Cape Clear islanders are toasting success after getting planning permission to become the first offshore community in the country to develop a whiskey distillery.
Many islanders raided their savings to help develop the plan for a €7m distillery and visitor centre which, it is hoped, will boost its economy and provide jobs.
The planning application was put together by Cape Clear Co-op, but along the way it has lost a major investor which could hold up the building process.
Cape Clear Co-op project manager Seamus Ó Drisceoil said receiving approval from Cork County Council was good news. “But we will have to work extremely hard now to bring it to fruition,” he added.
Mr Ó Drisceoil thanked islanders who had invested in the project to date.
“The project was initiated by Adrian Fitzgibbon, a resident of Horse Island, who assembled a super team of very professional people for the project and we will continue to work with that team. We are now working to get the project to investor stage.”
The plan involves the building of a visitor centre at the distillery, which will have a balcony overlooking the whole distilling process so visitors won’t disturb the production flow.
While there is no timeframe in place to start construction, it is hoped that once it is built it will create 15 jobs in the distillery itself and increase tourism-related jobs on the island as a spin-off.
The co-op has already carried out extensive hydrogeological and geophysical surveys and established a new quality water source which will be used to supply the distillery.
Mr Ó Drisceoil said the ultimate aim of the co-op is to provide sustainable jobs on the island — and that the whiskey project is ideal for this.
Both population and employment have declined on the island in the last 150 years.
The current permanent population is about 130, but numbers swell at weekends and normally triple during the summer.
“The distillery would be compatible with the island’s tourism product,” said Mr Ó Drisceoil.
“This is the right way to go for a small community which has great natural resources. It will help with sustainable employment.”
This will be the first legal distillery on an Irish island. A number of Scottish islands have created their own distilleries which have proved to be very successful in recent years and created employment.
However, it is not the first distillery on Cape Clear.
The West Cork region has a long history of illegal production of whiskey and poitin.
In fact if it wasn’t for an illegal distillery being in operation on Cape Clear during Cromwellian times, the whole population might have been wiped out.
Two boat loads of Cromwellian soldiers were sent over to smash up the island. All the islanders fled except for one elderly lady who was operating a shebeen.
The soldiers were so intent on drinking at it that they didn’t do any damage and after they left, the population returned to intact houses.
Mr Ó Drisceoil said the co-op would be concentrating on finding external investors to push the project forward.
One of the country’s best-known craft beer manufacturers has announced it is rolling out some of its products in cans. The Franciscan Well, based in Cork, is delivering 330ml cans of its award-winning Rebel Red, Friar Weisse and Chieftain IPA to off-licences around the country.
The Franciscan Well range has also been rebranded with a new logo, which no longer includes the image of the monk.
Franciscan Well founder Shane Long said it was an exciting development for the company. All brewing and canning will take place at Franciscan Well’s new brewery in Cork City which opened last year.
“The decision to move to the canned format reflects the growing trend within craft beer internationally, whereby more and more products are sold in 330ml can format. This is something that has been prevalent in the US and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case in Ireland as we roll out craft in a can for consumers here in Ireland,” Mr Long said.
In the US 30% of all craft beer is now consumed from cans.
Mr Long said consumers are increasingly choosing to buy craft beer in cans for a number of reasons.
Cans are more lightweight and portable than bottles, meaning they are easier for consumers to enjoy in more places. They are also infinitely recyclable, chill more quickly and, crucially, are better at protecting the taste of the beer, according to Mr Long.
He said the new logo more clearly reflects the provenance of the brand and its roots in Cork.
“The new identity and logo retains the strength of the previous mark, while emphasising that this is very firmly an Irish beer, established in Cork and still brewed there,” Mr Long added.
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