UK Minister declares Titanic Distillers officially open for business
UK Minister for Exports Lord Offord visited Titanic Distillers at Thompson Dock yesterday to officially open Belfast’s first working whiskey distillery in almost 90 years.
The Minister, who took up his position at the Department of Business and Trade in April this year, performed the opening ceremony at the new distillery, where whiskey production is now under way for the first time in Belfast since the days of prohibition in the 1930s.
Lord Offord unveiled a commemorative plaque at the distillery which is based on the site of the historic Thompson Dock and Pumphouse, the birthplace of the Titanic.
As well as meeting with Titanic Distillers directors, the Lord enjoyed a brief tour of the £8M distillery and visitor centre, including a whiskey tasting with Head Distiller Damien Rafferty.
He also took time to chat with attending members of the Dockers Club in Pilot Street and Welders Club in Dee Street, in keeping with the company’s ‘Blood, Sweat And Years’ theme which celebrates Belfast’s industrial and maritime past, and is inspired by the people who worked in the city’s shipyard more than a century ago.
The retired workers, from both sides of the community, shared their stories with the Minister, who said he was honoured to be invited to perform the official opening.
Lord Offord said: “It is an honour to officially open Titanic Distillers at the iconic Thompson Dock today in Belfast.
The distilling industry has been part of Northern Ireland’s fabric for generations, and it’s been a pleasure to meet with the team and members of the community to see their skills first-hand.”
The visitor centre at Titanic Distillers opened its doors to tourists in April this year. Last month (August), the company received its Distillers License to start producing spirits and the stills have been fired up and pouring ever since.
Titanic Distillers director Peter Lavery reflected on the company’s journey to date.
He said: “We are delighted to welcome Lord Offord here today to perform the Official Opening of Titanic Distillers at Thompson Dock.
Today is the culmination of many years’ hard graft to bring this amazing project to life – and while it marks the end of the first ‘construction’ phase, it also signals the start of another phase as we start producing a whiskey and a brand that the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland can be proud of, and that will represent us well all over the world.”
Fellow director Stephen Symington added: “We believe the famous Titanic name resonates around the world and we have very ambitious plans to take the product to a global audience – with coast to coast distribution in the US identified as a major commercial objective for the brand.
With this in mind, it is very fitting that Lord Offord, in his role as UK Minister for Export, be here today to officially open our new distillery. Outside of our location’s massive tourism appeal and historic significance, we’re very aware that we are now a working distillery and we are all focussed on producing our own products to build on our success to date and make the most of the growing global demand for Irish Whiskey.”
The new distillery will produce single malt premium whiskey made from ingredients that have been carefully selected to produce the best possible flavour.
A unique house blend of malted barley and yeast is used to produce the ‘wash’ which is then distilled in the three Forsyth’s stills, situated on a mezzanine floor overlooking the Pumphouse’s original Gwynne pumping engines which are deep in the building’s pump-well.
The Thompson Dry Dock first opened in 1911 to service and accommodate the massive White Star transatlantic liners Olympic and Titanic.
All of the original pump equipment and associated internal historic features in the adjacent Pumphouse have been retained and are available to view as part of the associated visitor tours, while the exterior includes a new food and beverage area.
Titanic Distillers at Thompson Dock is within walking distance of Titanic Belfast, the world’s biggest Titanic exhibition centre and Northern Ireland’s number one tourist attraction, having welcomed more than 7.5 million visitors since opening its doors in 2012.
Also resident in the Titanic Quarter is the SS Nomadic tender ship which ferried passengers to the great liner, and HMS Caroline, a decommissioned C-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy that saw combat service in the First World War and served as an administrative centre in the Second World War.