First Belfast distillery since Prohibition is set to open in November

Titanic Distillers directors Peter Lavery and Richard Irwin with economy minister Gordon Lyons and Invest NI interim chief executive Mel Chittock
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BELFAST'S first working distillery since the era of Prohibition will open to visitors this November.

It represents a £7.6 million investment by Titanic Distillers owners Norlin Ventures (headed by Richard Irwin and Stephen Symington) and Lottery millionaire businessman Peter Lavery.

They have painstakingly converted the historic Titanic Pump House in Thompson Dry Dock, which was opened in 1911 to accommodate the massive White Star liners Olympic and Titanic.

When fully functional, the attraction will employ 41 people in distilling, hospitality and sales, and it could welcome up to 100,000 visitors a year.

The distillery will produce quality single malt Irish whiskey, contributing to the growth of the north’s whiskey cluster.

Like its rival distillery at Crumlin Road Gaol - which was announced in August but won't open until the end of next year - the Titanic Distillery scheme is benefitting from government aid, in this case £800,000 from Invest NI.

The conversion of the Pump House will include the installation of three huge stills on a mezzanine floor overlooking the original pumping engines.

And all of the original pump equipment ad associated internal historic features of the building will be retained.

“Finally bringing these exciting plans to life is significant for us, and we're genuine about wanting to bring Belfast back to the forefront of Irish whiskey production,” Titanic Distillers director Richard Irwin said.

He added: “There is a lucrative global market opportunity for Irish whiskey and we’re already seeing great success for our Titanic Distillers Premium Irish Whiskey in retailers throughout Great Britain.

“With this significant investment in a dedicated distillery, we’ll soon be able to produce and bottle our own products on this historic site and build on our success to date to grow in global markets, with an initial focus on the US.

“We’re very excited to embrace the history of our distillery’s location to create a unique product and visitor experience in a World Heritage Site, immersed in the spirit of Belfast’s industrial and maritime past.”

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, on a visit to Titanic Pump-House to see progress on the scheme, said: “By making such a significant investment, this local start-up has already been able to increase its global sales and is now set to provide an exciting new tourism offering for Belfast and Northern Ireland.

“When all the jobs are in place by the end of 2024, it will see over £1 million of additional annual salaries going in to the local economy.”

Titanic Distillers has availed of £2 million of funding from Whiterock Finance through the Growth Finance Fund, part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of funds, with finance provided by the British Business Bank, Invest NI and private investors, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).