Kerry firm has the right spirit

Dingle Distillery co-founder Liam LaHart tells Trish Dromey the company is ready to go global.

A west Kerry distillery is aiming to make the Dingle Peninsula as famous for its craft whiskey as it is for its wild rugged scenery, its characterful pubs and its friendly dolphin.

The shipping of its first consignment of whiskey to the US next month is set to be a milestone event for Dingle Distillery, which produced its first whiskey in a tin shed in Dingle in winter 2012 and went on to develop and sell Dingle gin and vodka.

The company’s third release of single malt whiskey next month will be significantly larger than previous ones, and according to company co-founder Liam LaHart, is an indication that the company has built up sufficient stock to seek some global attention.

Whilst Irish whiskey is now enjoying unprecedented international popularity, and sales of all nationalities of gin are soaring, this was not the case when the idea for a distillery in Dingle was first mooted in the mid 2000s.

It was suggested by Oliver Hughes, one of the three co-founders of the Porterhouse Brewing Company, which had been brewing craft beer since the 1990s.

“When he suggested distilling whiskey in Dingle I thought of the problems of distance and logistics, since it’s a

four-hour drive from Dublin. I thought of the cash flow problems caused because of the fact that you can’t sell whiskey for a minimum of three years after distilling it,” said Mr LaHart who because the recession was still biting, predicted doom and gloom.

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A rare bottle of #DinglePotStillWhiskey outside our snowed-in distillery this morning. The release of our Pot Still Whiskey last year marked a huge milestone for us and the history of Irish whiskey, making it the first new Irish Pot Still to be created since the beginning of the Irish whiskey renaissance, and making the #DingleWhiskeyDistillery only the second distillery on the island of Ireland to produce a Pot Still. If you’re lucky enough to own one of only 800 bottles that were produced of Dingle Pot Still Whiskey, know that you own a small piece of Irish whiskey history 🥃.. • • • • • #DingleDistillery #PotStillWhiskey #PotStill #IrishWhiskey #DingleWhiskey #whiskey #Dingle #Distillery #Snow #Kerry

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But he and co-founder and distiller, Peter Mosley were persuaded of the merits of distilling whiskey in Dingle by Mr Hughes who came up with a creative crowdfunding plan to raise the necessary finance.

In 2011 they announced the Founding Fathers — a plan to pre-sell 500 casks of craft whiskey. Although all they had at this point was an idea, Mr Hughes used his persuasive powers to sell all 500 and raise €3m by 2011.

“This gave us a premises, a distillery and cash flow for our first year,” said Mr LaHart, adding that Mr Hughes came up with a second plan to generate a revenue stream to keep the company operational while it waited for the

whiskey to mature.

“This involved distilling vodka and gin — we thought we would make a lot of vodka and some gin, since

gin wasn’t very popular,” he said pointing out that the timing was perfect, since it turned out that a gin revival was just about to happen.

The new company set up operations at a former sawmill, a corrugated iron building overlooking Dingle bay.

“We purchased equipment from Scotland, sourced malted barley from Irish farmers and started distilling in December 2012.”

Mr LaHart believes it was the first purpose built distillery to be built in Ireland in over 100 years. The first casks laid down were used for the Founding Fathers but since 2013 the company has been laying down casks which can be sold when ready or left to mature further.

Since 2012 Dingle Distillery has raised €2.5m in EIIS (Employment Incentive and Investment Scheme) funding. Its staff has grown from four to 15 and is set to reach 20 by the end of the year.

The company has been selling gin in Ireland since 2012 and exporting it to the US since 2016.

“We now have a new bottling line and gin still and plan to quadruple production capacity,” said Mr LaHart.

Through sales of gin and vodka, and two earlier releases of whiskey on the Irish market, Dingle distillery has,

according to Mr LaHart, been growing turnover by 30% to 40% each year.

He says the company is now self-sufficient but is looking for €2m for its latest plan — to develop a state-of-the-art visitor centre.

Although the banks refused to lend to a distillery he thinks they could look more favourably on this proposal — a visitor centre in one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, where tourists can go on a rainy day.

Plans for this year include fundraising for this expanding gin production and developing exports.

Said Mr LaHart: “This year we will sell in the US, the UK and Germany and we will send a shipment to Asia in September.”

His long-term aim is to see Dingle Whiskey selling around the world.

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