Sligo Weekender

Distillery gets €15m and will run 24 hours a day

- By John Bromley

HAZELWOOD-based Lough Gill Distillery has secured a €15 million debt financing facility and is now to run a 24 hours a day process to ramp up production. The financing, from PNC Bank, a top-five lender to retail and business customers in the United States, will be used to fund the production of 600,000 litres of pure alcohol each year at the distillery, which produces Athrú single malt whiskey.

The financing facility has been specifical­ly designed to support the cash flow profile of a scaling whiskey distillery and is not due to be repaid until after the liquid has fully matured into single malt whiskey.

Lough Gill Distillery has also announced the launch of the Athrú Cask Reserve, an innovative online offering of whiskey in its purest form at cask strength.

And the distillery owners have said they are committed to reinvestin­g a portion of these sales in rejuvenati­ng the estate surroundin­g the distillery and sustainabi­lity projects.

Lough Gill Distillery founder David Raethorne said this week that they were delighted to have secured this new long-term funding facility from PNC Bank. “Securing funding from a highly respected internatio­nal lender really is a validation of the renaissanc­e of the Irish whiskey industry in recent times. We can now take our time over producing Athrú single malt and lay it down to be enjoyed in many years’ time when it is ready and has matured into the finest Irish single malt whiskey.

“We’re also excited to open the doors to the innovative Athrú Cask Reserve offering access to unique single cask bottlings as well as the opportunit­y to become a part of our story by laying down your own personal supply of Athrú single malt,” he said.

The Cask Reserve provides an opportunit­y for people to lay down their own personal supply of single malt to be enjoyed in the future (€8,500-€12,000 for an entire cask).

For those who can’t wait to take their first sip, Athrú has also released a select few individual casks as single cask bottlings (€95 to €195) and has an entire cask of 16-year-old finished in a rare Hungarian Tokaji sweet wine cask for €48,000.

The distillery was founded in 2014 using the warehouse complex used previously by Snia and Saehan, which lies behind the 300-year-old Hazelwood House. These buildings have been repurposed into a world-class single malt distillery which was commission­ed in 2019. Uniquely in Ireland, the distillery has onsite bonded warehousin­g for up to 15 years production, enabling whiskey maturation and cask finishing to take place surrounded by the same local microclima­te.

Ollie Alcorn, who is head distiller at the distillery, says that they ready to begin upscaling production, from 300,000 lpa (litre of pure alcohol) to 600,000 lpa, is something they’ve been spending the last year preparing for.

On the distillery’s website he points out that Irish whiskey is ever-growing in popularity, particular­ly in countries like Japan. He also says they also want to be “even more efficient while making our whiskey – our plant was designed to run 24/7, and in doing so, we’ll be improving the heat recovery and yield from our state-of-the-art equipment”. “We’ll finally get the chance to see what our three stills can do at full capacity, which is going to be pretty exciting,” he says. He adds: “These changes don’t just happen though, there’s lots of work going on at the Lough Gill Distillery to make sure we have everything in place for the seamless transition.

“You might notice a few more friendly faces about the distillery, and that’s because we’re expanding the team, adding three more full-time staff to help operate the distillery night and day. Not only is this a great opportunit­y to build the team, we also hope it’ll develop the next generation of Irish single malt distillers, too.”

The distillery will be running 24/7, beginning this month, Ollie says that they will be running the plant on a 24-hour cycle, two days on and two days off. “These 12-hour shifts will help to prepare our distillery operators for upcoming 12 hour shifts and nights shifts, too. Then, from July, we’ll run the plant on a 24/7 cycle, four days on and four days off, in 12-hour shifts.”

The distillery will also be taking on another person to assist in the warehouse, cutting back spirit and filling casks.

“We’ll be filling between 130140 casks per week so we’ll need the extra pair of hands,” he says. He says that to upscale the production effectivel­y and efficientl­y, their demand for gas, malt, yeast and water will be much higher than it has been previously.

“Luckily, with our own water source and barley being planted onsite at Hazelwood for the first time, to complement our existing barley supply from heritage barley growers in Hook Head, Co. Wexford, this shouldn’t be a problem.”

 ??  ?? An aerial view of the Lough Gill Distillery with Hazelwood House in front.
An aerial view of the Lough Gill Distillery with Hazelwood House in front.
 ??  ?? Distillery founder David Raethorne and, above left, head distiller Ollie Alcorn.
Distillery founder David Raethorne and, above left, head distiller Ollie Alcorn.

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