Constitution Hill was the place to be on Monday 12 January. At the Honourable Society of King’s Inns over 300 members of the Irish off-trade gathered to celebrate the National Off-Licence of the Year Awards for 2009. Master of Ceremonies for the evening, RTE broadcaster John Creedon, entertained the revellers and supervised the announcement and presentation of the awards.
The winner of the Off-Licence of the Year 2009 is Gibney’s of Malahide and Siobhan Gibney received the award for the second time, having done so previously in 2005. Siobhan Gibney’s passion for the off-trade first found expression 10 years after she married Tony Gibney, proprietor of Gibneys of Malahide for over 30 years.
Although new to the off-trade when she took over the outlet in 1995, Siobhan had previously been the manager of the Marine Hotel in Sutton. The Gibney family has a long history with the licenced trade in north county Dublin. Also the pub in Malahide is now in its fifth generation of family ownership
Maintaining excellent standards
A central theme of the awards is in acknowledging and encouraging standards of excellence in a wide variety of aspects of the retail off-trade, be that in a geographic area or an area of specialisation:
The three Specialist awards focusing on excellence within each product range were presented to Deveney’s, Dundrum, Dublin (Specialist Winner, Spirits, sponsored by Smirnoff); McHugh’s Off Licence, Malahide Road, Dublin (Specialist Winner, Beer, sponsored by Budweiser); Jus De Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin (Specialist Winner, Wines, sponsored by Faustino)
The 2009 four regional awards, sponsored by Hennessy Cognac, were presented to Dicey’s Bottle Store, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal (Connaught/Ulster), World Wide Wines, Waterford (Munster), Holland’s Fine Wines, Bray, Co Wicklow (Leinster) and The Vintry, Rathgar (Dublin)
The 2009 awards also included a prize for the Specialist Off-Licence Group of the year, which was sponsored by Montes Premium Wines. Edwin O’Callaghan and Gary O’Donovan, of O’Donovan’s of Cork, received the award on behalf of the winning off-licence group.
FOOD RETAILER AND FIRST-TIME ENTRANT
The winner of the 2009 Food Retailer Off-Licence of the Year, sponsored by Wyndham Estate, is Donnybrook Fair, Dublin and the Best First-time Entrant for 2009, sponsored by the National Off-Licence Association, is Barry’s Off-Licence, Ballinacurra, Co Cork
The awards progamme, now in its 13th year, is one of the major highlights of the drinks industry calendar, rewarding standards of excellence in the independent off-licence sector.
The role of the awards scheme was best expressed by NOffLA administrator, Reggie Walsh: “Tonight’s celebrations are a well-earned tribute to all our members who have demonstrated their commitment to adopting ‘best practice’ as their motto, by putting their names forward for this important awards competition. The very fact of entering this competition is proof of the aspirations of growing numbers of members each year to invite critical assessment of their performance and to put their expertise to the test.”
The judging process runs over six months; this year’s first round started in July 2008 with the selection of the best outlets across the country. Marks were awarded for overall appearance, customer service, hygiene, product range and product knowledge. The second stage of the awards saw the identification of those that would receive certificates of standard merit or excellence. The final round, held at Dublin’s Kings Inns, included a blind-tasting test conducted by Joe Coyle, of Gilbeys of Ireland.
A word of thanks
Of the many subjects mentioned at the final of this year’s awards, “Thank You” was high on everyone’s list. NOffLA chairman Jim McCabe and administrator Reggie Walsh, expressed their heartfelt thanks to the three judges, Mary Dowey, Richard Barry and Fiona Keane. Also on the receiving end of much gratitude was Joe Coyle of Gilbeys, who conducted the blind tasting at the finals, and John Creedon who acted as Master of Ceremonies at the awards evening.
The support of the event’s sponsors was described as “a source of great encouragement” to NOffLA members. Reggie Walsh expressed particular thanks to the following people: Richard Brickley, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard (Wyndham Estate); Brendan Hillery and Noel TimlIn, Findlater Grants (Montes); Daniel Brasier and John Kelly of Diageo Ireland (Smirnoff & Budweiser); Terry Pennington and his team at Gilbeys (Faustino); and Kevin Behan of Edward Dillon & Company (Hennessy Cognac).
Reggie Walsh completed her thanks in saying: “I would like to extend to you all and to the members of our national executive best wishes for the year ahead and to the winners, again, heartiest congratulations from all of us.”