Irish whiskey is the fastest growing premium spirit in the world, according to the founder and managing director of Ahascragh Distillers, Gareth McAllister.
“The global demand currently surpasses supply and sales are set to double by 2030, eclipsing Scotch Whisky,” he said.
Twenty years ago, there were three distilleries in Ireland. “Now there are 38 versus 140 distilleries in Scotland. The value of Irish whiskey exports reached €890 million in 2019 and with just a 0.4 per cent decline in 2020, one would consider the category to be pandemic proof,” said McAllister.
McAllister and his wife Michelle hail from Dublin. “We had been living in Asia but when our careers came to an end there, instead of continuing on the corporate road we decided to do something together. My passion is whiskey and Michelle’s is gin. We decided to turn our passions into a business, working together, doing something that’s meaningful for us,” he said.
In Asia, McAllister had found it hard to source good Irish premium whiskey. “We built our plan around two phases. Phase 1 was to launch our products and develop routes to market. These include mainland Europe and the US, with a particular focus on Asia.”
Phase 2 is to establish a distillery in the west of Ireland, transforming a 19th century mill into a state-of-the-art distillery and visitor centre. “We came across an old mill complex in Ahascragh in 2019 and immediately fell in love with it. We knew it was the perfect location for our brand’s home.”
With €1.5 million invested by the founders and €1.8 million equity raised in a seed round, the couple used lockdown to accelerate the engineering and planning of the distillery. “It is a protected structure that dates back to 1810. Our planning permission came through in October last year. Covid dictated how we started our business and we moved to accelerating the distillery build, opened our shop, café and offices. Our products are now on the market.
“We are building an eco-distillery. The operation will be completely sustainable, with innovative technology built into the design. The distillery will be powered by renewable energy, and at its core will be a passion and drive for a carbon neutral operation.”
Through tours, tastings and workshops, the visitor centre will offer an intimate and unique experience. A permanent exhibition of the salvaged mill equipment will celebrate the history of the buildings while also exploring Irish whiskey making and the future of the Ahascragh spirit. Bespoke pieces of furniture inspired by the old mill, using salvaged equipment, take pride of place in the café and shop.
Ahascragh Distillery has two brands on the market, Clan Colla Irish Whiskey & Xin Gin. Additional releases are planned for this year, and the company will be targeting the lucrative Asian market with international product releases planned for 2022. Their whiskey is available in key stockists, and available globally online, and they are already working on distribution and routes to market around the world.
“We are not ignoring the West,” said McAllister. “But the Asian market has grown over 360 per cent in the past seven years in terms of Irish whiskey. India is a huge market. One in every two bottles of whiskey sold globally by 2025 will be bought in India. Asia has the fastest rising middle class. By 2035, 66 per cent of the world’s middle class will be based in Asia. These are the reasons we are focusing on the continent as a future lucrative market.
“We have just launched our EIIS programme: 40 per cent of your investment amount can be claimed as relief in 2022. The minimum investment for EIIS relief is €1,000 in ordinary shares or €25,000 in redeemable shares. The invested term is five years for the redeemable shares, and the gross return is 84 per cent with tax relief.
“We have also launched our second investment round, called the Clan Investment Round, with ordinary shares accessible to a wider community of people at smaller levels. The minimum investment amount is €115 and investments of €1,000-plus are eligible for EIIS.”
If you want to avail of this EIIS opportunity, contact [email protected]