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THE company behind a multi-million-pound whiskey distillery in the former Crumlin Road Gaol has landed new distribution deals in the UK, Europe and Canada.

The Belfast Distillery Company has confirmed deals with Paragon Brands in the UK; Ligne de Vin in France; Konitsiotis in Greece; and Compagnia Dei Caraibi in Italy.

The growing whiskey venture, which has revived the historic McConnell’s brand, has also expanded its reach in North America, where Noble Estates Wines & Spirits will manage supply to the Ontario market and McCarthy Wines & Spirits will supply Nova Scotia.

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Light, lifted aromas of honey, strawberries in cream, warm cereal, biscuit dough, and orange blossom. Easygoing and mouthwatering on the palate, citrus, vanilla, and a hint of sweet spice make for a classic Irish whisky worthy of a spot behind any bar.

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The company behind a multi-million-pound whiskey distillery on the site of the old Crumlin Road Gaol has ended the year on a high by signing a new distribution deal with Waldemar Behn GmbH in Germany.

The contract for Belfast Distillery Company was secured in the wake of it making a successful trip to the German market and its signature McConnell's 5 Year Old Blend wooing connoisseurs at the Bar Convent Berlin trade show earlier this year.

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McConnell’s Irish Whisky 5 Year Old Blend has won a Gold Medal at the prestigious Warsaw Spirits Competition. The Warsaw gold medal award signals the entry of McConnell’s into the all-important Polish market via a new partnership in the region with Navigator – Spirit Depot. 

McConnell’s, founded in 1776 and now owned by Belfast Distillery Company has re-emerged strongly in the last 18 months supported by its new “Restoring The Legend” campaign. The result has been increased distribution in local and international markets, with McConnell’s attracting widespread acclaim for its taste and diversity. This was the 4th annual Warsaw Spirits Competition and each category was judged through blind taste testing with samples coming from 25 different countries. McConnell’s was scored for its aroma, taste, finish and overall impression with the whisky scoring 86.5 out of 100 points.

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Sarah Kennedy, McConnell’s Irish Whisky brand ambassador was born and raised in Belfast. McConnell’s Irish Whisky brand was re-introduced in 2020.

What Attracted You To The Industry?

While studying in Ulster University I worked in hospitality, and this is where my interest in spirits started. Through that I developed an interest in Irish Whiskey, The Irish whiskey industry is a very exciting fast-moving industry which has seen incredible growth over the past 6 years. My enthusiasm for Belfast city, which is my home and the home of McConnell’s, led me to the opportunity of a lifetime to come and work as the brand ambassador for this iconic Belfast whisky brand. Over the past year I have learnt so much about the brand and the exciting growing market of Irish Whiskey.

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When launching a new booze brand, it helps to have a good angle. McConnell’s Irish Whisky , which surfaced — or resurfaced — in 2020, ticks the “legendary lost brand back from the dead” box. The Belfast-based brand’s history is said to date all the way back to 1776, which would make it Ireland’s oldest whiskey brand. The information I’ve seen is a little confusing, but I believe the Cromac distillery where it was originally made closed in 1930, and then the brand itself folded in 1958. Now, a mere six decades and change later, here it comes again, complete with a label that’s a close replica of the original, right down to the spelling of “whisky” (Irish brands nowadays typically spell it with the “e”). 

Construction of the brand’s new distillery in Belfast (on the site of a notorious jail, no less!) isn’t finished, so the whiskey — er, whisky — in the bottle is sourced, in this case from the Great Northern Distillery, which blended malt and grain whiskeys and aged them at least five years in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled it at 42% ABV. Does it taste like the original? The only vintage McConnell’s bottle I could find online was auctioned in 2014, and the bidding started at £10,000, so it’s highly unlikely that many people know firsthand.

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