New £15m Co Down whiskey and gin distillery to create 42 jobs

Hinch Distillery managing director, Derek Hardy (left), with Invest NI's Brian Dolaghan (right)
Ryan McAleer

A NEW £15million whiskey and gin distillery in Co Down is expected to begin operating by February.

The Hinch Distillery, backed by one of the north’s best known business figures, Terry Cross, is set to create up to 42 jobs at the 30,000 sq ft facility under construction between Belfast and Ballynahinch.

The two-story building will include a large whiskey and gin distillery, bottling line, storage facilities and offices. A visitor centre with a café, restaurant and pub is also being constructed on site.

It will include events spaces, designed to cater for weddings and corporate events.

The finished project is expected to be officially launched next summer.

The company says the distillery’s tourist potential could see it attract 100,000 visitors each year.

Belfast company Drinksology, which was involved in developing Diageo's new whiskey distillery in Dublin, Roe & Co, has been recruited by the new drinks firm.

Dr Cross co-founded Delta Print and Packaging company in Belfast during 1981. The business was acquired by Finnish packaging giant Huhtamaki three years ago in a deal worth around £80m.

His latest venture has been offered £1.9m by Invest NI toward the construction of the distillery as well as plant, machinery and equipment. The economic support agency said it expects the new distillery to be generating up to £1.3m in annual salaries within five years.

Hinch Distillery Ltd, set up just three months after the Huhtamaki acquisition in 2016, is already selling its own branded whiskey and gin into 15 international markets.

 How the new distillery will look

To date, the drinks company has been sourcing whiskey and gin from around Ireland for its own branded products, which includes Ninth Wave gin.

Hinch expects to begin distilling its own gin at the new premises during February and March.

Whiskey distilled by the firm on site will be launched after three years. Legally, Irish whiskey must be aged in a cask for a minimum of three years.

Belfast native Aaron Flaherty, has been appointed head distiller. His 15 years experience includes roles at Bushmills and Scotch distillery sites.

The distillery is not the first investment in the sector by Dr Cross. He rescued the Château de La Ligne vineyard in Bordeaux over 20 years ago.

“Irish whiskey has continually been the fastest growing spirit category in the world over the last 10 years, nearly trebling in size,” he said.

“This trend is forecast to continue in the future with Irish whiskey beginning to approach and indeed overtake sales of Scotch in many international markets. The world gin market has also witnessed phenomenal growth in the last few years yet still has huge potential to grow in markets where gin is still a relatively small category.

“We are launching the Hinch Distillery to provide visitors with a highly differentiated product and experience that couples the production of our quality spirits with a story and heritage. We hope it will become an attraction in its own right and offer guests a real understanding of the skills and methods needed to produce our spirits.”

Dr Cross has taken on the role of company chairman, with Derek Hardy in place as managing director.

He will be the Company Chairman of Hinch Distillery while Derek Hardy will undertake the role of Managing Director.

“Our goal is to double our export markets by the end of 2020 and the timing of the Hinch Distillery opening couldn’t come at a better time for us,” said Mr Hardy.

“We want to celebrate our successful products at home, where they are made and invite Northern Ireland to be part of that.”

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