Husband and wife duo establish the first new distillery within Cork city in almost 50 years

Husband and wife duo establish the first new distillery within Cork city in almost 50 years
Founders Robert & Bhagya Barrett celebrate the opening of Rebel City Distillery, the first new distillery within Cork city in almost 50 years, situated in a former Ford factory in the historic Cork docklands. 

Last month, founders Robert and Bhagya Barrett celebrated the opening of Rebel City Distillery, a new gin and rum distillery in the old Ford Motor Company in the Marina Commercial Park.

Despite the challenges of launching their first product in the midst of a global pandemic, Head Distiller and Co-Founder, Robert says he is happy with the response thus far. 

"This, of course, wasn’t an ideal time to launch a product, it meant we had to pivot from leading with the bar trade and restaurants to off licences and supermarkets. 

"From a production point of view, it led to slower deliveries, for example with bottles, but we all remained healthy and safe so we were grateful for that," Robert told The Echo.

"So far I’ve been very happy with the reaction. 

"We’ve had positive mentions from a number of bloggers and food journalists including the likes of Tom Doorley who have praised the taste profile of the gin as well as the story and look of the gin," he continued. 

From 1917 to 1987, the factory of Henry Ford & Sons was the industrial hub of Cork city, manufacturing motor vehicles on the banks of the River Lee as one of Cork’s largest employers.

An important cultural landmark that has lain dormant and deteriorating for decades, Rebel City Distillery has chosen this historic space for its home, which Robert says is an incredible place in which to work.  

Robert Barrett and his wife Bhagya. Co-founders of Rebel City Distillery. 
Robert Barrett and his wife Bhagya. Co-founders of Rebel City Distillery. 

"The building is fantastic to work in and now that it is painted and restored is a pleasure to behold each morning," he said. 

A Cork city native, Robert initially began his career in Cooley Distillery in County Louth before emigrating to Vancouver and working with Central City Brewers and Distillers, establishing their distillery focusing on whisky, gin and vodka. 

Upon returning to Ireland, Robert worked for FDT Consulting as a Consultant Distiller, until July 2019. 

With the lifelong dream of establishing his own distillery, Robert along with his wife Bhagya took the plunge and set up Rebel City Distillery. 

Bhagya hails from Kerala, India and is a software engineer by trade.

Her expansive career has seen her work in the large cities of Chennai and Madrid before her move to Ireland. 

The new gin is a celebration of the fusion of Cork and Keralan cultures. 

The product is called Maharani, an Indian word meaning 'queen' and some of the botanicals used in the gin are sourced from local women in Vanamoolika.

Maharani Gin is a small batch product and the entire process from distilling to bottling and labelling is done on site. 

"We would describe the gin overall as being on the citrus/spice end of the scale with some sweetness from the cassia also," said Robert, speaking about the taste of the new gin. 

Initially focusing on gin before setting their sights on rum, the new company also hopes to further expand their offering in September.

"We are planning on opening up the distillery in September to the public for tours and tastings with a gin school to follow. We hope to start production of our rum next year," Robert said. 

Maharani Gin is currently available to buy from IrishMalts.com, the Celtic Whiskey Shop and select retailers around the country with a recommended retail price of €49.

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