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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Great Northern Irish Whiskey Distillery

Great Northern Distillery


John Teeling, founder of the Cooley Distillery and director of the Irish Whiskey Company, are converting the Great Northern Brewery into a distillery with a €35 million investment. The distillery  when completed will be the second largest in Ireland and will cater mainly for the third party whiskey market, a market Cooley specialised in prior to the Jim Beam takeover. They hope to go into production in the 4th Qtr of 2014 with its first whiskey available by 2018 at the earliest


The Great Northern Brewery, on the Carrick Road, Dundalk was the Irish brewery home to Harp Lager and the second largest brewery in Ireland after the St James’s Gate Brewery Dublin.


Up until 1960, the brewery had produced stout and ale. However, in response to an increased demand for lager at that time, Guinness converted the brewery into a modern lager operation. Working in cooperation with German master brewer, Dr Hermann Muender and local ingredients, Harp Lager was created.


Within 12 months of launch in 1960, Harp had become an established brand throughout Ireland. A year later it was launched nationwide in Britain. This success meant that the brewery’s capacity had to be expanded to meet demand. A brand currently owned by Diageo,


On the 9th of May 2008, Diageo announced that the brewery, along with its Kilkenny plant, would be closed with operations moving to either St. James's Gate or a new brewery to be built near Dublin. Smithwicks Carlsberg and Harp Larger  was moved to St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin in 2013.


During  August 2013 Diageo and the Irish Whiskey Company (IWC) announced an agreement over the future ownership of the Great Northern Brewery site in Dundalk.  IWC, which is majority owned by the Teeling family and former Cooley Distillery directors Jim Finn and David Hynes, acquired the site in September 2013.


Officially taking over in early 2014, IWC will produce whiskey on the site using some of the existing equipment and will make a €35 million, over four years,  investment bringing in specialised whiskey distilling equipment. IWC hopes to start distilling in the third quarter of 2014, with the first mature whiskey available for deliver in early 2018.


John Teeling said: “Irish Whiskey sales continue to grow at double digit rates – a trend that is expected to continue.”


IWC will supply sectors of the market that have lost supplies since Beam's take over of Cooley and the severance of third party contracts. Under Teeling 30%  of  Cooleys turnover was due these third party bottlings. Dundalk will be an efficient, low cost quality distillery.


“The focus will be on supplying grain whiskey to pot still distilleries while grain and malt and pot still whiskeys will be supplied as Private Label products to large retailers worldwide and as Bulk Whiskey to companies wishing to develop their own brands.”

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