Lough Neagh Distillers raise spirits with a breakthrough US export deal

SPIRIT OF LOUGH NEAGH: Pictured celebrating the landmark deal are (from left) Lough Neagh Distillers’ managing director Max Hayes, spirits portfolio director Sorcha Mulholland and founder/owner Vernon Fox
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE north's newest artisan distillery, based on the shores of Lough Neagh, is toasting its first major export success after securing a six-figure deal to supply craft whiskey and gin to more than 100 retail outlets in one of the largest US states Pennsylvania.

Set up only 15 months ago by Lurgan-born entrepreneur Vernon Fox and built around the myths, folklore and heritage associated with one of Europe's largest freshwater lakes, Lough Neagh Distillers will now significantly scale its existing range of craft spirits and Spade:Town craft beer offerings beyond the UK and Ireland.

The US breakthrough, confirmed during a recent trade mission organised by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, has helped Lough Neagh Distillers to fast-forward its ambitions to crack the US market.

It will supply more than 100 retail outlets in Pennsylvania with Lough Neagh Distillers-branded Irish whiskey and gin from its new premium range, which will include a 18-year matured ‘Coney Island Irish Whiskey' and a six and three-year matured ‘O'Neill's Tower' and ‘Ferryman's' brands.

Having recently secured premises, the company will also begin distilling on-site at its own craft brewery and distillery in Lurgan, which is due to open in July.

Its first products go on sale in the US in May, and its export target is 20,000 cases by 2023.

“This transformational deal realises our ambitions and means immediate expansion and renewed investment to scale up our operations at home,” owner Vernon Fox said.

“The ABC Council trade mission has been a game-changer for our company. Having secured approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to sell our products in their jurisdiction, we're now able to ramp up our growth plans by 18 to 24 months.

“During the visit, we also met with senior delegates from the Irish American Business Chamber and Network, who are helping us to open new doors and markets. We're in a strong position and we're only getting started.”

He added: “Our unique proposition is built on more than a century of history and tradition, and on Irish legends and folklore that span centuries.

“To date we have been able to work with and learn from the best that Northern Ireland has to offer in this industry, and we're excited to strike out on our own now. We have assembled a team with decades of experience in this specialist field from a beautiful and unique location that is steeped in tradition.”

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