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2015-11-18

7 Questions for Sally-Anne Cooney from Boann Distillery

2015-11-16

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Set to open next year, Boann Whiskey Distillery is based in Drogheda and marks the first time a new distillery has been built in the area for 50 years. Creating Irish whiskey and gin, the site will also house a visitors’ centre and the new Boyne Brewhouse craft brewery, bringing 80 new jobs to the local area.

It will create a range of Irish single malt, pot still and blended whiskies from “technologically advanced” and specially-designed nano-copper pot stills. A small batch gin will also be produced in a custom made 500-litre Bennett Still.

The Boann Distillery and Boyne Brewhouse are the realisation of a long held ambition of the Cooney family who have a long tradition in the Irish drinks industry. Pat Cooney built the Gleeson Group to be a major player in the Irish manufacturing and wholesale drinks business over the last 40 years with €300 million turnover and employment of 750 people. Part of this business was sold in 2012 to C&C but a cream liqueur facility and cidery were retained by the Cooney family. The addition of whiskey, white spirits and craft beers will complete a Four Pillar business of the Irish Drinks Industry with a strong focus on export markets as well as the domestic scene.

Pat is a native of Drogheda and having left in 1965 to pursue a professional career in accountancy and later in business, this is something of a home coming for him with the establishment of a new industry in his home town.

Pat, his wife Marie and four of their children are all actively involved in running the business. (more details here)

 

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Hi Sally-Anne, first of all, could you please tell us a bit about yourself, where do you come from and what is your role at the Boann Distillery ? What is your personal relationship with whiskey, any favourite ?

Our family have always been involved in the drinks industry so you could say its in the blood . Over the last 10 years I have been involved primarily in running our wine business in Ireland .

My role in Boann Distillery covers a broad spectrum including all things Marketing and PR, Visitor Centre, Hospitality and Tourism.

My dad, Pat, has always been passionate about whiskey so we have been learning about it and tasting it around the kitchen table for as long as I can remember !

Irish pot still whiskeys have a finesse and elegance that I love .That being said, a tasting of 48 year old Lagavulin straight from cask on my first trip to Islay was absolutely unforgetable .

 

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Why deciding to build a new Irish distillery and chosing Drogheba as a location ?

Building a Distillery has always been a family dream. We have been whiskey Blenders and Bonders for over 20 years and this was the next natural progression for us.

Pat, my father is originally from Drogheda so opening our Distillery here, holds a certain sense of homecoming for him.

We were extremely lucky to find a beautiful modern building that was ideal to house our Distillery and Brewery.

 

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The Boann Distillery’s visitor centre is set to attract around 100 000 tourists per year – how are you planning to reach this figure ? What will make the Boann Distillery stands out in terms of visitor experience ?

Our location in heart of the Boyne Valley, a region steeped in history and mythology, is part of the Anchient Ireland East tourist trail in Ireland, and incorporates famous sites including Newgrange (older than the pyramids ) and Tara ( seat of the High Kings of Ireland).

We hold a unique proposition by being the only combined Distillery and Brewery in Ireland. We will offer fully guided experiental tours and tastings of the working Distillery and Brewery.

Our restaurant will showcase the finest of local produce and of course every visitor will get our famous Irish Welcome.

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Could you tell us more about the range of spirits to be produced at the Boann Distillery : production capacity, raw ingredients, distillation process, maturation strategy ?

We will produce a range of triple distilled Irish single malt, pot still and blended whiskeys from our three bespoke copper pot stills.

Production capacity is 150k cases a year initially with a full capacity of 220k cases.

Our traditional pot stills have patented inbuilt nanotechnology that exposes the spirit to 6 times more copper surface during the distillation process than in a purely traditional still. By combining technology with tradition we plan to produce a spirit of exceptional quality and purity.

Our Ingredients are 100% natural, 100% Irish . All our barley comes from Irish Farmers and local Meath and Cooley barley will feature. We also use our own Boyne Valley Spring Water drawn from deep below us here at the Distillery.

Maturation will be on site in our own cellar using predominently Bourbon and Sherry casks. As my background is in the wine industry I am fascinated by different finishes and we plan to experiment with alot of different wine and spirit cask finishes.

From milling through to maturation – all parts of the whiskey making process will be crafted within the Boann Distillery. We also bottle in house, controlling the whole process from grain to Glass , ensuring that we produce a whiskey of great charactor with a unique provenance and a real sense of place.

We will also produce a small batch premium gin made with the finest natural locally foraged and Irish botanicals . Our specially commissioned Bennett still has the addition of a vapour infusion chamber which will allow us to extract the essential aromatics from our more delicate botanicals and produce a very unique Irish gin.

 

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Your father, Pat Cooney, has always been a major player and well-respected figure in the drinks industry, will you be working together on this project ?

Pats vast experience in the industry has been invaluable in the realisation of our plans . We have worked together for the last 15 years as a family with my mother and four brothers and building a distillery has always been a dream of ours. This project has very much been led by his vision for a distillery that will help to forge the future for the Irish Whiskey Renaissance with a modern interpretation of a traditional craft.

 

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The Boann Distillery is meant to be highly focused on exports – As Irish Whiskey is currently undergoing some sort of resurgence, (Bord Bia announced the Irish whiskey industry to reach 20m cases by 2025) – Why do you think Irish spirits are getting more and more popular around the world ? What would be the key export markets for the Boann Distillery ?

Irish Whiskey is currently the fastest growing spirit in the world. It has to be said that Jameson have done a fantastic job in re-awakening an appreciation for Irish Whiskey internationally. Irish Whiskey was once the leading whiskey in the world and with a lot of new distilleries coming on board there is a real sense of rebirth in the industry

Key markets are the US and Germany. We have existing partners in over 35 countries for our Irish Cream Liqueur business and they are already very excited about our Irish Whiskey.

 

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Apart from the Boann Distillery project, what would be your next whiskey-related challenge ? A crazy dream you’d like to achieve ?

Coming from the wine industry I am fascinated with the potential of oak in its various forms and the flavours it can impart.

Having a brewery and small batch gin still to also experiment with lends itself to some very exciting possibilities – we have a great team working with us and some great ideas – Watch this space!

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