My passion for Irish whiskey goes back to my great-uncle Archie Savage, who owned a pub in Belfast in the early 20th century. His pub was burned down, and, with compensation from the English government, Archie moved south to Dublin to start a new life.
He and my grandfather John Downey set up a company called Savage Downey in 1925, winning the contract to bottle Guinness for the Dublin city area. There was no such thing as “designer” beer in those days - there wasn’t even draught. The most popular tipple was a “Guinness and Jamey” - a bottle of Guinness with a Jameson Whiskey chaser.
In 1989, John Teeling set up the Cooley Distillery, Ireland’s first independent distillery in over a century. This marked the beginning of a renaissance for Irish whiskey, which has really gained momentum over the last 15 years. My father was a founding investor with the project.
I have been in the drinks business for 20 years, and my work has given me a huge insight into and an appreciation for Ireland’s great whiskey heritage. My knowledge and experience has brought me into various roles with the Alan Clancy pub group, the Mercantile Group and the Wright Group.
As business development manager for Belfast Distillery Company, I’m involved with the setting up of a new distillery on the site of Belfast’s Old Crumlin Gaol. It will combine a working distillery and a visitor centre, and is expected to open in late 2018.
Whiskey tourism is a particular passion of mine, and I enjoy sharing the delights of Ireland’s whiskey heritage with fellow enthusiasts. The renaissance of Irish whiskey has opened up new horizons for connoisseurs of good whiskey, and there’s never been a better time to visit Ireland and immerse yourself in its wealth of whiskey tradition and industry.
I am looking forward to taking you around Dublin city to some hidden gems and helping you satisfy your thirst for whiskey knowledge. Slainte!