A €50m Bono-backed distillery and visitors’ centre planned for the old Ballykelly Mills at Minch Norton in Monasterevin has been given the go-ahead by Kildare Co Council.
‘It’s an absolute cracker! This is the biggest thing to happen in Monasterevin in centuries!” said a delighted local councillor (and architect) Kevin Duffy on the announcement.
The plan – which has been in the works for nearly a year now – is being driven by Northern Irish businessman Paddy McKillen (64) whose impressive portfolio includes Claridges and The Connaught in London, and will totally rejuvenate the 217-year-old canal side protected structure.
The U2 frontman is believed to be a major investor, and is hoping to exploit a double-digit growth sector so recently beloved of such celebrity investors as Henry Mouncharles, George Clooney and Conor McGregor.
The mill was previously owned and operated by the Cassidy family, who made whiskey there from 1784 until 1921.
The 5,100 sqm development on a 2.1Ha site includes provision for the distillery, tasting rooms, visitor centre, café and exhibition spaces.
The application was lodged by McKillen’s Jewelfield Ltd investment vehicle.
“We’re restoring a beautiful 200-year-old mill and reviving Monasterevin’s rich heritage in producing the finest whiskey going right back to the 18th century,” Mr McKillen said.
“We have assembled an amazing team of world leading experts and we will produce a world class product. We’re investing €50m into this initial phase, which is the start of a long-term strategy. It fits very well with our existing hospitality businesses and the great global interest in Irish whiskey over the past number of years,” he added.
McKillen senior is said by his spokesperson to be “very excited” about the planned whiskey distillery, which follows on from his development of the Château la Coste winery in Provence, now the biggest biodynamic vineyard in France.
The proposed Monasterevin distillery is one of 15 in the planning stages, under construction, or recently launched in Ireland, according to the Irish Whiskey Association
As well as contributing to the domestic tourism sector through visitor centres and exhibitions, the boom in artisan distilleries is also boosting export sales.
A recent Irish Spirits Report, compiled on behalf of the Ibec-affiliated Irish Spirits Association, shows overall sales of Irish whiskey have continued to rise, up 10.6 per cent last year, with exports on target to exceed a 2020 target of 12m cases.