“My mum reckons I cried for the first two years of my life and the only way to shut me up was to roll me outside in the pram when they were opening up the warehouses. She reckons the fumes of the whiskey was what put me off to sleep. I blame her in a way for my love of whiskey,” says Jennifer Nickerson, Managing Director of the Tipperary Boutique Distillery.
The Scottish business woman recently released the first expression from her Irish whiskey distilling business, which she set up with her Tipperary fiancé Liam Ahearn. Just 1,916 bottles of The Rising were produced, in a clever nod to the 1916 Rising.
The couple have gotten planning permission to build their distillery at the Ahearn family farm near Clonmel and construction is expected to get under way soon. It’s a costly business though and Nickerson told Róisín Ingle that other things are being put on the long finger as a result.
“I keep on taking the wedding fund and putting it into more whiskey,” she said.
The 33-year-old has whiskey in her blood. Her father Stuart is an expert who worked for Scotland’s top distilleries her whole life. He’s on board as a part owner of the Tipperary Boutique Distillery and with his signature on the bottle, he has the final say on the whiskey they produce. For her part Nickerson is a qualified accountant and her fiancé is a farmer, so they make a good team.
“My father who has great whiskey experience, my fiancé who has the farm and has all the growing experience for the crops that we can have malted to distil ourselves. So for me to bring the business and finance side as something different, it was really handy that I went to KPMG for a while,” she said.
The Irish distilling industry is experiencing a boom at the moment. Until recent years there were only three distilleries in operation and they were owned by huge multinationals. Now, the Tipperary Boutique Distillery is one of about 16 independent companies currently producing whiskey, with many more in the pipeline.
It’s a male-dominated industry but Nickerson says that hasn’t presented any problems for her so far.
“I think because the industry at the moment is growing so well, everyone is happy for everyone else to do well,” she said.
Nickerson says they are trying to get financing to build their distillery on the Ahearn Family farm at Ballindoney at the moment, but don’t expect to see them on Dragon’s Den.
“I don’t think the Dragons have enough in the pot to build my distillery.”