The family that owns the Shed Distillery in Co Leitrim has decided to press ahead with the opening of a €3 million visitor centre in spite of there being few tourists to sample their Drumshanbo gin and whiskey products.
Speaking to Irish Times podcast Inside Business, Pat Rigney, managing director and founder of the distillery, said: "It was really a big decision to make to open. We were hoping to open on June 1st but we were shut down [by Covid restrictions]. However, we will now open on September 10th. It's very important that we stick to our commitment to open. It's important for morale, for the relationship with the people of Drumshanbo and Leitrim generally, and all those who backed us.
"On a positive note, there are lots of [domestic] tourists in rural parts of Ireland at the moment and we're hopeful that between September and December we'll get good footfall."
Mr Rigney is hoping that “hundreds and maybe even thousands” will visit the centre this year, which will have 20 staff when fully operational. “As we head into 2021 we would hope to be in the 25,000-30,000 bracket.”
The Shed Distillery was set up in 2014 and is best known for its Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, while it also recently launched its own single pot still Irish whiskey.
Bottles of gin
It sold more than a million bottles of gin last year and was on target to increase that to about 1.4 million in 2020 until the pandemic struck. “Obviously that’s going to be affected by what’s happening around the world. Travel retail is down probably 90 per cent and that’s a big part of our business. We’re having to be more resourceful about how we go about our business.”
In the year ended September 2019, the company posted revenues of €7.1 million, and Mr Rigney expects it to exceed €8 million in the current financial period. “Covid has reduced the momentum of growth in the business by about half,” he said, predicting that growth would be 10-15 per cent.
“Up until March we had been proceeding pretty well. We’re in 60 markets with the gin and we had tremendous momentum until Covid struck. It’s definitely more challenging now. Hopefully when this passes, and it will, we can resume strong growth in all our markets. It’s a tough market and challenging and we need to really work hard and continue to be resourceful.”