Belfast Distillery Company (BDC) is to produce Irish whiskey in part of the city’s Crumlin Road jail that closed its doors to prisoners in 1996.
BDC acquired the Victorian jail (pictured) from the Northern Ireland Executive and plans to develop a £5m boutique distillery, the first to be built in Belfast for 175 years. The project is expected to provide around 60 jobs.
BDC will revamp the jail’s A wing and install pot stills to produce whiskey aimed at international markets. The company, formed in 2005 and led by Belfast businessman Peter Lavery, owns the Titanic and Danny Boy Irish whiskeys and Danny Boy Irish cream liqueur.
Production of these two whiskeys will eventually be transferred to the new distillery and new malts developed “in due course”. The project is being undertaken to exploit the growing international interest in Irish whiskey and will see the development of a traditional Belfast sipping whiskey that was popular in the late 19th century and the early 1900s in the US.
The development will also feature restaurants and a visitor centre charting the city’s heritage in distilling Irish whiskey.
Lavery said: “The wing in the jail is ideally suited for use as a distillery without any compromise to the character or to the architectural and historic interest of a building that is listed for preservation as of great historic significance.
“The BDC will be the first distillery to operate in Belfast for over 75 years and will be bringing back to prominence an industry with which the city has long historical associations.”
Lavery aims to restore Belfast to the position it held in the early 1900s as “the biggest producer of Irish whiskey on the island of Ireland”.
Beam is to provide technical support and whiskey supply for existing whiskeys during the development period. They will not have any share in the new business.
The Belfast Distillery Company launch team includes: industry engineering expert David Hynes (Whiskey by Design) – formerly MD of the Cooley Distillery in the Republic of Ireland, now part of Beam. He will manage the design, manufacture and installation of the new distillery; Michael Morris and Derek Hardy (BDC) – responsible for sales and marketing of the BDC brands on a global scale; Beam Global – the group, which now owns Cooley Distillery, will be represented by their corporate PR consultant, Willie McArter.