John Teeling's Irish Whiskey Company has bought Dundalk's famed Great Northern Brewery, the home of Harp larger, from Diageo and plans to use the facility to supply the third-party whiskey market.
The overall investment is set to be worth about €35 million over four years.
It will see the brewing of Harp larger moved to Dublin by September 2014 while the IWC says it will use the site to supply whiskey to the private label and bulk sectors as well as to the emerging craft distillery sector.
Some 20 jobs will be created with a view to further employment at a later stage, particularly if the company presses ahead with developing a visitors' centre.
The 41 existing Diageo workers are to be made redundant, although Mr Teeling said yesterday that IWC is in talks with an unnamed start-up about leasing half the property and providing a similar level of employment.
IWC is majority owned by the Teeling Family, while Jim Finn and David Hynes, formerly directors of the Teelings' Cooley Distillery, are also shareholders.
Mr Teeling said that Irish whiskey sales are growing and the trend is expected to continue. Their first whiskey will be produced by 2018 at the earliest.
“The market for Irish whiskey is going really fast, about 15 per cent ever year. It’s doubling every five years,” Mr Teeling said. “Most of that is [well-known] brands. The rest of the market is third-party, retail own label. Cooley supplied all of that and they are not doing that anymore.
“The focus will be on supplying grain whiskey to pot still distilleries while grain and malt and pot still whiskeys will be supplied as private label products to large retailers worldwide and as bulk whiskey to companies wishing to develop their own brands.”
Diageo is now in the process of making the site environmentally safe for its new owners, and the name is to be changed to the historical “Great Northern Distillery”.
Paul Armstrong, supply director for brewing at Diageo, said the facility had had "a vibrant, proud and industrious history in Dundalk".
“We are confident that as this new chapter opens, the site will remain an important hub of economic activity and a substantial draw for further inward investment in the region,” he said.
Mr Armstrong said that by centralising all operations at the St James' Gate facility in Dublin, the future of its brands' production in Ireland had been secured.