Trading Stories: Beara Distillery aims to put taste of West Cork in a glass

THE Beara Distillery was founded by siblings John Power and Eileen Brennan to create a drinks product that is totally unique to West Cork.
Trading Stories: Beara Distillery aims to put taste of West Cork in a glass

Valerie Power, John Power and Eileen Brennan of the Beara Distillery.

How did the business begin?

Two years ago, I became interested in the gin industry and how it was growing quickly. I started looking at different options and just over one year ago I felt it could be a viable project here in Beara. I discussed this with Eileen, my sister, and as she showed much interest, we decided to go ahead. Eileen would be the front of house person.

We visited several distilleries in Ireland and abroad, discussing markets with Bord Bia and others in the industry, explored options for machinery and finally settled on two still types.

We wanted to produce a gin that is reflective of the area and, in some way, portraying a marine theme. In our research, we found that salt water is not used anywhere except for one product in Australia. Salt water and sugar kelp combined give the ocean theme balanced with the freshness of juniper and citrus zests. Fuchsia is also used as a peninsula botanical.

John Power, Eileen Brennan and Valerie Power, with musician Sharon Shannon, second left, at the launch of their Beara Ocean Gin.
John Power, Eileen Brennan and Valerie Power, with musician Sharon Shannon, second left, at the launch of their Beara Ocean Gin.

In visiting a distillers expo last fall in London, we met Julia Nourney, an internationally renowned spirits expert. For the past year we have been working with Julia and, finally, when we got the distillery license, Julia came here in August to work on the recipe.

Over two weeks of distilling small batches of distillate and blending gave us a gin that we are sure will be top class. We wanted to produce a world class product that will stand the test of time. We feel we have achieved that now.

Where are you based?

The distillery we have is an industrial unit at Castletownbere commercial park just 2 km on the Bantry road from Castletownbere.

Initially, we wanted to build a purpose-built building where we are from, 5 km further east along of Castletownbere to Bantry road. However, it would have taken too long and we would not be able to produce for at least another eight months if we went that route.

In future, we hope to develop this business further with other products and expand those, which will probably mean developing a purpose-built distillery at that stage, but, for now, we are happy in this building that has the potential to expand, quadruple the footprint if necessary.

Now we are in full production of our Beara Ocean Gin and preparing for the Christmas market. Our team is building and working well together. We have the capacity to meet market demands.

What sets your product apart from the rest?

The quality of our product is paramount. Consistent quality will ensure Beara Ocean Gin will stand out from the rest in the test of time. 

Each batch takes four days to cut from the distilled strength of circa 80 ABV to 45 ABV when we high-pressure cold filter it at 3 degrees Celsius. On the fifth day, we do the final cut to our bottling strength of 43.3 ABV. This gradual process ensures a high-quality product and a smoothness on the palette. It is a completely unique recipe using salt water and sugar kelp grown in Ventry, with fuchsia picked from hedgerows around Beara.

Have you had much support from different business bodies?

We have had a lot of support from the Cork North and West Local Enterprise Office in Clonakilty. We have done a lot of mentoring sessions with them. We have also had great support from the Bord Bia drinks division.

Are you looking forward to the Cork and Kerry Food Market in City Hall on Saturday?

We are. We'll have a stand and we'll be all stocked and ready to go. Most of your product sales coming from just getting out there, so it's a great chance to showcase it. It's a very important event.

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