Skellig Six18, which is developing a €10 million micro-distillery and visitor centre along the Ring of Kerry, is expecting to invest about €4 million in the business this year.
Its backers, which include the head of Davy's private client division, Patrick Cooney, have ploughed €2 million of their own money into the initiative and raised about €1.75 million under the Employment & Investment Incentive Scheme. It is currently raising further funds under the same scheme.
The micro-distillery – the brainchild of June O’Connell, a former partner at legal firm William Fry – is in a former sock manufacturing plant in Cahersiveen and focuses on producing artisan gin and whiskey.
Ms O’Connell said that although Covid had affected their plans, it had also forced them to consider channels they had not considered before, such as corporate gifting. The distillery also gained national distribution for its first product, a hand-crafted gin.
“We became one of Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential start-ups last year and are expecting to start exporting in the third quarter, so despite setbacks we are still very much building the business,” she said.
“We have been lucky in some ways because we didn’t have a huge stockpile, as we’ve not been in business too long, and while we haven’t ended up in as many of the markets we hoped to be in by this stage, we’ve done very well selling online.”
Mr Cooney, who is married to Ms O’Connell, is a non-executive director of Skellig Six18, while Patrick Sugrue, formerly chief finance officer at Wilson Socks, whose factory is where the new distillery is based, is chief financial officer.
Skellig Six18 opened its temporary visitor centre for a short period last year despite the pandemic and it hopes to increase visitor numbers in 2021.
“We had in about 1,000 people in six weeks even though we were only allowed to take six people at a time, so it shows a big appetite for what we’re doing,” Ms O’Connell said.
Skellig Six18, the name of which is inspired by the number of steps to the top of Skellig Michael, will in its final phase also include a new permanent visitor centre and VIP lounge overlooking the Fertha river estuary as it flows into Valentia harbour. The lounge will host a viewing deck out on to the Kerry Dark-Sky Reserve.