Pat Rigney chose ‘remote and wild’ Drumshambo to distill gin and whiskey for world markets, writes Trish Dromey.
OF ALL the potential gin joints in all the world, drinks industry veteran Pat Rigney chose Drumshambo when he decided to create a new drinks brand.
Despite being told he was crazy to opt for a small remote Leitrim town, Mr Rigney chose it because he believed the name and the place was exactly right for the super premium quality drinks brand he wanted to create.
“Many of the main drinks brands have become predictable and homogenised. I wanted to create something different. I wanted to find a place with a story–somewhere that was remote and wild,” he says. Now his company’s story involves the establishment of the first distillery in Connacht in 100 years. And as he targets international markets, the company tells of drinks distilled in “the wild rugged unspoiled countryside of Drumshambo”. Part of the story is also the fact that the venture is called , although it’s not in a shed but housed in a 10,000 sq ft facility following a €2.5m investment.
Two years after setting up, the company is laying down 700 casks of whiskey a year and waiting for it to mature. Since December 2015, Mr Rigney has also been distilling and selling Drumshambo Gunpower Gin. “Our largest market is Ireland and we have sales in the UK, Benelux, France, Denmark, Switzerland the US and Denmark and are about to start selling to Israel,” he says.
Mr Rigney, who worked for Baileys, Gilbeys, C&C and Grant’s and previously launched Boru Vodka, spent several years germinating an idea for a new drinks brand to satisfy the growing international demand for Irish whiskey. He spent a year searching for the right location.
“When I visited the old jam factory in Drumshambo in December 2013 the locals showed up. I was impressed with them and with the place,” he says. A year later, The Shed Distillery began producing grand cru pot still and single malt whiskey. Using a specially designed copper still, it recruited a craft distiller from the US and trained four locals as assistant distillers.
While waiting for the whiskey to mature, Mr Rigney focused his attention on gin, aiming to produce a “slow, hand-distilled gin with oriental botanicals and gunpowder tea--to surprise and excite customers in a busy market category”. For its Drumshambo Gunpowder Irish Gin, which retails at €49, the company chose blue apothecary style bottles which feature a drawing of an antlered rabbit (the mythical Jackanory) and carry the wording “from the curious mind of PJ Rigney”. It was designed to stand out from the ordinary.
Now employing a staff of 12, the company secured €275,000 in High Potential Start Up funding from Enterprise Ireland, as well as €250,000 in EIIS funding. Drumshambo Gin is being distributed in Ireland by Dalcassian Wines & Spirits, a company which is part-owned by Mr Rigney. Building up exports, in a highly competitive market, has according to its managing director, been a slow and difficult process.
“We sent out our first export in July 2016. It’s going well. We are getting good revenue but it’s very early days – it can take four or five years to successfully launch a new drink,” he says. He believes that the key to achieving success is in creating a drink that’s’ “special, exclusive and collectible – with an authentic point of difference” and says the company has achieved this with Drumshambo gin.
“We have designed it to be a world leader. It is special because of the distillation, the taste, the quality and its authentic story,” he says. The first Drumshambo whiskey will be ready for tasking by the Winter Solstice. Meanwhile, he is focusing on gin sales and has applied for planning permission for a new visitor centre at Drumshambo, which will cost €1m, and could employ an additional 10 staff.
By 2021, Mr Rigney expects Drumshambo distillery to be generating a turnover of in excess of €5m.
Company: The Shed Distillery
Location: Drumshambo, Co Leitrim
Managing Director: Pat Rigney.