Good Bye 2015

December 31, 2015

Well that was a busy year and here we are – New Year’s Eve, time to take stock.

We have just put 10 months trading behind us and it’s been a solid year. We made plenty of mistakes, but overall we got more things right than wrong.

We did three collaborations, the last one was with Gypsy Brewer RadikAle – Alain’s ‘Radical Brew‘ used our gin botanicals in place of bittering hops and has proved a huge success.

Alain at work!
Alain at work!

Our first two collaborations were with Dungarvan Brewing Company and Black’s of Kinsale, here we distilled washes made for us  – however this is prohibited by The 1880 Spirits Act, so we were forced to stop. Frankly this was a blow. Not only did we want to work with great brewers (as is common in the States) but as a non-starter our ‘Curious Still’ series saw us with one less income stream.  Laws are not about moral right or wrong, they are about power – who has it and how and why they wish to enforce it. Frankly most of the laws governing distilling in Ireland are outdated and not fit for purpose. However they do suit the multi-national operators so I don’t see any change coming.

Ready for London!
Ready for London!

The willingness to innovate goes to the heart of what we do and by summer we were ready to test our second product – Juniper Cask Gin. Back in 2014 we had some 50 litre casks built for us out of juniper wood, we then spent over 6 months tweaking our gin formula to withstand the assault of resinous juniper oils. We brought the prototype to Junipalooza in London, it was one of the year’s highlights and our new gin proved a huge success. We then spent another three months working on branding it and our third product, a Copper Pot Still Vodka. So by late October we had a family and a whole new look.

At EC Labels
At EC Labels

It was frankly great to see so much happening in Ireland – Dingle brought their first whiskey to market while Shortcross got into the game, the Teelings (father and sons) each opened a distillery and here in Waterford Mark Reynier brought his passion to bear with a new make spirit that was simply delicious.

On the down side there are more misleading spirits than ever out there – products saying they are from one place, yet are made somewhere else; distilleries claiming to be in places they are not; even whiskeys claiming to come from distilleries that simply don’t exist. These cowboys (and cow girls) are playing with all our futures. Provenance is quite possibly our strongest hand, fake Provenance starts a relationship with the consumer that is based on a lie. You can sell just about anything once, but our industry can only survive on repeat business. At the core of that pact is honesty. Honesty in what we make, honesty in where it is made and honesty in how we package and sell.

There are plenty (too many) examples out there of misleading labeling, but let me pick just one so blatant it made my eyes water:

Made in Waterford? My arse.
Made in Waterford? My arse.

All that just about brings us to 2016 – a very exciting year for us here at Blackwater Distillery – so exciting in fact it deserves a separate blog coming New Year’s Day.