Connswater Whiskey to be revived at Rademon Estate

Whiskey produced in what was once one of the world’s largest distilleries is set to be revived by Rademon Estate in Crossgar.

Master distiller of Shortcross spirits David Boyd-Armstrong, a leading innovator, and wife Fiona, the managing director, have been quietly working with the original mashbill (recipe) to rejuvenate whiskey from the Connswater Distillery in east Belfast, part of the city’s great heritage of distilling. Belfast was once the island’s biggest whiskey producer.

East Belfast born David, elected in December as chair of Drinks Ireland, the body which promotes Irish whiskey, explained: “We’ve been developing the lost Connswater whiskey since 2020. And now after almost 100 years we can say Connswater is back! It’s marvellous to be able to revive one of the great whiskeys from the city’s golden age of distilling.”

Connswater, once located on 12-acres near the Connswater river produced two million gallons of whiskey a year and used river barges to bring in barley and other raw materials and then to ferry the whiskey barrels to ships anchored in Belfast Lough for export to the US in particular.

The distillery had been founded in 1886 by whiskey blenders and was one of two successful operations in east Belfast, the other being Avoniel, a producer of spirits for leading gin and whiskey specialists in Britain. Avoniel distilled around 850,000 million gallons of whiskey a year.

The mashbill from Avoneil was subsequently used to produce Belfast 1912 gin.

They were among 18 distilleries in Belfast.

The introduction of prohibition (the ban on alcohol in some American states) in 1919 caused a massive drop in sales of Irish whiskey, then the market leader. Connswater and some other Irish whiskeys were acquired by Scottish rivals to protect their sales and subsequently closed in the 1920s. Connswater and Avoniel both ceased production in 1929.

Shortcross expects to launch the revived Connswater whiskey, which is maturing in casks at Crossgar, within the next few months.