine & Spirit Business, Spirit Business Gold, Irish Whiskey of the Year in 2015 for the single malt. That shows that the liquid is good.

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