New working whiskey distillery planned for Belfast's Titanic Quarter

 The Thompson dry dock (left) and pump house, next to HMS Caroline. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Ryan McAleer

PLANS have emerged to develop a new working whiskey distillery at the site where the Titanic was constructed.

Titanic Distillers’ proposal centres on an existing pump-house building at the Thompson Dry Dock next to the HMS Caroline attraction in Belfast Harbour.

Opened in 1911, Thompson Dry Dock was built to accommodate the massive White Star liners Olympic and Titanic.

The dry dock has become a key tourism feature of the Titanic Quarter, but it also sits next to one of the north’s most important business and innovation hubs, Catlyst, formerly known as the Northern Ireland Science Park.

The application, which remains at the pre-planning stage, seeks permission to turn the on-site café/restaurant in the pump house into a new distillery and tourist centre.

Titanic Distillers Ltd was set up in August 2018. It’s linked to Belfast-based investment company Norlin Ventures, which is owned by Richard Irwin and Stephen Symington.

The venture capitalist’s diverse portfolio includes the new Holiday Inn Express hotel in Derry, a British touring car racing team and a small film compay.

They have brought Belfast planning consultancy O’Toole & Starkey on board for the new whiskey venture.

A new website set up for the company suggests it will focus on its own brand of premium Irish whiskey.

The pump-house is a listed building, while the dock itself remains a scheduled monument.

Outlining the nature of the proposal, O’Toole & Starkey said all distillery equipment and new internal mezzanine floors would be supported by a floating structure within the pump-house “to avoid any harmful intrusive works to the fabric of the listed building”.

 The proposed floor plan for the new whiskey distillery.

The consultants added: “All pump equipment and associated internal historic features of the building will also be retained in-situ and available to view as part of the visitor tour.”

The exterior of the pump house would remain untouched under the plan.

Part of the new proposal would require the distillery and visitor centre obtaining an area of neighbouring Catalyst’s car park.

A pre-application consultation phase will continue until the end of December.

The feedback is expected to feed into the overall proposal, which will progress to a full planning application in 2021.

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