Ex-packaging boss to open whiskey and gin distillery in Co Down creating 42 jobs
One of Northern Ireland's best-known businessmen is launching a new £15m whiskey and gin distillery in Co Down with the creation of 42 new jobs.
Hinch Distillery, located on the grounds of Killaney Lodge country estate near Carryduff, has been developed by Terry Cross. Mr Cross set up west Belfast company, Delta Print & Packaging Ltd, which was sold to Finnish company, Huhtamaki, three years ago.
He has now invested in a 30,000 sq ft distillery which will produce his Hinch Irish Whiskey brands and Ninth Wave Gin.
Mr Cross already owns a successful vineyard called Chateau de La Ligne in Bordeaux, France - but Hinch is his first dedicated whiskey distillery.
Economic development agency Invest NI has offered £1.9m of support towards the new distillery. The jobs are expected to generate nearly £1.3m in salaries.
The distillery, which is due to be completed next year, will span two floors housing the large Irish whiskey and gin distillery, bottling line, storage facilities and offices.
Mr Cross said: "Irish whiskey has continually been the fastest growing spirit category in the world over the last 10 years, nearly trebling in size.
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"This trend is forecast to continue in the future, with Irish whiskey beginning to approach and indeed overtake sales of Scotch in many international markets. The world gin market has also witnessed phenomenal growth in the last few years, yet still has huge potential to grow in markets where gin is still a relatively small category.
"We are launching the Hinch Distillery to provide visitors with a highly differentiated product and experience that couples the production of our quality spirits with a story and heritage.
"We hope it will become an attraction in its own right and offer guests a real understanding of the skills and methods needed to produce our spirits," said Mr Cross.
The visitor centre facilities will include a coffee shop, public restaurant, pub, outside courtyard space, multi-purpose events spaces catering for weddings and corporate events and a retail shop.
Visitors can take guided whiskey tours that includes a tutored tasting.
The gin tour will allow visitors to produce their very own individual gin recipe, which will be bottled for them to take away. The distillery is named after the neighbouring small town of Ballynahinch.
Hinch Irish Whiskeys and Ninth Wave Gin already have a presence in 15 markets, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the US and European countries.
Derek Hardy, the managing director of Hinch, said: "Our goal is to double our export markets by the end of 2020 and the timing of the Hinch Distillery opening couldn't come at a better time for us."
The distillery will incorporate a visitor attraction offering associated tours and facilities, able to accommodate over 100,000 visitors per annum.
Brian Dolaghan, Invest NI executive director, said: "We are delighted to support Terry and his team in the development of this new distillery and visitor centre.
"Over 95% of Irish whiskey production is exported, so we have been supporting Hinch to explore export markets where they are already seeing good traction."