Copeland Distillery sends first shipments to US after securing new trade deals

Copeland Distillery founder, Gareth Irvine.
Copeland Distillery founder, Gareth Irvine.

A DONAGHADEE-based distiller has begun shipping its products to six states in America, with a further five to be added by the end of the year.

The Copeland Distillery sent its first shipment of 15,000 bottles of gin, whiskey and rum to America yesterday (Monday). These will be sold in Texas, Arizona, New Hampshire, Colorado, Missouri and Georgia.

By the end of the year the company plans to ship over 40,000 bottles to the latter destinations and a further five states.

The contracts were made possible through a partnership between Copeland Distillery and trade promotion firm Tradebright, which has offices in Waterford, Washington and Los Angeles.

Gareth Irvine, founder of Copeland Distillery said accessing the US market is notoriously difficult for distilleries, with each state having different regulations.

“It is an expensive and time consuming process," he said.

"With each state having different rules and each product having to be registered in each state, that means we'll have 200 different registrations if we sell four products into each state but that’s the market and we’re primed to deliver significant volumes.”

The distillery’s export focus is on its core range: Rhuberry Gin, Jones 1778 Navy Strength Gin, Smugglers’ Reserve Rum and Merchants’ Quay Blended Irish Whiskey.

Mr Irvine says while the market is competitive in the US, he expects the company’s gin product to stand out, having been the only gin awarded 99 points by the International Spirit and Wine Competition (IWSC) this year.

“Gin still isn’t as big in America as it is here. We’re going in there as a small player but we’re spearheading that by the awards we’ve won, being one of the highest scoring gins in the world. When we go in at that level, it gives our customers an extra boost in confidence in the product.”

The company’s next move is to look at other US states as well as Canada, where it is already in talks, the Middle East and Europe.

“We’re not out to hit as many markets as we can, but focus on a select few,” said Mr Irvine.

Mary Daniels, director of global trade at Tradebright which has helped secure the distillery's US deals said: “The Copeland range has already sparked an interest with US buyers and distributors as there are so few Irish craft distilleries producing such a diverse range of premium quality rum, whiskey and gin.

“Consumers’ continued demand for uniquely crafted and great tasting spirits, from producers with great brand stories will continue to transform the industry for years to come, so supporting impressive Irish producers like Copeland on their journey is a priority for us. With six states already signed up and more in the pipeline, we’re looking forward to establishing the Copeland brand right across the US over the next few years.”

Mark Prentice, commercial director at The Copeland Distillery said the new contracts will make 2022 a “transformative year” for the business.

“A lot has changed domestically too with new listings across Northern Ireland and an expanding footprint in the Republic of Ireland, with Classic Drinks recently appointed to distribute the range.

"This is on top of recent legislative changes which mean we can now sell and sample our products on-site which has completely transformed our distillery experience.

"Our new producers’ licence means that we can significantly grow our online business and operate our tours as we always envisioned we would. All of this ensures that we can attract new visitors to the distillery and create more jobs in the local area," he said.

The business has increased its team from 11 to 15 and it has created an American-focused wing team.

The Copeland Distillery opened its Donaghadee site in 2019, investing more than £1m into a former community centre and cinema that had lay dormant in the heart of the town for 20 years.