Owner of Ireland’s smallest distillery hopes Unesco measures will boost tourism

A founder of Ireland’s smallest distillery hopes Unesco recognition can make the area a ‘magnet’ for tourists in the coming year.

The illowen Distillery is located in the emerging Morne-Gullion-Strangford Global Geopark in Northern Ireland.

At 10 square meters with just two handcrafted pot stills and an upcycled shipping container on the side, co-founder and director Brendan Carty claims it is smallest distillery on the island of Ireland.


Brendan Carty said Killowen Distillery is the smallest on the island of Ireland (Brian Morrison/TourismNI/PA)

Unesco defines its global geoparks as areas where “sites and landscapes of international geological importance are managed with a holistic approach to protection, education and sustainable development”.

The mountain landscape of Morne-Gullion-Strangford has been proposed to Unesco’s Executive Board for endorsement as a new global geopark and the nomination will be considered in May 2023.

If successful, it will join others around the world such as the Ore of the Alps in Austria and Spain’s Basque Coast, as well as Fermanagh’s Marble Arch Caves closer to home.

Mr Carty, a qualified architect who has all but given up that career to pursue his passion for whiskey making, said he hopes for a prosperous New Year if Unesco approves the proposal.


The distillery attracts visitors from the Republic of Ireland, as well as Italian, Dutch and American tourists (Brian Morrison/TourismNI/PA)

The 36-year-old said: “There aren’t too many of these (global geoparks) so it’s a magnet that draws people to the region. It just makes it a lot more attractive for things like mountain activities and mountain hiking.”

He added: “There’s more boots on the floor so it’s brilliant.

“We are in a beautiful part of the world, overlooking Carlingford Lough and surrounded by diverse cultures and landscapes. We are past the Mournes and looking across to Carlingford with the ruggedness of the Cooley Mountains.

“It may be a bit of a hike to find us but it’s worth it, the welcome is warm and the views are spectacular.”

The distillery, which he co-founded with friends and opened in 2019, attracts visitors primarily from the Republic of Ireland, as well as Italian, Dutch and American tourists, and has a “very strong” following via social media worldwide.

Mr Carty referred to the “Killowen cult” which has some “rather fanatical” followers who love the distillery’s offering of authentic Irish whiskey and poitin, as well as rum and gin.


Brendan Carty all but gave up his career as an architect to pursue his passion for whiskey (Brian Morrison/Tourism NI/PA)

He also works with a local hiking guide to offer a hike and Haffuns tour, where people take a guided journey through the mountains before stopping for a drink at the distillery.

When asked what sets his distillery apart, he said, “It’s quality. We don’t have a cult following for nothing. People recognize the quality, they recognize the integrity and transparency. We give the consumer as much information as possible about traceability.”

He said his “goal” is to replicate and even improve on old Irish whiskey, adding: “I’m always striving to make the best whiskey, always in search of the perfect cask.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/owner-of-irelands-smallest-distillery-hopes-unesco-measure-boosts-tourism-42282992.html Owner of Ireland’s smallest distillery hopes Unesco measures will boost tourism


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