Former prison to become a whiskey distillery18th May, 2012 by Martin Crummy
Belfast Distillery Company (BDC) is to produce premium Irish whiskey in part of the city’s historic Crumlin Road gaol that closed its doors to prisoners in 1996.
BDC has announced that it has acquired the Victorian gaol from the Northern Ireland Executive and plans to develop a £5million boutique distillery, the first to be built in Belfast for 175 years. The project is expected to provide around 60 new jobs.
The historic gaol was once a holding centre for republicans and loyalists during the Northern Ireland troubles.
BDC will revamp the gaol’s A wing and install pot stills to produce whiskey aimed at international markets.
The company, formed in 2005 and led by Belfast businessman Peter Lavery, already owns the successful Titanic and Danny Boy Irish whiskeys and Danny Boy Irish Cream Liqueur.
Production of these two whiskeys will eventually be transferred to the new distillery and new malts developed in due course.
The development will also feature restaurants and a visitor centre charting the city’s heritage in distilling Irish whiskey. Visitors will be able to see and experience the whiskey being produced in the old gaol. BDC plans to retain the cells as a key feature in the planned revamp of the still imposing structure.
Lavery, commenting on the project, said: “The wing in the gaol is ideally suited for use as a distillery without any compromise to the character or to the architectural and historic interest of a building that is listed for preservation as of great historic significance.
“The BDC will be the first distillery to operate in Belfast for over 75 years and will be bringing back to prominence an industry with which the city has long historical associations.”
One of the aims of the project is to restore Belfast to the position it held in the early1900s as the biggest producer of Irish whiskey on the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland political leaders, both unionist and republican, are backing the ambitious project as a business-led initiative to help regenerate the local economy and create employment in north Belfast, one of the city’s most troubled and rundown districts.