The first distillery to be built on an Irish island in modern times is nearing completion and those behind it have already trademarked the gin and whiskey it will produce.
The distillery is being financed and built by islanders on Cape Clear in an effort to boost the local economy — but they are also inviting shareholders to come on board. They dug into their own pockets after an investor pulled out due to a very lengthy, costly, difficult, but ultimately successful planning process. Efforts to get another investor failed and a decision was made to develop the project themselves.
Cape Clear Co-op stepped into the gap along with a number of the 130-strong island population.
Séamus Ó Drisceoil, who is spokesman for the project, said they have been developing it on a step-by-step basis.
“In doing so, we expect to keep development costs to a minimum by using local skills and investment, re-purposing buildings and materials where possible and finding every possible way to reduce cost and create value,” he said.
Cape Clear Distillery owns the most productive well on the island, which is located 500m from the distillery site, close to a disused fish farm. The pipework has been completed between the well and the site and locals are trying to get the water flowing.
“The former hatchery building on the site is being re-purposed as an initial gin distillery with considerable work achieved throughout the winter and we are currently doing the internal cladding of the gin production area,” said Mr Ó Drisceoil.
Meanwhile, the gin still has been ordered and the master distiller, Roy Court, will take control of the operations, assisted by his daughter, Ruth Court. Roy has more than 40 years’ experience as a consultant in the drinks industry.
Another dilapidated building has been completely re-clad in local stone as a ‘facilities’ building and a lot of work has been done on the general access to and surroundings of the site to make it more attractive and consistent with the views.
“We already have high-quality brands created for both gin and whiskey which are fully trademarked in the EU and we have been awarded €29,000 in funding by Údarás na Gaeltachta,” said Mr Ó Drisceoil.
Chris Mason of The Digital Agency is working with the islanders on an online marketing strategy, including a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstart which is due to be launched very shortly.
“We have EII Tax Relief approval and are currently accepting shareholders,” said Mr Ó Drisceoil.
We are advising prospective shareholders to invest modestly at this stage, to get us to our first goal with a view towards a more substantial investment later.
“We also have ‘fun shares’ available. These are €100 preference shares which are redeemable against products from the company. Anyone who purchases these shares will get a discount on ordinary shares purchased later on.”
This is not the first time there has been a distillery on the island. Records show two boatloads of Cromwellian soldiers who landed on it in the mid-1600s ended up getting drunk on locally-produced poitín.