One of the North’s most successful entrepreneurs has invested £15 million (€17.5 million) in a new whiskey and gin distillery in Co Down which is expected to create more than 40 jobs.
Dr Terry Cross, who was the founder of Belfast-headquartered Delta Print & Packaging Ltd which he sold to the Finnish-based packaging company Huhtamaki for £80 million in 2016, is developing the 30,000sq ft Hinch Distillery in the grounds of Killaney Lodge country estate near Carryduff.
Cross already owns a successful vineyard in Bordeaux which he bought on St Patrick’s Day in 2000.
The Belfast-born entrepreneur has spent the last 20 years restoring the Château de La Ligne, which dates from 1874, which included replanting an 11-hectare vineyard.
He now supplies a range of wines, including the award winning Château de La Ligne Cuvée Prestige, to clients across Europe and is hoping to repeat his success with his latest venture.
As well as the distillery, Cross intends to develop supporting facilities on the site, including a visitors’ centre, restaurant and an events space all of which will feature local materials and the work of artisan craftsmen.
He is also keen to ensure that visitors to the Hinch Distillery get an “insight” into the history of Irish whiskey and learn about the skills and methods involved in producing Irish gin through an interactive tour which will run throughout the distillery.
And gin enthusiasts will also be given the opportunity to produce their own individual gin recipe which can then be bottled for them to take away at the end of the tour.
Whiskey and gin
Cross said: “We are launching the Hinch Distillery to provide visitors with a highly differentiated product and experience that couples the production of our quality spirits with a story and heritage. We hope it will become an attraction in its own right and offer guests a real understanding of the skills and methods needed to produce our spirits.
“Irish whiskey has continually been the fastest-growing spirit category in the world over the last 10 years, nearly trebling in size. This trend is forecast to continue in the future with Irish whiskey beginning to approach and indeed overtake sales of Scotch in many international markets. The world gin market has also witnessed phenomenal growth in the last few years yet still has huge potential to grow in markets where gin is still a relatively small category.”
According to the entrepreneur, the new distillery represents a “huge investment” by him personally, but it is also receiving backing from Invest NI which is providing £1.9 million in financial support towards the construction of the new distillery and investment in plant, machinery and equipment.