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Key to success simple, says father of Irish whiskey revival


Inside the Great Northern Distillery

Inside the Great Northern Distillery

John Teeling

John Teeling

Inside the Great Northern Distillery

The man known for leading the renaissance of Irish whiskey has said the art of distilling is "hard to mess up".

John Teeling (69) owns Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk, where whiskey is distilled for use as a blend for other whiskies.

Despite being a teetotaller, he's become known as the father of the Irish whiskey renaissance, investing in the art of distilling at a time when the industry was in decline.

Mr Teeling, who is speaking about entrepreneurship at a conference in Belfast tomorrow, also founded Cooley Distillery - and oversaw its sale to Jim Beam for $95m (£67.1m) in 2012.

As well as his whiskey credentials, Mr Teeling has also been involved in a series of listed companies.

Connemara Mining, Petrel Resources, Minco, African Gold and Botswana Diamonds are all among his business interests.

But he said: "I always wanted to build a distillery. The thing I love about Irish whiskey is it's made of Irish time, Irish water and Irish grain.

"The thing is, you spend about €400 on a tonne of grain, add a bit of water, heat it up, and in four years' time sell if for €4,600 in Germany.

"If you're half-way sensible it's hard to mess it up."

He said growth in the spirit had been strong, with recent global sales expansion of between 10 and 15% every year - mainly thanks to a growing middle class in India and South America who want to drink premium brands.

And he says there's plenty of growth potential around the world.

Sons Jack and Stephen Teeling own the premium Teeling Whiskey Company distillery in Dublin. Their father said: "They knew they wanted to be based in Dublin because traditionally that's where the best whiskies were based - and they knew they wanted it to be a premium whiskey.

"I didn't have the courage to brand mine, but the boys were right about that, branded whiskey has definitely been much more successful than unbranded whiskey."

John Teeling addresses the Management and Leadership Conference at Titanic Belfast tomorrow

Belfast Telegraph