Barry’s Tea gin is just the tonic

Blackwater Distillery expects to have sold the 10,000 bottles of this one-off brand, named after Cork’s iconic tea producer, by the end of the month, writes Trish Dromey.

Launching Barry’s Tea Gin on the market for Christmas was an inspired decision by Blackwater Distillery. It expects to have sold all of its 10,000 bottles by the end of the month.

The founder and creative director of the Cappoquin-based company, Peter Mulryan, says Barry’s Tea dismissed the idea when he first proposed it, but he was delighted that they agreed when he asked a second time, because it’s been hugely popular. “For a small craft distillery to sell this much gin in just two months is quite amazing,” he said.

According to the company’s website, distilled tea is married with traditional accompaniments like cardamon, cinnamon and lemon with a good measure of juniper stirred in. Before bottling,

we have a brew up, and these large pots of tea get stirred added in to the gin prior to bottling and that’s what give Barry’s Tea Gin its golden glow.

It puts Backwater on track to achieving sales of €2.6m this year, which is also quite a feat for a small craft company that was only set up three years.

This level of growth has been achieved via its bestselling gin, Blackwater No 5, which is available in Tesco and SuperValu nationally, and by producing Boyle’s Gin under contract for Aldi, in addition to the phenomenal success of Barry’s Tea Gin.

The company has recently started work on a new, €1.1m distillery in the nearby village of Ballyduff. This will facilitate further growth and allow Mr Mulryan to make plans for exports.

The founding of Blackwater Distillery came about because of Mr Mulryan’s desire “to find a better Irish gin”.

In 2013, the craft gin trend had started in the US and the UK and he decided that the Irish market was ready.

A TV producer and author of several books about whiskey, he pitched the craft gin idea to work colleagues during a late-night shoot.

“The camera man, Barry Donnellan, and the sound engineer, Kieran Curtin, immediately agreed to come on board as directors,” Mr Mulryan said.

Started with €100,000 in funding in a small unit in Cappoquin Enterprise Park, Blackwater became one of

Ireland’s first craft distilleries in 2015.

“We decided to set up in Waterford, because there was already a Cork gin.” he said.

Getting support from the Local Enterprise Office, he bought a still and produced the first product, Blackwater No 5 Gin.

By the time this went on the market, the gin craze, which had started in the US and taken hold in the UK, had arrived in Ireland. “It was relatively easy to sell. We went to off-licences and they wanted to buy it.”

he added.

The early difficulty was funding, not shortage of demand, but during 2016, the company grew sales, took on a distributor, and gained publicity by winning an award at an international wine and spirits competition.

“This gave us recognition as a serious player,” said Mr Mulryan.

At the end of the year, we got a contract to make Boyle’s Gin for Aldi — this was huge for us and required increased capacity,” added Mr Mulryan, who borrowed to buy new equipment for the plant, which employs both himself, Kieran Curtin, and three part-timers.

Since the existing premises don’t have space to increase capacity sufficiently to develop exports, distil whiskey, or to open a visitor centre, Mr Mulryan started making plans to move.

With investment of €1m from BDO Capital, work has now started on turning an old hardware store in Ballyduff into a state-of-the-art, 12,000 sq ft distillery with a visitor centre.

“We expect it to be ready by the summer,” said Mr Mulryan, who has ordered three new stills from Italy, which will be used to produce both gin and “niche whiskey with a point of difference”.

The company recently launched a 17-year-old single malt, Retronaut, distilled elsewhere, but bottled at Blackwater.

Blackwater have a small percentage of exports, selling Blackwater No 5 to Germany, France, and the UK, and also shipping some vodka to Finland. Once the new facility is up and running, Mr Mulryan sees scope to develop new markets.

His immediate new year plans will include a conversation with the owners of Barry’s Tea. The previous agreement was a once-off of 10,000 bottles, but it has been so popular that he’s hoping they will agree to more.

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