It’s the first distillery in Tullamore to produce whiskey since the close of the last one 60 years ago and is the first new distillery to be constructed on a greenfield site in Ireland in over 100 years..
The impressive new distillery took two years to complete from the time that two casks of whiskey were first broken over the ground for good luck in the foundation-laying ceremony there.
The distillery, located on a 58-acre site in Clonminch on the outskirts of Tullamore, was officially opened by turning on the distillery’s Spirit Safe to let the first spirit flow from the new stills.
Distillery Ambassador Jane Maher and John Stephenson, the Project Engineer, explained that the distillery sources the water that goes to produce Tullamore Dew some 14 km away. It reaches the distillery by dedicated pipeline thanks to the co-operation of the local council as part of the original deal to site the distillery in Tullamore.
All the production processes at the distillery – from milling to distilling – take place in the one building, which is fairly unique for a distillery, explained John Stephenson.
Some 14 are directly employed at the distillery which makes use of grain, pot and malt distilling via its six fermenters (with room for another six to come) but this site only utilises pot and malt distillation. Grain distillation continues to be carried out in Midleton for the time being, he explained.
The distillery also features four hand-crafted copper stills (designed to resemble the original stills from the old Tullamore distillery), six brewhouse fermenters (each with a 34,000 litre capacity) and warehouse storage for 100,000 casks.
John Stephenson explained that with the burgeoning growth in the number of distilleries here, yeast is in short supply and the Irish Whiskey Association is trying to encourage some one to supply yeast for the growing numbers of distilleries opening up.
The bottling for all 850,000 cases of Tullamore Dew (thanks to a 14% to 20% rise in demand) will continue to be carried out at the C&C plant in Clonmel but with demand expected to increase, it seemed like a good idea for Tullamore Dew to build its own distillery.
So thanks to the €35 million investment by family-owned and independent William Grant & Sons, the distillery easily has the present capacity to expand to 1.5 million cases but the target is to produce 3.5 million cases. Companies such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard would never have done this, said John Stephenson.
“This new facility will secure our future production demands for the rest of the century,” stated William Grant & Sons’ Chief Executive Stella David.
In first mooting the idea, she’d encountered a degree of scepticism: “An English lady from a Scotch whiskey company buying up an Irish whiskey – not a good combination!” she joked.
Minister Simon Coveney TD remarked, “Irish Whiskey is a star of the Irish food and drink industry and the fastest-growing spirit on world markets. Today I am again impressed by the confidence of the companies investing €1 billion in Irish whiskey over a period of ten years”.
He pointed out too that – not unlike Scotland – the areas with the most potential in Ireland were those of whiskey and salmon.
In celebration of the opening of the new distillery, Tullamore Dew announced the release of Celebratory Phoenix Single Batch whiskey, a very limited release of 2,014 bottles , finished in Virgin Oak.