Have you heard the story about an island formed by endless flow over rocks and reefs? Stepping stones where Ireland and Scotland almost meet and a history shaped by tales of smugglers and savage ocean battles? A place full of coastal ‘spirit’.
Recently, the team at NI Travel News caught up with the guys over at Copeland Distillery – when it’s too wet for ice cream, gin is the best alternative!
The Copeland Distillery will take you on a journey through the decades of savage ocean battles and tales of old smugglers. Experience history unfold and sample our range of coastal inspired spirits, all just a stone’s throw away from The Copeland Islands.
A drizzly morning in the costal town of Donaghadee in County Down, felt like the perfect opportunity to pop in to have a chat with Tim at Copeland Distilleries.
Copeland Distillery has come a long way from the founder Gareth Irvine, at the age of 22, drew up a business model for the final year of his business management degree and got the taste for being his own boss.
After a successful crowd surfing campaign, Gareth was good to put his plans into action and he became the founder of Copeland Gin in the summer of 2016.
Beginning as a one man operation, Gareth was making, delivering and marketing his new product from a small rented industrial unit in Saintfield. With the addition of Tim McKee as Brand Development Manager, to the team a short while later, it was time to move closer to the islands. Gareth discovered the current building close to the sea in Donaghadee, suitably steeped in local history, built in 1915 and later having ran as an old cinema up until the late 70’s and then was a community hall up until around 15 years ago when it lay derelict for years before Copeland Distillery completely renovated.
The walls still show some of the original stone that dates back from 1850 from when they were building the pier in Donaghadee. Original stone walls and trusses on the roof.
Investing in new equipment and stills, Copeland Gin had found its distillery – The original still sits on the main floor, affectionately named ‘Pam’ after Gareth’s Mum.
With the business flourishing, Pam will have some company in the coming weeks with the delivery of two more new stills on the way.
Copeland are true to their roots, using locally sourced fruit from County Down farmers, and a genuine passion for the area. Tim explains: “We had always wanted to get back to as close to the islands as we could, and we would regularly go over [to the islands] to get content and to get more knowledge of the Copelands for ourselves,” Tim explains.
The future is bright for the guys at Copeland Distillery, having weathered such an unexpected storm, the business has stayed in operation by diversifying. It’s no surprise that when lockdown hits, the two things we reach for, are the gin… and the hand sanitiser! We started getting phone calls asking if we can do hand sanitisers, so we went from no work, to hardly being able to keep up! It literally saved the business.
“It also gave us the opportunity to donate a lot of it out, so we donated out to the trusts, to people who were shielding, key workers, local businesses who were staying open, even the postman.
“It was a weird one for us because for literally three months and we didn’t stop. We are in a position where we are secure, we can weather this and hopefully we won’t see any distilleries close. We have all pulled together to help each other out because we’re all a family. This covid situation has heightened our relationships and created more of a community and friendships within the industry”.
This ambitious lot are making waves, Copeland is no one trick pony – gin, hand sanitiser and sitting in rustic wooden barrels, just beginning to age, is their new brand whiskey AND they have just released their new Smugglers Reserve Rum Series!
Inspired by the smuggling activities that took place along the Copeland Islands’ throughout the 18th and 19th Century, this Series honours the contrabandists that brought the taste of New Worlds to Co. Down’s coastline!
Keep your eye on Copeland! There’s more to come! copelanddistillery.com