McConnell’s Irish Whisky opens new home at Crumlin Road Gaol

Distillery and Visitor Experience will employ 50 people and attract 100,000 visitors per year

 John Kelly, CEO Belfast Distillery Company, First Minister Michelle O’Neill, deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly, US Special Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy

McConnell’s Distillery and Visitor Experience officially opened its doors at Crumlin Road Gaol this week, joined by the First Minister and deputy First Minister and US Special Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy. The new Distillery, which is already employing 34 people, is expected to attract 100,000 visitors each year and will be a significant addition to the Irish Whiskey industry as well as providing a significant boost to both Belfast and Northern Ireland’s expanding tourist offering.

The McConnell’s Distillery and Visitor Experience, built over the last two years in the ‘A’ wing of the iconic gaol, cost £12m as part of an overall £30m investment in the company. The Department for Infrastructure has provided Belfast Distillery Company with the lease to develop its distillery within the historic Grade A listed building while the Department for Communities and Invest Northern Ireland have both provided funding. The public-private
investment is completed via support from Santander Bank.

The McConnell’s management team is led by chief executive John Kelly, who comes from north
Belfast.  He said: “We have worked towards this day for the last number of years and now this project has gone from being a shared, ambitious vision to a working reality. We are all very proud of what has been achieved here thanks to our investors, partners and team. Working with Invest NI and the local Government departments, we have turned an empty wing of an historic gaol into a place of investment, employment and opportunity, and it is now the home of the famous McConnell’s Irish Whisky which was originally born in Belfast in 1776.”

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I am committed to maximising every opportunity to further strengthen our economy and improve the lives of all our citizens. This new Distillery is a remarkable story of imagination, innovation and determination. I want to ensure this is a place where entrepreneurs can thrive and where people can
come and work in first class facilities such as we see here today. Let us all work together to help make this an even more successful and prosperous place for the future generations.”

The Irish Whiskey Association’s Eoin Ó’Catháin  with John Kelly, CEO, McConnell’s Distillery and and Cormac Healy, Drinks Ireland

The Irish Whiskey Association, the representative body for the all-island Irish whiskey industry, also welcomed the opening remarking that it is newest distillery on the island of Ireland, and brings the number of distilleries among the membership of the trade association to 50.

The distillery is poised to produce 500,000 litres of pure alcohol (LPA) per annum, and it is already bringing 34 long-term employment opportunities to what is one of the more economically marginalised areas of Northern Ireland. It hopes to welcome 100,000 visitors a year to the distillery in years to come.

Speaking from the gala opening, director of the Irish Whiskey Association Eoin Ó Catháin said: “The Irish Whiskey Association is delighted to see this £30 million investment benefit not only the Irish whiskey sector but also the community of North Belfast. We have enjoyed a close working relationship with the team in McConnell’s Distillery for a number of years now, and we look forward to further engagement and collaboration in the years to come.

“This is the fiftieth distillery in the membership of the Irish Whiskey Association, which is an incredible testament to the promise of the wider sector. In 2010, there were just four working distilleries on the island of Ireland. To see this rapid growth, and the increased sales and export success of this category is confidence inspiring. This opening celebration, however, is about McConnell’s Irish Whisky, and we want to add our voice to the many well-wishers who are assured of their continued success.”

Welcoming its membership of the Irish Whiskey Association, CEO of McConnell’s Irish Whisky John Kelly said: “Established by Hugh McConnell in 1776, McConnell’s contributed to the success story that was a rapidly-expanding Belfast in the 18th and 19th centuries. The rebirth of the brand that we’re showcasing today marks just one step in our journey towards revitalising whisky distilling in the city, building a world-class visitor experience and shining a spotlight on a great Belfast tradition that is alive and flourishing again.

Tours of the Distillery and Visitor Experience can be booked at

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