O’Connell family pay tribute to ancestor with Liberator whiskey brand

Descendent of Daniel O’Connell sets up new distillery at Lakeview Estate in Co Kerry

Maturing nicely: Maurice O’Connell at Lakeview House, Co Kerry. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

Maturing nicely: Maurice O’Connell at Lakeview House, Co Kerry. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

A descendent of Daniel O’Connell is hoping to take advantage of the high demand for Irish whiskey by bringing out his own spirit in tribute to the famous politician.

Maurice O’Connell and his wife Francesca are behind Wayward Irish Spirits, a Co Kerry-based company that has recently established The Liberator brand.

The company is in the process of establishing a “grain to glass” distillery and small visitor centre at the Lakeview Estate outside Killarney. The 100-acre estate was built in 1869 by Maurice’s great, great, great, grandfather, James O’Connell, a younger brother of Daniel O’Connell.

The politician became known as the Liberator due to his success in the campaign to achieve Catholic emancipation in the 19th century.

The O’Connell family has invested about €1 million in the business and last month began a push to raise an additional €1 million in funding through the State’s employment and investment incentive scheme (EIIS), which allows small investors to claim tax relief on investments in emerging companies.

The money is to be used to lay down additional whiskey stocks for finishing in future years.

Barley

Wayward last year began growing its own barley on the estate for its whiskeys and expects to start-distilling on-site by 2024 with plans to employ about 15 people by this time. In the interim it has sourced mature malt and grain whiskeys to finish and blend at the estate from sources that include John Teelings’ Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk, and Bushmills in Co Antrim.

The family’s first product to hit the market is a malt whiskey finished in Tawny port barrels. It is to be released early next year as The Liberator Irish Whiskey.

“We haven’t finalised the branding yet or the bottle so we can’t launch until February although we showcased it at Whiskey Live recently and it was well received,” Mr O’Connell said.

He said the O’Connell family began importing spirits to Co Kerry from as early as 1450, although not always legally.

“We wanted to do something that was connected to the estate and to our family history. My background is in property in London so when it comes to whiskey I am an enthusiastic amateur,” he said.

“On the finishing range we’re working up to producing 100,000 bottles by 2025 and for our stuff we’re hoping to have about 10,000 bottles to sell by 2024. We want to eventually grow to putting out about 30,000 a year.”

The family is also looking at launching its own gin range at some point. Mr O’Connell admitted that it is costing the family about three times as much to grow its own grain and mill it than buying it elsewhere but said it would give the whiskeys more authenticity.

He said the family hoped his famous ancestor would be proud of the new business. “Daniel famously took the pledge later in life but I like to think he’d have raised a glass to our success.”