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Sliabh Liag Distillery Distills First Legal Whiskey Spirit in Donegal for nearly180 Years.

Sliabh Liag Distillery Distills First Legal Whiskey Spirit in Donegal for  180 Years.

Sliabh Liag Irish Whiskey Distillery. James and Moira Doherty. Irish Whiskey Blog

Moira and James Doherty of Sliabh Liag Distillers with the casks of their first Donegal Distilled, Peated, Single Malt Irish Whiskey Spirit.

I’ve had a great interest in the journey and success of James and Moira Doherty and all at Sliabh Liag Distillery since I first blogged about their Dúlamán Gin and Silkie Whiskey some years ago. Incidentally, that blog post about Sliabh Liag Distillery, which almost wrote itself from the inherent richness of material of a terrific story,- easily told, was also the story that won me an award in the Best Food and Drink Blog of the Irish Blogger Awards in 2018.

The PR team from Sliabh Liag Distillery were in touch last week to say that they have just distilled the first legal distillation of whiskey in Donegal in nearly 200 years, filling the distillery’s first cask with a peated single malt new-make spirit.

They believe that it is the first time since the closure of Burt Distillery in 1841, that legal whiskey distillation has taken place in Donegal.

Sliabh Liag Distillers. Ardara Distillery. Irish Whiskey Blog

Artists impression of the new Sliabh Distillery which is currently being built in Ardara, Co. Donegal.

In addition to this, turf has been turned at the site of the new Sliabh Liag Irish Whiskey Distillery in Ardara. Their hope is “to make Donegal to Ireland what Islay is to Scotland“.

On Wednesday 26th August, Sliabh Liag Distillers launches its €1.5m fundraising campaign on Crowdcube.com. (Note: it will not be live on the Crowdcube website before then.

I have huge admiration and respect for James, Moira and their team. This,  along with my love of Donegal from my own early career is the reason why I am always delighted to share their latest news of progress and achievement in my various whiskey blogs. Their story is one of vision, determination and resilience, backed by passion, skill and experience. I look forward to blogging about their continuing, odyssey and the future successes to come of Sliabh Liag Distillers and Distillery.

Here’s their official Press Release.

SLIABH LIAG DISTILLERS RECLAIMS DONEGAL’S WHISKEY HERITAGE WITH FIRST LEGAL DISTILLATION IN NEARLY 200 YEARS.

Sliabh Liag Distillery fills its first cask with a peated single malt new-make spirit.

The resurgent Irish whiskey industry has a new feather in its cap with the announcement that Donegal is once again distilling whiskey.  In the shadow of the imposing mountain of Sliabh Liag, a double distilled smoky spirit made from Irish peated malt has been filled into a first fill bourbon oak cask by Sliabh Liag Distillers (SLD).  It is the first time since the closure of Burt Distillery in 1841 that legal whiskey distillation has taken place in Donegal.

The small-batch production at its Carrick facility will help the company’s founders and distillers, James and Moira Doherty, undertake valuable research and development while the business’s new whiskey distillery at Ardara is under construction.  The timing also marks an important period in Sliabh Liag Distillery’s history as it prepares for a crowd-funding launch on Wednesday 26th August to help raise €1.5m of capital for the new distillery.

Sliabh Liag Distillers. Ardara Irish Whiskey Distillery. Irish Whiskey Blog

Artists impression of the new Sliabh Liag Distillery which is currently being built in Ardara, Co. Donegal.

Commenting on the landmark occasion, James Doherty, Sliabh Liag Distillers Founder, said:

“We’ve done it!  It’s only now that the first cask is filled, ready to mature into a smoky single malt Irish whiskey that we feel we’ve really returned to Donegal.  When Moira and I moved back here in 2014, it was with the dream of reigniting the county’s distilling heritage, and with the Crolly and Baoilleach distilleries, the county is getting there. Our new spirit smells lovely and drinks even better; it is soft and smoky sweet with a fresh pear note and a hint of treacle.”

“While the success of our An Dúlamán gin and Silkie and Dark Silkie blended Irish whiskeys has been rewarding”, James says, “the distilling genes in me knew this scatterling’s return wouldn’t be complete without an Irish malt flowing from the stills. While Burt Distillery ceased production in 1841, we know illegal distilling continued during the intermittent years, not least by my grandfather who was creating a smoky, double distilled spirit under the authorities’ radar on the hills ‘up the glen’ in Kilcar. I think my grandfather would approve that we are now distilling the first legal whiskey in Donegal for nearly 200 years, and there’s a lovely sense of coming full circle.” James added.

James Doherty, Moira Doherty at Sliabh Liag Irish Whiskey Distillery

“There has been a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point – especially last week in hand-mashing 500L of wort for brewing – but it’s given us a huge lift as we embark on the next stage in both our and Donegal’s history.  Turf has been turned at the site of the Ardara Distillery and we launch our fundraising exercise on Crowd Cube in a few weeks’ time.  Once we are up and running there, the future of Donegal Irish Whiskey will be even brighter.”  James added.

The new make spirit is exceptionally soft and is fresh, citrusy and has rich chocolate notes to complement the pronounced smoke. It has been made from Irish Craft Malts barley grown in Meath and some malted over peat from Mín na bhFachraín.  The smoky profile of the spirit is true to what was being distilled in Ulster 200 years ago, and like the county itself, a contrast to the rest of Ireland in character.

Moira and James Doherty of Sliabh Liag Distillery with Pot Still "Méabh".

Moira and James Doherty of Sliabh Liag Distillery with Pot Still “Méabh”. Photo from one of our previous Blog Posts about Sliabh Liag Irish Whiskey Distillery

It was distilled twice in SLD’s copper pot still, known as Méabh.  This first run of spirit has been filled into a first fill bourbon oak cask.  The creation of the spirit was delayed from earlier this year when Sliabh Liag Distillers turned its focus to creating hand sanitizer for the local community during the early stages of the pandemic.

When this very first whiskey is ready for bottling, it will give some indication of what James, Moira and the ‘meitheal’ (work-gang) around them aim to produce at Ardara Distillery.  The hope is to make Donegal to Ireland what Islay is to Scotland.

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Author: Whiskey Blogger

Stuart McNamara (@WhiskeyBlogger) is an international Whiskey Blogger who edits several International Whisk(e)y and Whiskey Tourism sites including IrishWhiskey.com and WhiskeyBlogger.com. He is also the creator and editor of International Irish Whiskey Day which is celebrated on 3/3 or 3rd March each year and has a global social media reach of over 8 Million. He is a Director of Portmagee Whiskey and has also acted as both a brand and product development consultant to several other Irish Whiskey and other spirits producers.

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