The privately-owned Echlinville Distillery, a producer of Irish whiskey and gin, has revealed a GBP 5 million (USD 6.2m) investment to purchase the former Ards Maltings building near Newtownards, about 19 km east of Belfast. Their intention is to carry out large-scale barley malting at the historical Ards Peninsula location.
Established more than a decade ago by Shane Braniff, Echlinville earned the distinction of being the first licensed distillery in Northern Ireland in over 125 years, commencing its initial spirit distillation in 2013. In addition to their iconic Dunville's Irish Whiskey brand, the Kircubbin distillery has also resurrected Old Comber and is responsible for crafting the popular Jawbox Gin.
Mr. Braniff explains that while his team currently engages in traditional floor malting of barley on the distillery's farm, this new development will facilitate Echlinville's capacity to undertake large-scale barley malting.
This development positions Echlinville as the sole distillery on the island of Ireland with the capability to oversee the entire process, from growing barley in the fields to fermenting and distilling it, resulting in the final product that reaches the consumer.
“Echlinville Distillery was the first new distillery in Northern Ireland for more than 125 years when we received our licence and casked our first spirit back in 2013,” Braniff told Belfast News Letter. “We’ve always been proud of our roots here in the Ards Peninsula and we complete every stage of the production process from the ground up on site at our distillery, from growing and harvesting the barley on our family farm, right through to hand labelling and bottling the finest spirits that we produce.
Braniff emphasizes that Irish whiskey stands out as the world's fastest-growing spirits category. Locally, the product has a rich history of producing exceptional whiskey. The Ards Peninsula, historically renowned as one of Ireland's premier regions for grain cultivation, naturally saw the establishment of Ards Maltings at its northern tip. This facility malted barley sourced from the surrounding farms and evolved into one of the nation's largest malting operations. During its prime, Ards Malting supplied malted barley to distilleries and breweries throughout Ireland, including notable names like Guinness, Bushmills, and Comber Distilleries – the birthplace of Old Comber Whiskey, a brand that Echlinville successfully revived.
As per Braniff, Ards Maltings stands as one of the Ards' most iconic structures, proudly positioned on the northern shore of Strangford Lough, serving as a welcoming beacon to the Peninsula. He and his team are thrilled at the prospect of restoring the building to its original purpose, all while continuing their mission to put County Down back on the global whiskey map.
Braniff explains, "Our focus has always been on providing quality, exceptional flavour and instilling excellence from field to glass in the production of the finest quality spirits, and Ards Maltings will play an important role in the future growth of our business."