AMERICAN actor Will Ferrell says he'd love to have “hunkered” down at Midleton Distillery during the coronavirus lockdown.
The popular Cork tourist attraction, the home of Jameson Whiskey, opens its doors again today.
Ferrell, the 52-year-old comedy actor, and Hollywood A-lister, recently said: “I’d’ like to hunker down for a few months in Jameson Distillery. I’d just have a little room upstairs.”
The distillery welcomes in excess of 150,000 visitors each year but has been closed to the public in recent months.
Since 2012, €250 million was invested to double the production of Irish whiskey and Jameson is the world’s fastest-growing whiskey brand, with sales of 7.7 million cases in 2019.
“I’m sure Will Ferrell would be one of the first visitors through the doors of Midleton Distillery if he could travel to Ireland,” says Pat Buckley, a local TD in Midleton.
“It wouldn’t be the actor’s first time to visit Midleton. Will has often had a tipple in Batt Murphy’s pub.
"His photograph is up on the wall there. I think that’s where he got his good sense of humour from!”
Whiskey lovers will be able to book a visit to Midleton Distillery online now that the distillery has reopened, albeit with a lower capacity to ensure social distancing is maintained.
Measures are currently in place to ensure all guests and staff have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience.
“Like other businesses we are following the Government’s road map for re-opening society and business and our own roadmap is closely aligned to the timeline outlined in the plan," a spokesman for the distillery said.
"Our flagship tours have been re-designed to meet the guidance of health authorities while continuing to offer exceptional visitor experience across 15 acres.
"While we anticipate a reduction in visitor numbers compared with normal pre-Covid-19 July, we look forward to welcoming a more domestic tourism as many choose to ‘staycation’ in Ireland.”
In pre-Covid times, thousands of people from home and abroad flocked to Mildeton Distillery.
“The distillery is huge for tourism in east Cork, and for Cork in general,” says Mr Buckley, whose father, Tony, and grandfather, Willie, both worked as coopers in Midleton Distillery.
“It is absolutely fantastic news that the distillery is reopening again after lockdown, both from a mental health perspective and from a jobs point of view.
“I am confident everybody working in the distillery and everybody that plans to visit the distillery will act responsibly regarding the new measures in place taking all the options into account."
The production side of the distillery is one of the largest and most technically advanced in the world, producing the Jameson range of whiskeys as well as Pernod Ricard, Powers, Paddy, Greenspot and Redbreast.
“The distillery provides huge employment in the area,” said Mr Buckley.
"It is a big part of the town of Midleton and a big part of the community.”
The distillery swapped the hard stuff for the clean stuff during the pandemic, providing alcohol for hand santisers for frontline staff.
“Midleton Distillery gives back to the community.
“They have a great relationship with the community.
“The distillery kindly donated alcohol to Mervue Laboratories Watergrasshill, to help produce hand sanitisers free of charge to hospitals and charities during Covid-19," added Mr Buckley.
The old distillery housing the world’s largest pot still, with a capacity of 143,600 litres, was in use up to 1975. This building is now the Jameson Heritage Museum with guided tours showing visitors how whiskey is made.
General Manager Paul Wickham said earlier this year; “There have never been more exciting times for Irish whiskey and today Jameson is one of Ireland’s most recognised brands in the world.
“The distillery really made its mark in the world market due in no small part to a wonderful team.
“They had the innovation and drive to promote on-going development and marketing for our products.”
Each year, over 600,000 visitors pass through Irish Distillers visitor centres to see craft and character of individual distillers and the stores behind the famous brands.
“The Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy aims to treble this to 1.9 million visitors by 2025," said Mr Wickham.
“According to the Irish Whiskey Association, the Irish Whiskey industry is on target for 2020 to grow sales to 12 million cases and because of Jameson Caskmate's huge potential in the Irish Whiskey category, to 24 million cases in 2030.”
Caskmates is a variation on the flagship whiskey that is aged in craft beer seasonal barrels.
“Currently there are 18 whiskey distillers in Ireland and plans are to exceed that number to 30 by 2020,” says Paul.
Many sectors will benefit.
“That is not only good news for Irish Distillers but for business owners in supporting industries, including tillage farmers and maltsters.”
Midleton Distillery re-opening after lockdown is a huge boost for the community.
“The distillery is one of the biggest employers in east Cork, employing the skills of electricians and mechanical engineers, among others.
“The distillery is the hub of the town of Midleton."