21 Jun 2016 | 11.35 am
Follow Me Down To Carlow For A Dram
Walsh Whiskey opens distillery producing eight million bottles a year
21 Jun 2016 | 11.35 am
Whiskey distilling returns to County Carlow after an absence of over 200 years today as Bernard Walsh and Rosemary Walsh, founders of Walsh Whiskey Distillery, open their new €25 million distillery on the banks of the River Barrow at Royal Oak.
The new facility is now distilling Walsh’s two whiskeys, The Irishman and Writers Tears, which are sold in 40 countries worldwide. The husband and wife team were joined by Augusto Reina, chief executive of joint owners Illva Saronno SpA of Milan (owners of drinks brands Disaronno and Tia Maria), which has a 50% share in the distillery, and by distribution partners from 22 countries.
Located on an 18th century estate of 40 acres, the distillery is the only independent Irish whiskey distillery producing all three styles of Irish whiskey – pot still, malt and grain from its two production lines which use both pot stills and column stills.
The new distillery can produce 650,000 cases (2.5 million litres of pure alcohol or eight million bottles) of whiskey annually, almost 10% of the total Irish whiskey exports in 2014. The company commenced distilling at Royal Oak on Easter Sunday last and is laying down stocks for release from 2019 onward, after the minimum three year maturation process ends.
Walsh Whiskey sees the new facility as key to its growth strategy, which has three components : first, increased supply to the 40 markets where The Irishman and Writers Tears are already sold, especially the core markets of the United States, Canada and Europe (including Russia); second, to leverage Illva Saronnos’ established relationships in Asian markets to promote Irish whiskey in countries including India, China, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
Finally, the Royal Oak distillery will function as a centre for developing newer varieties using a wide range of casks to mature the raw spirit. Walsh Whiskey plans to use a variety of barrels and butts from its own and Saronnos’ contacts to create every taste and hue possible for whiskey drinkers to experience. These include bourbon barrels from Kentucky sherry butts from Jerez; rum barrels from Saint Lucia and Marsala wine casks from Saronnos’ Florio Marsala Winery in Sicily.
Royal Oak will also include two maturation houses with capacity for 60,000 barrels. Work on these will commence in 2017. The distillery, which is also designed as a visitor experience, will be open to the public from this July. A total of 75,000 ‘whiskey tourists’ are expected to visit annually by 2021. The operations at Royal Oak will create a total of 55 permanent and part-time jobs in the Carlow area, over five years. Enterprise Ireland is supporting the project.
Bernard Walsh said: “After 17 years in business, the opening of our own distillery is both the fulfilment of our dreams and a game changing moment for the company. We are now in control of our destiny and have the capacity, variety and relationships to play our part in the continued revival of Irish whiskey which is one of this country’s great traditions.
“That we can do this in a place like Royal Oak, which is blessed with an abundance of the best natural ingredients as well as being a place of beauty and tranquility, is idyllic. We look forward to sharing our whiskeys and Royal Oak with the world.”
Augusto Reina added: “Illva Saronno is enthusiastic about the opening of Royal Oak and proud of the partnership with Walsh Whiskey. We look forward to continuing our support in the coming years through our know-how and expertise in the global spirits’ market.”
The company is taking environmental concerns seriously too, with by-products being processed to animal feed, a combined heat and power plant to save energy, extensive oak plantings and careful architectural design using local and sympathetic materials.
Photo: Bernard Walsh and Rosemary Walsh (Pic: James Fennell)