Whiskey production has begun again in Belfast for the first time since the 1930s.
An £8 million conversion on the site of the Thompson Dock and Pumphouse in Titanic Quarter now facilitates the city’s first working whiskey distillery in nearly 90 years.
Titanic Distillers has been granted its licence and is now pouring at the distillery, which will produce single malt whiskey made from a blend of malted barley and yeast.
Head distiller Damien Rafferty said whiskey from the site could be a new export for Northern Ireland.
“In many ways though, the job is only beginning as we start producing a whiskey that the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland can be proud of, and one that will represent us well all over the world,” he said.
“We opened our doors to tourists in April this year to allow visitors to explore the distillery and the site where Titanic last rested on dry ground.
“But to finally begin production on site is an incredible feeling and a huge milestone, not just for us but for the city of Belfast.
“A lot of time, hard work and investment has gone into this amazing project to date, but this week marks the culmination of all that – with the distillery and visitor attraction now both fully operational.”
Titanic Distillers director Peter Lavery said the new distiller would help revive a lost tradition in Belfast.
“It’s been quite a journey over the past five years but we are thrilled to get our licence and to start producing our own spirits on site,” he said.
“Whiskey has played an important part in the history of our city but there hasn’t been a working distillery here since the 1930s, so, as a Belfast boy, it really means a lot to me to revive this great distilling tradition – and help bring Belfast back to the forefront of Irish whiskey production.
“Once, we led the way globally, not just in shipbuilding but across many areas of industry, manufacturing and innovation.
“With our Titanic Distillers Premium Irish Whiskey now produced on this most historic of sites, we hope to do so again.”
The Thompson Dry Dock first opened in 1911 to service and accommodate the massive White Star transatlantic liners Olympic and Titanic.
All of the original pump equipment and associated internal historic features in the adjacent Pumphouse have been retained and are available to view as part of the associated visitor tours.
Stephen Symington, also a director at Titanic Distillers, said the project was about the city’s history as well as the future potential of Irish whiskey.
“This has been a real labour of love for all concerned over a period of more than five years – from the initial seeds, through the planning process and then the loving restoration of one of our city’s most historic and iconic buildings,” he said.
“Our ambition, from the outset, has always been to embrace the history of our distillery’s location to create a unique product and visitor experience, immersed in the spirit of Belfast’s industrial and maritime past and inspired by the people who worked in Belfast’s shipyard more than a century ago.
“However, outside of the site’s massive tourism appeal and historic significance, it is important to recognise that, from this moment forward, we are now a working distillery in which we will be producing our own products to build on our success to date and make the most of the growing global demand for Irish whiskey.”
Titanic Distillers at Thompson Dock is within walking distance of Titanic Belfast, the world’s biggest Titanic exhibition centre and Northern Ireland’s number one tourist attraction, clocking up more than 800,000 visitors per year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.