Gaslamp Distillery: Mother’s ruin gets Rathcoole brothers brewing

Malted barley, botanicals and foraged sea buckthorn berries go into making Old Tom gin

Éanna and Cian Burke, founders of  Gaslamp Distillery, with their Old Tom gin. Photograph: Conor McCabe

Éanna and Cian Burke, founders of Gaslamp Distillery, with their Old Tom gin. Photograph: Conor McCabe

 

Gin sales are on a roll. In 2017, sales were up 47 per cent here, while volumes in the UK jumped 27 per cent in the same period. Hoping to cash in on the boom in “mother’s ruin” are brothers Éanna and Cian Burke, founders of the Rathcoole-based Gaslamp Distillery. They established their business in 2017 and then spent 18 months jumping through licensing hoops and negotiating planning permission to develop their facility.

Éanna is a mechanical and software engineer by training and a home brewer by inclination. Cian is an electrical services and automation engineer who also happens to be a qualified welder, a skill that came in handy when the brothers were building their plant.

The company’s launch product is Old Tom Gin, which will be produced year-round. The rest of its output will be short runs and one-offs, and the company is planning at least four special gin releases during 2019. On its way, for example, is a hops-based gin which Gaslamp is creating with the help of James Dunne of the Carrig Brewing Company, who has been a mentor to the venture.

“Not having outside investors means we have a lot of freedom to make whatever we want,” says Éanna, who works full-time in the business.

‘Pushing the boundaries’

“When I entered the workforce I quickly realised that an office job wasn’t for me,” he adds. “At the time, all my hobbies were some variation on cooking, brewing or mixology. There weren’t many distilleries in Ireland back then pushing the boundaries, as was the case in the US and to a lesser extent the UK, so a plan was formed for a distillery to fill this niche in Ireland. I invited Cian to join me and we bought a bunch of stainless steel and set to work.”

Small producers typically buy in the neutral base spirit for their drinks, but the Burke brothers are making their own.

“We’re using Irish malted barley and we control the development of the taste, so the sweet cereal base flavour is unique to our distillery,” Éanna says. “The barley wash is distilled until it’s a tasty vodka before we use it to make gin. It takes several passes through the still over about 50 hours to get it to that stage, which costs a huge amount, but we think it’s worth it for the flavours produced and because it differentiates our product from other gin makers who start out with a more neutral base liquid.”

Gaslamp’s other products have food-related connections, reflecting Éanna’s interest in cooking

Apart from the malted barley base spirit, Old Tom gin also contains 11 fresh and dried botanicals, including sea buckthorn berries foraged from the Bull Island in Dublin, which add a slightly sweet flavour. “Most of the gin marketplace is concerned with dry gins, but this is not our niche so we’re not going head-to-head with them,” Éanna says.

‘Red tape’

The cost of getting the distillery up and running was around €55,000 from personal and parental resources; Éanna says it would have cost a lot more if they hadn’t been able to do the design and building works themselves. “The hardest part was all the red tape,” he says. “It just eats time and therefore money and you’re paying rent on a premises to get a licence before you produce one drop of saleable product.”

In a somewhat unusual twist for a micro-distillery, Gaslamp’s other products have food-related connections, reflecting Éanna’s interest in cooking. The first, launched for Christmas 2018, was a fruity, spicy Christmas gin that took its inspiration from a family cake recipe. The second, which will be launched at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Festival this month, is a limited-edition marmalade gin based on seasonal Seville oranges. To date the company has marketed itself almost exclusively through social media, and its main outlets are specialist off-licences. Old Tom retails at €44 a bottle.

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