Lough Neagh Distillers raise spirits with a breakthrough US export deal

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Lough Neagh Distillers
Pictured on the shores of Lough Neagh with the Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell, are (from left) Lough Neagh Distillers’ Managing Director Max Hayes, Spirits Portfolio Director Sorcha Mulholland and Founder and Owner Vernon Fox.

Northern Ireland’s newest artisan drinks’ producer brings the ‘Spirit of Lough Neagh’ to Pennsylvania in significant six-figure deal.

Northern Ireland’s newest artisan distillery, from the shores of Lough Neagh, is toasting its first major export success after securing a significant six-figure deal to supply craft whiskey and gin to more than 100 retail outlets in one of the largest US states, Pennsylvania.

Set up only 15 months ago by Lurgan-born entrepreneur Vernon Fox and built around the myths, folklore and heritage associated with one of Europe’s largest freshwater lakes, Lough Neagh Distillers is set to significantly scale its existing range of craft spirits and Spade:Town craft beer offerings beyond the UK and Ireland.

The US breakthrough, made during a recent trade mission organised by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, has helped Lough Neagh Distillers to fast-forward its ambitions to crack the US market.

Its first US deal will see the company supply more than 100 retail outlets in Pennsylvania with Lough Neagh Distillers branded Irish Whiskey and Irish Gin from its new premium drinks’ range, which will include a 18-year matured ‘Coney Island Irish Whiskey’ and a six and three-year matured ‘O’Neill’s Tower’ and ‘Ferryman’s’ brands.

Having recently secured premises, the company will also begin distilling on-site at its own craft brewery and distillery in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, which is due to open in July 2020. The company plans to rapidly build on its early US success, with export targets of 20,000 cases by 2023. Its first products go on sale in the US in May.

“This transformational US deal realises our ambitions and means immediate expansion and renewed investment to scale up our operations at home,” owner Vernon Fox said. “The ABC Council trade mission has been a game-changer for our company. Having secured approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to sell our products in their jurisdiction, we’re now able to ramp up our growth plans by 18 to 24 months.

“During the visit, we also met with senior delegates from the Irish-American Business Chamber and Network, who are helping us to open new doors and markets. We’re in a strong position and we’re only getting started.”

On a mission to revive the craft of brewing and distilling from its Lough Neagh base through on-premises sales, organic growth and exports to the US, Europe and Asia, Lough Neagh Distillers also plans to create a unique visitor and tourism experience at its core distillery to further promote its ‘Spirit of the Lough’ brand.

Lurgan and the area around the southern shores of Lough Neagh through the 1800’s were previously hubs for brewing and distilling, and home to one of the Ireland’s largest of that time – Greer’s Distillery – until it burnt down in 1837.

“Our unique proposition is built on more than a century of history and tradition, and on Irish legends and folklore that span centuries. To date we have been able to work with and learn from the best that Northern Ireland has to offer in this industry, and we’re excited to strike out on our own now. We have assembled a team with decades of experience in this specialist field from a beautiful and unique location that is steeped in tradition,” Vernon said.  

“We want to bring that tradition and story back, create new jobs in the area, revive the craft and build a global name in the production of quality spirits and beers with our new, exciting and compelling brand. We plan to open investment opportunities in 2020 to allow people to share in our growth and success and also be part of our unique brand concept. The support which ABC Council has already provided is invaluable and we look forward to continue working with them as we grow our business further.”

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell, said:

“Supporting businesses, creating new opportunities, improving productivity and promoting innovation are vital to our economic success and I’m delighted that the direct support provided by the council has helped Lough Neagh Distillers move forward in its ambitions and achieve what is a big win for the company and the area.

“Growing a business is a challenge and I would encourage every owner, manager and entrepreneur to tap in to the support opportunities available so that together we can unlock the huge potential which exists right across the borough.”

Lough Neagh Distillers was one of 10 companies from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough to join a recent three-day trade mission to the US to seek out export contacts, build relationships and secure new deals.