Sazerac is a company normally known for ownership of American whiskey brands such as Buffalo Trace, including all of the labels and expressions which herald from Buffalo Trace. They also, however, own brands in other global spirits categories, such as Irish whiskey, which is where they are now going deeper with the acquisition of Lough Gill Distillery.
The Lough Gill distillery acquisition, according to those behind it, comes as a result of a deal between Sazerac and Hazelwood Demesne Limited. What Sazerac is getting specifically is a 100+ acre site, the original demesne of Hazelwood House, where it plans to “create a world-class whiskey facility and visitor attraction, making it one of the most important tourism centres in the West of Ireland. Once complete, Lough Gill Distillery hopes to welcome up to 150,000 visitors annually and will create a homeplace for Sazerac’s Irish Whiskeys, Paddy and Michael Collins.”
Additionally, it was noted, “Sazerac will significantly grow the footprint of Lough Gill Distillery through increasing the distillery’s capacity, adding warehousing capacity and expanding production and bottling lines. All current Lough Gill Distillery team members will remain with the business, and it is expected that Sazerac will increase employment after the expansion. As part of the acquisition, Sazerac will continue the development of the Athrú brand, including global distribution.”
Lough Gill Distillery, for those unfamiliar with it, sits on a 100-acre peninsula surrounded on three sides by Lough Gill. The distillery, founded in 2015 after the discovery of a vast warehouse complex, is concealed by a forgotten 300 year old Palladian house in Hazelwood forest, Co. Sligo.
The warehouse complex has been sustainably repurposed into a single malt distillery, which was commissioned in 2019 after a four year development project. Three copper stills were handmade by Frilli, master craftsmen in Sienna, Italy to produce single malt to the Distillery specifications. The stills are capable of producing over one million litres of alcohol per annum (about 3m bottles), triple distilled in the finest Irish tradition.
The house Irish single malt whiskey brand for Lough Gill is Athrú (pronounced Ah Roo), distilled from Irish heritage barley and water drawn from an ice age aquifer which runs under the distillery in Co. Sligo.
In tandem with the acquisition, Lough Gill Distillery has also announced that former Bushmills Master Blender, Helen Mulholland, is joining the team. In 2018, Helen became the first woman to be inducted into the International Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame and has recently become the first woman to receive a Chairman’s Award for her outstanding contribution to the development of the Irish whiskey industry.
Helen will lead Lough Gill Distillery’s team in the pursuit of crafting and blending what they feel will become Ireland’s luxury single malt whiskey. Helen will take responsibility for selection and management of the casks for Athrú single malt whiskey, nurturing the Athrú portfolio of premium aged single malts, as well as new product development.
“It’s a really exciting time for Lough Gill Distillery,” said Mulholland in a prepared statement. “I am very honoured to be joining the team as it becomes the home of Paddy, Michael Collins and Athrú whiskies. The distillery, its location and the incredible team already in place made this a very easy decision.
“I look forward to bringing my knowledge as a Master Blender to the table to enable us to make some really world-class Irish whiskeys.”
“With its rich history of distilling and storytelling,” noted Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer of Sazerac, “Ireland is an ideal homeplace for our whiskey business to flourish. In particular, the history of the Lough Gill Distillery, dating back to the 18th century, will be an integral keystone in the restoration and storytelling of this site.
“We look forward to preserving the history, delighting our future visitors by the stories we share, and further expanding the growth opportunities for Paddy, Michael Collins and Athrú Whiskeys.”
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...