'A dream come true': Plans for redevelopment of Cork distillery broadly welcomed
“A dream come true” is how local Fine Gael councillor Susan McCarthy described the news that a multimillion-euro investment is to be made in Irish Distillers’ popular tourist attraction, the Midleton Distillery.
Yesterday, Irish Distillers announced details of a €13m investment plan, which will see the redevelopment of its distillery experience at Midleton Distillery, transforming the attraction into a world-class whiskey destination.
Midleton Distillery is home to some of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys, including Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, the Spot family, and Method and Madness, as well as the Irish Whiskey Academy, Irish Distillers’ Archive, and the Micro Distillery.
As part of the plan, the existing attraction will be completely transformed to accommodate new and interactive whiskey tours and various tasting experiences, offering visitors the opportunity to explore more about the past, present, and future of Irish whiskey production at Midleton Distillery.
The redevelopment will also deliver state-of-the-art new shopping, bar, café, and restaurant facilities.
Construction will commence immediately and is expected to be completed by 2025 — in time to mark the 200-year anniversary of Midleton Distillery.
While construction is ongoing, an alternative purpose-built Irish whiskey attraction will continue to welcome visitors.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” Ms McCarthy said. “It’s a strong endorsement of Midleton and the area, and it will tie in with a lot of the work we are doing behind the scenes at the moment.”
She said it was wonderful to see such an investment being made in the area, adding that the 2025 finish date couldn’t come quick enough.
“It is great economically, through employment and tourism expenditure — there is a two-fold benefit. I welcome it strongly,” she said.
From a tourism perspective, Brian O’Flynn, head of Ireland’s Ancient East at Fáilte Ireland, welcomed the “exciting” development.
“We know the modern tourist is looking for unique and interactive experiences, and this redevelopment will bring the story of Irish whiskey to life in innovative ways that will create a must-visit tourist attraction, while also cementing East Cork’s reputation as one of Ireland’s leading destinations for food and drink,” Mr O’Flynn said.
East Cork Fine Gael TD David Staunton was equally enthused by the announcement, describing it as “fantastic” and “amazing”.
“I remember when it was a ruin and they were thinking of knocking it, back in the ’70s. To see it now and a huge new development coming, 200,000 annual visitors, it’s a win-win for the area,” Mr Staunton said.
He said the local distillery was very popular with locals as well as visitors, and it was extremely positive to see this development taking place.
The new visitor experience will feature a specially designed heat recovery system, meaning that excess energy from the production of whiskeys onsite in Midleton will be used to heat the buildings.
The introduction of the heat recovery system is predicted to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 200,000kgs of CO2 per year, in line with Irish Distillers’ sustainability goals.
Commenting on the plans to use heat created in whiskey production to heat the building, Mr Staunton said they were very progressive plans.
“The sustainability aspect is great. It’s very important and I applaud that,” he added.
In terms of the hefty price tag attached to the distillery’s ambitious redevelopment plan, Mr Staunton said it was worth it.
“It will take a while, 2025 is a good time away, but it is worth doing, the building needed an upgrade,” he said.
“What is currently in place is great, but it needed upgrading and it is exciting to see what they will do with it.”
The Cork TD said that the East Cork area was becoming a go-to place.
“You have Youghal, with the boardwalk, Fota with all the amenities there, Cobh, and then the Midleton Distillery as well. It’s great to see,” Mr Staunton said.
'A world-class offering'
Announcing details of the plan yesterday, Irish Distillers chairman and chief executive Conor McQuaid said that their ambition was “to deliver an exceptional, world-class experiential offering, which will bring whiskey lovers closer to the production process than ever before.
“Over the past 30 years, Midleton Distillery has become synonymous with Irish whiskey tourism, welcoming more than 3m visitors from countries all over the world to our home in East Cork,” Mr McQuaid said.
“At Irish Distillers, we are always looking towards the future of Irish whiskey, which is why we are delighted to announce our plans for the redevelopment of the distillery experience at Midleton.
“These exciting plans will ensure that the distillery experience offers visitors a unique insight into the whiskeys produced at Midleton Distillery in exceptionally beautiful and engaging surroundings.”
He said that they were confident that they could further build upon the appeal of Midleton Distillery for both domestic and international visitors, “cementing its position as one of the top tourism attractions in Ireland, while supporting jobs and economic growth in the East Cork region.”
He added: “As we are committed to preserving and maintaining the beauty of the original distillery buildings, many of which date back to 1794, our redevelopment plan is centred around the conservation and restoration of existing structures, while transforming our visitor attraction to accommodate new and interactive whiskey tours and exciting tasting experiences.
“The redevelopment will therefore marry the old and the new, making improvements and upgrades to preserve the fabric of these buildings, all of which will ultimately contribute to an immersive and unique visitor experience.”
New York-headquartered Ralph Appelbaum Associates, which has specialist experience in the planning and design of cultural attractions around the world, will lead the design of the redevelopment project.
PJ Hegarty & Sons has been appointed as conservation and construction contractor.
A spokesperson for the company said: “PJ Hegarty & Sons are delighted to be appointed as contractor to undertake this prestigious project on behalf of Irish Distillers and we look forward to working closely with the team in Midleton to deliver their vision.”