Bourbon Industry

Brown-Forman breaks ground on Irish distillery

Slane Distillery, a Brown-Forman facility in Ireland, will look like this rendering when finished next year.
Slane Distillery, a Brown-Forman facility in Ireland, will look like this rendering when finished next year.

Brown-Forman, which is based in Louisville, broke ground on Tuesday on a $50-million distillery at Ireland's historic Slane Castle, the company's entry into the flourishing Irish whiskey market.

This will be the first distillery built outside the U.S. by Brown-Forman, which is the parent company of Jack Daniel's, which has a distillery in Tennessee, as well as Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and other bourbons made in Kentucky.

Slane Distillery is scheduled to open in late 2016. It will have a potential output of more than 600,000 cases a year. The first Slane Irish whiskeys will be launched to market in early 2017, initially using whiskey purchased from other Irish distilleries.

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley, on hand for the ceremony, signed the first cask that will be filled with whiskey from the distillery.

"Brown-Forman brands are founded on heritage, quality and authenticity, and there is nowhere as real as this beautiful and historic part of Ireland," said Lawson Whiting, Brown-Forman executive vice president and chief brands and strategy officer, in a news release. "We will leverage our wood and whiskey making prowess to create world class whiskey at Slane Distillery."

Slane Castle is the home of Henry Conyngham, the eighth Marquess Conyngham, and his son, Alex Conyngham, the Earl of Mount Charles, whose family has been part of the Slane community for generations.

On the grounds of the castle and ancestral home of the Conynghams, in the middle of a 1,500-acre estate in the heart of the Boyne Valley 30 miles north of Dublin, the distillery will create 25 full-time jobs. The 18th-century stables complex adjacent to Slane Castle will be restored and converted to house both the production operations and the consumer experience.

"Whiskey, by its nature, requires a long-term approach, and we look forward to bringing people on a journey of discovery with us," said Alex Conyngham, in a statement. "We will offer a range of blended, pot-still and single-grain Irish whiskeys in the premium and super-premium segments. Visitors will be able to come here and literally see where the grain is growing and how we are producing it with care."

"This is a great coming together of two historic families — the Browns of Kentucky and the Conynghams of Slane. We are very proud to join forces to bring exciting new Irish whiskeys to the world," Henry Conyngham said.