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That's the spirit: new distillers spring up across Northern Ireland

By Clare Weir

Published 22/08/2014

Beer aficionado: Peter Lavery
Beer aficionado: Peter Lavery

While Bushmills Irish Whiskey might be Northern Ireland's most famous spirit export, smaller craft distillers are on the rise.

Earlier this year, Echlinville Distillery in Kircubbin, Co Down, was granted the first licence to distil spirits in Northern Ireland in over 130 years.

The company is investing £1.5m and creating 15 jobs as it aims to sell its drinks all over the world and there are also plans for a restaurant, museum and visitors' centre.

Managing director Shane Braniff launched the successful Feckin Irish Whiskey brand in 2005, which has become a huge hit in the USA, and founded Echlinville Distillery in 2012 on his own 18-acre estate.

Another new entry to the local drinks market is Shortcross Gin, the first premium gin to be launched in Northern Ireland for over a century.

Rademon Drinks was established by husband and wife team David and Fiona Boyd-Armstrong in April 2012 and the couple plans to develop more alcoholic beverages from their distillery on Rademon Estate.

The gin, which is flavoured with hand foraged berries and wild clover, and made from spring water from the estate's well, is already a hit in high-end Belfast venues including James Street South and Ox.

And lottery millionaire Peter Lavery, the chief executive of the Belfast Distillery Company, which is behind such brands as Titanic and Danny Boy whiskey, is months away from opening a new £5m distillery at the former Crumlin Road Prison.

There will also be a visitors' centre, tasting room, bar, restaurant and shop.

And Mr Lavery has been ensuring that he has the best equipment – known as a 'still' – for making whiskey.

"We have taken delivery of three stills from Forsyths in Scotland, the Rolls Royce of stills, where there is a three-year waiting list," he said.

"We will be on site by the end of October and the opening will take place just over 40 days later."

Mr Lavery said that in his Hudson Bar in the city, there are over 40 types of craft beer.

"People want to taste something that's been made at home, but equally, if they have travelled, they'll want to taste something that they've tried in New Zealand or Japan, too."

Belfast Telegraph

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