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London celebrates record breaking Irish whisky from rural Fermanagh

Fermanagh-based distillery Scotts Irish Whisky sold its first bottle at an auction in London last week and created a new record of £11,000.

The whisky auction was an integral part of an event to celebrate and outline the future plans for the development of the popular London Irish Centre.

The successful auction signalled the emergence of the first Irish whisky to be developed in west Fermanagh in over a century. The whisky, the style chosen by the founders of Scotts, became the most expensive first bottle of Irish whisky ever sold in Europe with the previous record holder Teeling Whiskey Celebratory Single Pot Still in Dublin going for £10,000 three years ago.

Among those in attendance at the event was Dermot O’Leary, a patron for the centre, and Irish celebrity chef Richard Corrigan, patron of Corrigan’s Mayfair, Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, Bentley’s Sea Grill in Harrods in London, and Virginia Park Lodge in County Cavan.

A delighted Scotts distillery owner and Fermanagh native Conal Treacy says: “It was fantastic. Obviously a brilliant cause in the shape of the London Irish Centre which does so much for the community in the city.

“We were also delighted to see the tremendous reaction to our whisky from the people present at the launch. We are a local company with big ambitions, and it was great to get off to this exciting start.”

Scotts Irish Whisky’s limited edition first batch, which consists of 3,000 stylish bottles, has just gone on sale and available from the distillery’s website www.scottsirish.com

Mr Treacy continues: “Our distillery is based near the Fermanagh village of Garrison, which sits just a few miles from the Donegal border and draws its inspiration from the story of Angus Scott, a local man who distilled whisky around the waters of Lough Melvin in 1790s.

“Scott is another example of a Scotch-Irish entrepreneur who travelled to America to make his fortune, helping to create bourbon and became a drinks tycoon,” according to another Fermanagh native and master distiller John Donnelly, who is following in Scotts footsteps in creating an elegant and uncompromising whisky of quality that Angus would be proud to bear his name.

“Our whisky is smooth in a very natural way,” John explains. “It has a sweetness that is not overpowering.

“There is also a length and a flavour to the whisky. It gets better as one savours it.

“There is no harshness. Instead the experience improves. We like to say it is almost ‘love at second sight’ as it lingers and stays with drinkers.

“People have been asking us about the spelling of our whisky and wondering why an Irish whisky is being spelled without an ‘e’.

“The answer is that Irish whisky can be spelled either way, and a lot of the well-known ‘Irish whiskey’ brands only changed their spelling in relatively recent times, with some doing so around the 1860s.

“Both versions of the word have their origin in the Gaelic, uisce beatha, meaning ‘water of life’, but there is little doubt that ‘whisky’ is the older of the two forms.

“As our whisky is made to an original pre-1860 recipe, we decided to stick with the original spelling, whisky,” he adds.

The plan to develop the new distillery, a £5 million project in the border village of Garrison, was announced in 2019 with the expectation of 25 full-time permanent jobs when completed.

In addition to whisky, the distillery will produce vodka and gin for key export markets, especially the US.

It is the second distillery in County Fermanagh after the existing Boatyard at Enniskillen, a producer of whisky, gin and vodka. Boatyard was developed by drinks industry specialist Joe McGirr, another Fermanagh native, in a renovated boat yard overlooking Lough Erne three years ago

The significant investment in Garrison has been inspired by the huge growth in Irish whisky export sales over the past decade, especially in the US. According to the Irish Whiskey Association, the recent revival of the historic spirit will see sales more than double. Irish whiskey is now the world’s fastest growing brown spirit.

The 26-acre site at Garrison was acquired by the Scotts Irish Whisky company some eight years ago.

The site also includes its own fresh water source, which is being used in the distilling process.

Garrison is a small village of around 500 people near the picturesque Lough Melvin. The Roogagh River runs through the village.

“We have exciting plans for the future development of the distillery,” Mr Donnelly continues. “We aim to create a tourism destination for the Erne County.

“There’ll also be distillery tours, whisky schools, a restaurant, a bar, and accommodation,” he adds.

“We want Scotts Irish to become a magnet that will bring people to this area. And, at the same time, we want our drinks, which are inspired by the very clean environment that surrounds us, to become ambassadors of quality, great taste and the highest of standards.”

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