The Echlinville Distillery is celebrating as its whiskey turns five years old. The Kircubbin based whiskey and gin producer became the first new distillery in Northern Ireland for more than 125 years when it received its license and casked its first spirit on 5 August 2013.
Echlinville has since established itself at the forefront of Ireland’s burgeoning spirits industry and is home to some of the country’s best-known and respected brands including Dunville’s Irish Whiskey, Jawbox Gin, Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin and Bán Poitín.
Sunday 5 August will be a momentous day for Echlinville as their first casks of whiskey reach their milestone fifth birthday – a birthday they share with distillery owner Shane Braniff.
Reflecting on five years of business, Shane said: “After numerous years of planning and perseverance, in the summer of 2013 our vision to create Ireland’s first field-to-glass distillery finally became a reality when the first spirit trickled from Echlinville’s stills. We filled our first casks on 5 August and five years later the business has grown beyond our expectations.
“We started as a team of three. Now we have more than 20 staff who produce our spirit from the ground up. From growing, harvesting and floor malting our barley, to mashing and fermenting the grains, distilling and maturing the spirit, to hand bottling and labelling our products, everything is done right here at our farm distillery. Our roots are firmly, and quite literally, in the Ards Peninsula. We grow, produce and employ local and that is something we are incredibly proud of.”
The Pot Still and Single Malt whiskeys from Echlinville’s innovative first distillations may have reached the landmark five year mark, but they will continue to mature in the distillery’s cask warehouse. Shane continues: “We recently debuted some of our Echlinville Whiskey at a tasting in Dingle, Co. Kerry, with some of our friends at the Irish Whiskey Society. We were delighted with how it was received, but we won’t be releasing it any time soon. Whiskey is all about time, and we are willing to give ours all the time it needs to be among the best in Ireland, if not the world.”
Although primarily a whiskey distillery, Echlinville’s portfolio has expanded to include gin, vodka and poitín, with their products exported across Europe and as far as the USA, New Zealand and the middle east.
Shane continues: “Irish whiskey is the world’s fastest growing spirits category. From the Ards Peninsula to the Dingle Peninsula, from Midleton to Dublin and from Derry to Waterford, Ireland’s whiskey industry is going from strength to strength, and we are delighted to be a part of it. We are building a strong reputation based on our field-to-glass approach and the quality of our spirits. With 17 international awards under our belt, Echlinville’s products are already held in high esteem within the global spirits industry, and that’s a great foundation upon which we can continue to build our export business.”
The Spirit of Belfast
“One of our founding goals in 2013 was to revive the historic Dunville’s Irish Whiskey brand after almost 80 years in the whiskey wilderness. Now with ten major accolades to its name, we are proud to have restored Dunville’s to its rightful place among the premier whiskeys of the world. That is certainly one of the major achievements of our first five years in business.
“We recently released our new Dunville’s PX 12 Year Old Single Malt expression, and with the upcoming launch of our award winning Dunville’s 18 Year Old Port Mourant Rum Finish Whiskey, there is much more to come from The Spirit of Belfast.”
Echlinville’s success isn’t limited to whiskey. Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin was awarded the coveted Three Star rating at last year’s Great Taste Awards. Echlinville is also the home of Jawbox, one of Ireland’s most popular gins. And its Bán Poitín has been crowned Ireland’s Best Poitín at the Irish Whiskey Awards for two years running.
Vision for whiskey tourism
Echlinville has also made a name for itself on the whiskey tourist trail, with its distillery tours attracting visitors from home and abroad.
Shane continues: “Echlinville’s sense of place and family feel seem to resonate with our many visitors. Our philosophy is to celebrate the sights, smells and tastes of Echlinville and the Ards Peninsula. The heart of whiskey may be grain and oak, but the soul of any spirit is its connection to the place where it is made. We are proud of our roots in the Ards Peninsula. That pride of place is the essence of everything we do. It has been our driving force for the past five years and propels our plans for the future.”
Echlinville plans to extend its tour experience by converting its 17th century courtyard buildings into a state-of-the-art visitors’ centre. The development will incorporate a museum, restaurant and tourist accommodation and is key to Shane’s vision to transform the distillery into one of the east coast’s premier visitor attractions.
He concludes: “This corner of Ireland has much to offer in terms of tourism and is already home to some fabulous attractions, but overall its potential remains relatively untapped. We want to help change that by working with nearby attractions and tourism bodies to develop the area as a must-see destination.
“The Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy speaks of a vision for an all-island whiskey tourism product. For a long time now, whiskey tourism in Ulster has focussed on the north coast, and rightly so. But in a short space of time, our distillery has earned its place on an Irish whiskey map that has been transformed in recent years. We look forward to working together with our friends and colleagues across the industry to promote Ireland as a premier whiskey tourism destination.”