Cork city’s first new distillery in almost 50 years hopes to raise spirits

Husband-and-wife team behind Rebel City Distillery plan to launch various premium products

Robert Barrett and his wife Bhagya recently opened the first new distillery in Cork city in almost 50 years.

Robert Barrett and his wife Bhagya recently opened the first new distillery in Cork city in almost 50 years.

 

Corkonian Robert Barrett and his Indian wife Bhagya recently opened the first new distillery in Cork city in almost 50 years – the Rebel City Distillery. At the same time, they launched Maharani gin, their first spirit.

“My background is in spirit production, both here in Ireland with Kilbeggan, Cooley, Waterford, The Shed and Clonakilty, as well as in Vancouver,” Barrett says. “This project took two years to plan but has been in the back of my mind for many years.”

The distillery is housed in a building that was once part of the Ford factory. “We had been looking for a place for a long time, then one day I was driving around Marina Commercial Park in the docklands and a site manager showed me an old shell. It still had the original big old concertina doors, [and] lots of detritus inside. It hadn’t been used since 1983.”

With the owners and conservation officers from Cork City Council, they renovated the building, retaining many of the original industrial features. “The still came from an old German family firm I knew from previous jobs. We were fortunate, it was installed two to three weeks before lockdown. It is now starting to look like it should. We have a bar, and we will start to welcome visitors in September.”

Maharani is quite different to most Irish gins. “Three of the nine botanicals used come from a woman’s organic farming collective in Kerala – Bhagya’s favourite place. We moulded the gin around those. It has less juniper than usual, with lots of spice and citrus, cardamom, cassia and a long dry finish from nutmeg and mace.”

Maharani gin, from the Rebel City Distillery
Maharani gin, from the Rebel City Distillery

They have plans to produce various premium spirits. “We will start off with small batch spirits, available only in the shop. First up will be an aquavit and an absinthe, then maybe we will distill and age a rum made from jaggery, an Indian cane sugar.”

Maharani gin costs €49 a bottle and is available from off-licences. See rebelcitydistillery.com.

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