The family-run Lough Ree micro-distillery began in 2018 in Lanesborough, County Longford. Now entering Phase 2, a full-scale commercial whiskey distillery and visitor experience is about to begin construction on site. With sales and exports growing, a new site is required to enable greater production of it’s multi award winning whiskey, gin and vodka. Producers of multi award-winning ‘Sling Shot Distilled Irish Gin’, ‘Aiteal 100% Irish Gin’, ‘Zesty Citrus Vodka’, ‘The Bridge Irish Whiskey Series’, and ‘Bart’s Blended Irish Whiskey’, they are on a par with their peers, earning their place in the community of high quality producers. 20 jobs will be created during construction, and 25 jobs within 5 years of operating. Now exporting to 13 countries, CEO, Peter Clancy see the compelling need to build a proper facility because; “every good business person is looking beyond where you’re at now.”
A family affair
It was over a family dinner that Peter Clancy, his brother Mike and sister Sheila realised they could merge together and set up an Irish spirits company in their hometown of Lanesborough. When an old butcher shop became available on the main street in 2018, the dream began. The consensus was to establish a global brand but rooted in Lanesborough. The trio, boasting an impressive 80 plus years of professional experience between them in the areas of Business Consultancy, Sales, Marketing, Engineering and Accountancy, paid tribute to the business environment in their home county. Working closely with the local enterprise office, they managed to secure €1 million in Just Transition Funding. According to Peter, “Longford County Council are so pro-business and are massively behind us, just look at the Center Parcs success story. Their will is so strong there.”
Peter refelcts on what has been a momentous 5 years in business; “It was unbelievable what we learned in the 5 years. Covid was about survival and diversifying. The time helped us to survive and bought us time to figure out how to survive”. They diversified by making hand sanitizer on site and supplied to Dublin Fire Brigade, Meals on Wheels and many charities. This led to making the actual hand dispenser units, in partnership with Cooney Precision in Ballymahon. Mike invented the ‘Sling Shot Gin School at Home Kit’ which allows you to blend your very own gin “We sold thousands of those gin kits during Covid. After an appearance on Pat Kenny, our website crashed.”
Peter explains that his dad Bart, was a great man to solve a problem, something he has passed on to himself and his siblings. “There’s a doggedness and a resilience there that we’ve definitely inherited from Dad. When presented with a problem he would keep exploring different avenues until he found a solution, oftentimes in the most innovative of ways”. This trait proved extremely useful during the journey through Covid and its aftermath. Peter explains “Over the last 2 years we’ve gained a lot of momentum and our growth has accelerated. This has led us to the point where we need to move ahead with our Phase 2 plan to keep the business on the trajectory it’s on”.
Gins, Vodkas and Whiskeys
After 5 years in business, on the list of their multi-award-winning products are ‘Sling Shot Distilled Irish Gin’, ‘Aiteal 100% Irish Gin’, ‘Zesty Citrus Vodka’, ’99 Vanilla Vodka’ and they source and bottle ‘The Bridge’ limited edition Irish Whiskey Series, and ‘Bart’s Blended Irish Whiskey’. Today, the team are in the process of labelling 8,000 bottles for export to the United States.
‘Barts’ is their first blended Whiskey. Named after their father Bart, who was a School Principal and metal work teacher, according to Darragh Reynolds, Marketing Manager “Bart was very good with his hands and the joke is if he was alive he would have the distillery built by now himself. His hobby was fixing clocks, and there’s an obvious parallel between a clock and a blended Whiskey, in that the smallest component and the largest component are of equal importance. It’s a perfect way to explain what’s a complex blend of 5 different whiskeys.” The main goal for ‘Barts’ was to be ‘the everyday whiskey drinkers blend’. After winning 12 international awards, it is now one of the main key drivers for the international market.
Tasting Note: Nose: Toasted marshmallow, sliced pear and cinnamon.
Taste: Red summer fruit, dry spice and caramelized sugar finish: Long, spicy and oily with wisps of smoke.
According to Darragh, a lot of their products are associated with Lanesborough or family. He recalls the story of how ‘Sling Shot’ got it’s name; “As Lanesborough is on the border of Longford and Roscommon (Leinster and Connaught). Queen Maeve was the warrior Queen of Connaught and she owned everything across the river and she and her nephew who was the chieftain of Longford and Cavan area, were feuding over land. She had a stronghold in one of the bigger islands called Inchclaran, situated a mile and a half from Lanesborough. The nephew used a sling shot to shoot a piece of cheese high in the air and it reached it killed her stone dead and that was the demise of Queen Maeve”. ‘Sling Shot’ has won 30 awards and exports to 13 world markets.
Tasting Note: The citrus and mint give beautifully fresh top notes, the juniper and cardamom in particular add spice and boldness while the peat finishes it off with an earthiness and rounded mouthfeel, balanced with a hint of freshness from the mint.
The Lough Ree Distillery and Visitor Centre
The intention is to start the build in the first quarter of 2024 and the overall build will take 12 to 15 months. Darragh explains; “This is a massive thing for Lanesborough and the midlands on one of the busiest routes of the Shannon. Building a 10,000 litre whiskey distillery first is quite a jump from what we have at the moment, which is 150 litres and will significantly increase our production capacity for both Whiskey and White Spirits. The development runs to over 10,000 Sq ft, including a Library and Whiskey Tasting Room with views onto the Shannon”.
Certainly exciting times ahead, watch this space! For more check out Lough Ree Distillery.