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Behind the scenes at Quintessential Brands' The Dublin Liberties Distillery – Focus

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Yesterday, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Simon Coveney, closed the door on the third still at Quintessential Brands' The Dublin Liberties Distillery. Spirit for Irish whiskey, which is traditionally triple distilled, can now start to be produced at the new site. Deputy editor Lucy Britner took a tour with Darryl McNally, director of Irish whiskey and also master distiller at The Dublin Liberties.

The Dublin Liberties Distillery opened this week

The Dublin Liberties Distillery opened this week

The smell of fresh paint at The Dublin Liberties will next week be replaced with the smell of new-make spirit as the distillery becomes the third to operate in the city. The facility joins Teeling, which virtually backs on to The Dublin Liberties Distillery, and Pearse Lyons, a 20-minute walk away and just around the corner from the Guinness Storehouse. Meanwhile, Diageo's Roe & Co site is expected to join the line-up later this year.

On the island of Ireland, there are 22 operating distilleries, with 22 more planned. In 2013, there were just four. As the groundswell of excitement around the category continues, Quintessential Brands hopes its new brand home will attract 80,000 visitors this year.

While the site will produce new make spirit, ageing whiskey within Dublin is not permitted, McNally explains, owing to 'The Great Whiskey Fire' of 1875, which saw thousands of barrels ignite and flow through the streets, killing 13 people. The master distiller says the company's whiskey will be aged at warehouses in Country Wexford, in the south-east of Ireland.

The distillery, which is 25% owned by Stock Spirits, will make The Dubliner and The Dublin Liberties brands as well as The Dead Rabbit brand (which is not part of the deal with Stock Spirits).

All whiskey produced at the new site will be single malt and while Irish whiskey traditionally calls for triple distillation, McNally sees the new distillery as a playground for innovation. He says that although there are no current plans for a double distillation or peated expression, for example, he will be experimenting. "Millennial consumers expect innovation," he says.

Within the current portfolio, The Dubliner brand is, according to McNally, "what you expect Irish whiskey to be". The Liberties brand, which always carries an age statement, is "more for experiments and innovations". The brands are currently sold in around 30 markets, with 2018 sales hitting 37,000 nine-litre cases. The aim is to break the 50,000-case mark this year. 

Down the line, the new Dublin site offers Quintessential room to grow volumes. McNally says that the distillery can produce 2.1m bottles of single malt per year, with some of that going for blending. The Dubliner, for example, is a blend of single malt and grain whiskey.

When it comes to reaching new markets, the group expects the deal with Stock to provide opportunities in countries such as Czech and Poland. Distribution, McNally warns, should be a key consideration for the raft of new distilleries opening in Ireland. "I don't think all of the new distilleries will survive," he says, explaining that having a clear route-to-market is essential.

Aside from Irish whiskey, Quintessential has several brands in the gin category and, earlier this year, announced plans to open a distillery for its Thomas Dakin gin brand, in Manchester.

As drinks tourism and authenticity continue to resonate with consumers, Quintessential will surely look at its portfolio to see which other brands could benefit from a place to call home.

Why Irish whiskey must learn to manage its time - Click here for a just-drinks comment


Sectors: Spirits

Companies: Diageo, Guinness

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