Monday 24 December 2012

New distillery proposed on Horse Island

Irish whiskey fans just got a nice Christmas present. A planning application for a new distillery has just been lodged. It's on Horse Island, just off Schull, in County Cork. Is this the beginning of an Irish Islands whiskey region?

Horse Island, one of the Roaring Water Bay group of islands, is privately owned by Adrian Fitzgibbon. It's very close to the mainland and recent census results put its population at just two. In the mid-19th century, however, there was a copper mine on the island, and as many as 137 residents.

The application has been lodged by Fitzgibbon's company, Roaring Water Farm & Enterprises. (I don't think the new venture has any connection to the Roaring Water Bay Spirits Company, original developers of the Clontarf whiskey brand.) Some highlights:
  • There will be a mash house (157 sq m), fermentation house (229 sq m), still house (258 sq m), visitor centre & cafĂ© (94 sq m), visitor "whiskey bar" (19 sq m), two cask stores (805 sq m). All buildings are one or two storeys in height.
  • The still house will have three stills, making triple-distilled, pot still whiskey (the application is quite specific on this point; there is no mention of malt whiskey). This will employ 12 on the island initially, rising to 20. Most will make the short commute from the mainland.
  • Grain will be delivered via the existing roll-on, roll-off ferry. Deliveries will be weekly/fortnightly at the outset, increasing to twice-weekly at full capacity. Grain will be stored in two 32-tonne silos.
  • Process water will come from a well and rainwater harvesting. Cooling water will be drawn from the sea.
  • Maturation will take place on the island, in oak casks stacked on pallets in the cask stores.
  • Spent grains will be fed to livestock on the island.
The Sunday Times Business supplement had a few extra details. Fitzgibbon hopes to get a drinks group on board once planning permission has been secured and begin distilling in the first quarter of 2014. The capacity will be 100,000 cases (one case = 9 litres) of whiskey annually.

No whiskey names have been trademarked yet (I like the sound of "Horse Whiskey" but that's pretty close to an existing Scottish brand).

[To see the planning application yourself, visit Cork County Council's planning website and search for application number 12752.]