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The Year of Living Gratefully

It always amazes me that when you get into the final stretch of anything how it flies in and suddenly you are there and the whirlwind subsides. The build of the Ardara Distillery has felt no different.

It has been a long road to Ardara for us and the welcome we have received from across the community has been so overwhelmingly positive that it is really hard to comprehend how quickly the build has come together. The long weekend 2020 saw the first piles being sunk in the Show Field in Woodhill for the main still house and 52 weeks later the first single malt Whiskey spirit came off the stills. Remarkable.

We have by choice engaged local contractors at every stage, Cathal Doherty from Carrick for the Main Still House and distillery, Hugh Gavigan for the land works and the filling and barrel store, Shane Mulreaney for the electrical contracts and Jimmy Melly for security, to name but a few and they have surely delivered. One striking moment was early in the build when I came in to find most of the men of Carrick and Ardara helping to lift a steel beam into place – a call was put out and the meitheal appeared just as they would have in times past, the world has changed but some values remain strong!

Gavin and the team at CornerStone Architecture have designed and project managed an extraordinary building with the beautiful stills from Forsyths almost like pieces of sculpture in the main window. To see the distillery in a green field site that looks like it should always have been there and an addition to Ardara that will stand the test of time, is humbling. In time we are sure it will enhance the tourist offering, extend the season and hopefully give us all another reason to celebrate.

While we are into production now, its fair to note that we will now refine the recipes, fermentation times and cut points – not for us a patchwork of styles, just the singular pursuit of peated perfection – a return of smokey Irish whiskey – a taste from before prohibition. The Gin still will also move from Carrick to Ardara now as the growth in the Silkie Irish Whiskeys and An Dúlamán Gin means we need the space there for bottling.

We will open for tours late spring/early summer 2022, when the footbridge is completed, and visitors can walk across from the village and see whiskey being made in batches of 2 tonnes of grain at a time. Our 600 Seanchaí cask programme is now open and if you want to own a piece of Donegal distilling history then check out the website (https://www.sliabhliagdistillers.com/seanchai-casks/ )

We are so grateful to all those who have helped us get into whiskey production and another step forward on the road to making (in drinks terms) Donegal the Islay of Ireland. It has been a relentless and very quick year and certainly a year for living gratefully.

James and Moira x