Pot still Irish whiskey returns to the West of Ireland

A dream to bring pure pot still Irish whiskey back to the West of Ireland after an absence of over 100 years took its first official step recently when The Connacht Whiskey Distillery in Ballina, Co. Mayo was opened by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D.

L-R: An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD with Connacht Whiskey Distillery Directors Tom Jensen, PJ Stapleton, Rob Cassell & David Stapleton
L-R: An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD with Connacht Whiskey Distillery Directors Tom Jensen, PJ Stapleton, Rob Cassell & David Stapleton

The €10m investment will generate 40 new jobs at the 27,000 square feet distillery which also features a visitor centre. The Distillery goes into production in mid-October and expects to produce up to 70,000 cases per year. It is only the second Connacht-based craft whiskey distillery, and one of a handful of developed craft distilleries across the country.

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Speaking at the opening, the Taoiseach said, “I am delighted that the craft of whiskey-making is returning to the West of Ireland and in so doing is creating 40 new jobs. It is especially pleasing to see the renewal of what was Duffys’ Bakery – we’re moving from one grain to another, so to speak – and bringing new life to this scenic location on the banks of the River Moy. This exciting venture brings to fruition the vision of David Stapleton and his US-Irish team and marks a positive development for the agri-food and drinks sector. It is also a vote of confidence in Mayo and yet another sign of the regional recovery that has begun to take hold across Ireland.”

Taking on scotch
Connacht Whiskey director and past President and CEO of Remy Cointreau USA, Tom Jensen says, “Irish whiskey is the fastest-growing whiskey in the US, but is outsold by scotch 4 to 1. Unlike scotch, Irish whiskey lacks regionally produced whiskeys that reflect the various terroirs of Ireland. Our goal is to introduce US consumers to the beauty of a hand crafted, pot distilled Irish whiskey from Western Ireland.”

Different to distilleries in the news recently
Rob Cassell, Master Distiller, Connacht Whiskey, comments, “We are very different from the massive, production-driven Irish distilleries that have been in the news lately. We are a company focused on bringing consumers small batch Irish whiskey that is smooth, full of character and has a distinctive flavour. We have a luxury of opportunity here at Connacht Whiskey that allows us to have a step into the past by creating traditional style Irish Whiskey. We are able to innovate yet pay homage to the past, and are recreating a spirit that can only be produced in the West of Ireland. Irish whiskey has a rich and forgotten past of its pure pot distilled whiskey and I am honoured to have the opportunity to pay tribute to and create a spirit that is unique to the West of Ireland. When a local Irishman can take a bottle of our spirit elsewhere is the world and proudly tout ‘this is from my home’, I’ll know we have succeeded in bottling the craftsman’s passion of the West of Ireland.”

Michael Cantwell, Head of Food Division, Enterprise Ireland, commented, “The Connacht Whiskey Distillery has cultivated the roots of tradition with ambitious and highly innovative thinking to grow a company with the potential to scale rapidly in international markets from its Ballina base. Enterprise Ireland has worked closely with the company in implementing their plans and we look forward to focusing on driving their export sales, creating and sustaining jobs in Ireland for the future.”