Belfast Telegraph

Whiskey with Belfast flavour boosts Northern Ireland mental health charity

By Claire McNeilly

The Northern Ireland duo behind a famous New York bar are launching the much sought-after Dead Rabbit Whiskey in Belfast tomorrow.

Having assumed cult status among bartenders across the globe, the five-year-old blend of Irish single malt and grain whiskeys has been a long time in the making.

That's according to Sean Muldoon, one half of the north Belfast twosome behind the multi-award winning Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog pub, to give it its full name.

Sean (46) told the Belfast Telegraph the profits of the New York sales of the whiskey will go to Aware NI, the mental health charity supporting people with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

"Irish whiskey is what we're known for; we've over 200 bottles, which is the biggest Irish Whiskey selection in America," Sean said.

"We were approached by a whiskey company just after we opened The Dead Rabbit five years ago and it has taken that length of time to make it happen. It's been a very long process."

Sean, who's married to north Belfast woman Anne (54) and now lives in downtown Brooklyn, said bar owners in New York were precluded from owning and receiving profits from brands such as whiskey, vodka and gin.

"We have a licensing agreement with the people making the whiskey.

"We're letting them use our identity but they can't give us any royalties so we've agreed they'll give them to Aware NI.

"We're hoping to raise thousands for the charity over time."

Aware NI was chosen, according to Sean, partly because his business partner Jack McGarry, who's 29, has personal experience of depression.

"Jack was very depressed at one point and as a result he was out of work for a year," he said.

"Depression is a common problem where we're from in north Belfast.

"It's a charity that pulled at our hearts more than anything else and we wanted people to known we're in this with them."

Sean has been launching the new tipple in London, Dublin and Belfast and he said he has enjoyed being back in Northern Ireland, where his two step-daughters Laura (29) and Christina (27) live.

"I love coming back," he said.

He's been in America for seven-and-a-half years.

Back in 2011 he was The Merchant Hotel's bar manager and Jack was a bartender.

At the time the bar had a reputation of its own as one of the city's finest.

But their foreign fate was sealed when a prominent American businessman stopped in one day and made Sean an offer he couldn't refuse - "take what you've achieved in Belfast and I'll set you up in New York".

He didn't need to be asked twice.

"New York is a city of opportunity; it's where dreams become reality," he said.

"There's so much more opportunity in New York than anywhere else in the world if you're good at what you do."

So how is it going?

"The bar is going phenomenally well; the problem with it is that it's so small considering how busy it is," said the Ardoyne man.

"It's probably doing three or four times as much as we thought it would do when we opened it.

"We have taken on the building next door because we have to expand."

Belfast Telegraph

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