PUBS, PATIOS & BARS: Whiskey set to flow again in Belfast
Belfast’s first distillery in a century will soon open its doors in a historic converted prison, courtesy of the Belfast Distillery Co., which is on a “mission” to bring whiskey distilling back to the Northern Irish city.
BDC, producers of nearly 250-year-old McConnell’s Irish Whisky (no e), hopes to have the facility, complete with visitor centre experiences up and running by the Fall in the former Crumlin Road Gaol in the north of the city.
Nicknamed the Crum, the notorious establishment opened in 1846 and operated as a prison for 150 years, closing in 1996, after which it was turned into a tourist attraction.
The venue is big, bright and open and will afford opportunities to walk around, company CEO John Kelly told Travel Industry Today during a recent visit to Toronto in conjunction with Tourism Ireland and RIT (Royal Irish Tours). Moreover, visitors will be able to tour the fully functioning manufacturing facility, as well as join unique visitor experiences, such as mixology classes, and, of course, sample a wee dram at the end of it all. There will also be a retail shop where visitors can buy a bottle or three.
Kelly says it’s a source of pride for the company to re-establish the distilling industry in Belfast, a city that was once a centre of the Irish whiskey trade, but which has been without a local distillery for almost a hundred years.
In 2020, BDC also resurrected the well-known and historic McConnell’s brand, which dates to 1776 – a process Kelly calls “bringing back a legend.”
For now, McConnell’s buys its source whiskey elsewhere, but will begin distilling its own single malts again with the opening of the Belfast site, but the first elixir won’t flow for a few years (likely 2026 due to aging requirements).
Kelly notes that whiskey tourism brings about a million visitors a year to Ireland, but with only distant Bushmills in the North. With BDC based in Belfast, Kelly says the distillery will serve as a “gatepost” into the country that is only two hours from Dublin.
For visitors who can’t wait for the distillery to open to visitors, Kelly recommends a few notable local establishments in Belfast to enjoy the traditional pub experience (and get a shot of McConnell’s): the Duke of York, Kelly’s Cellars, The Garrick, and Maddens Bar.
The brand is also sold in Canada.
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First published at Travel Industry Today