Despite a tough year, Irish whiskey tourism is looking to the future with the opening today of a new visitor experience at The Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim.
This takes to 20 the number of Irish whiskey distillery visitor experiences on the island of Ireland. The Shed Distillery, founded by Pat and Denise Rigney, is the home to Drumshanbo Irish Whiskey and to the highly successful Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin.
On why they decided to open at such a challenging time, Pat Rigney said he owed it to the local Drumshanbo Community, which was devastated by the loss of 100 jobs when the main employer, Lairds Jam Factory (now the Food Hub where The Shed Distillery is located) closed in 1998 – taking 100 jobs with it and precipitating long-term unemployment in the area.
Commenting today (10.09.20) co-founder of The Shed Distillery, Pat Rigney, said: “The Shed Distillery is located in the former Lairds building, a social enterprise run by the community, who have been incredible in supporting the success of Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin internationally. It is the right thing for us to open now even though it is possibly the worst time from a business perspective. Together with the Jackalope Café in the Visitor Experience, this will immediately add 15 new jobs, bringing total employee numbers to over 50.”
Irish whiskey distilleries attracted over one million visitors in 2019, but 87 per cent of these were from outside the island of Ireland. The impact of Covid-19 means the industry is facing a loss of over three quarters of its visitor numbers compared to last year.
In July and August, IrishWhiskey360°, which is the collective promotional initiative for Irish whiskey distillery visitor experiences, launched its ‘Get back into the spirit’ campaign targeting domestic tourists. Reports from distilleries indicated slow but steady visitor numbers as more island of Ireland tourists visited a distillery for the first time.
Also commenting today, William Lavelle, Head of IrishWhiskey360°, stated: “2020 has been a tough year for our members. But if history teaches us anything it is that the Irish whiskey industry is resilient and cannot easily be knocked out. Our tourism offering is no different and we will bounce back.
“This year has required our distilleries to refocus on domestic tourists and with the rise of the staycation in summer 2020 we want to thank all those who visited our distilleries and discovered the unique and fun experiences they have to offer. We have been particularly struck by the number of couples visiting. Who would have thought that Irish whiskey distilleries would become the hot date-spot of post-lockdown Ireland?”
Mr Lavelle congratulated Pat and Denise Rigney and their colleagues on the opening of their new visitor experience: “Today is a great day for all the team at The Shed Distillery and it’s a great day for Drumshanbo. I have no doubt that this new visitor experience will draw many new tourists to the north-west region and contribute greatly to the rural economy of Co. Leitrim.
“The opening of this distillery visitor experience represents a timely boost for the Irish whiskey tourism sector, and we look forward to more good news in the future.”