The Great Northern Distillery is investing €25m in doubling its capacity to two million bottles of whiskey a week to supply the growing number of domestic businesses tapping into the world’s fastest-growing “brown spirit”.
reat Northern, based in Dundalk, Co Louth, supplies malt and grain bulk whiskey to brands such as JJ Corry in west Clare as well as own-label whiskey to retailers.
The distillery, the country’s largest independent distilling complex, describes itself as a one-stop shop that works with brand owners and buyers to create their own unique whiskey. It also blends, casks, warehouses and arranges bottling for brands.
The Great Northern Distillery produces a million bottles a week from its two on-site distilleries: a four million liter pot still and a 12 million liter column still. A second four million liter pot will still come on stream in the first quarter of 2023 at the 5.5-hectare site.
The investment in a new distillery at the complex comes after reports showing that global sales of Irish whiskey — which is roaring back after spending decades in near oblivion — rose 21.5pc to a record 14 million cases in 2021, almost double what it was in 2014 .
Since 2013, the number of distilleries nationally has grown from four to 42, with new entrants often relying on the bulk market for supplies so they can concentrate on marketing and branding.
“I would expect Irish whiskey sales to double to 30 million [cases] by 2030, unless there’s another disruption” to the industry after Covid, The Great Northern Distillery chairman and founder John Teeling told the Sunday Independent.
“If that’s the case, we have a shortage of distilling capacity. The stuff we’re expanding our capacity in Dundalk for is for sales in ten years’ time. We have to distill for 2030 and 2035 — we can’t just distill for now and say, ‘We have enough’.
“There are 700 Irish whiskey brands and 42 distillers. That tells you there is a large number of companies that don’t have their own distillation. Distilling is time-intensive and really capital-intensive, unless it’s a very tiny segment with a specialist product.”