We had the pleasure of being given a tour of Lough Gill Distillery and Hazelwood House! We met with Dave Raethorn the founder of the distillery where he told us about the fantastic future of the site. Listening to Dave was absolutely fascinating. He is very knowledgeable about the history of Hazelwood House and the process of whiskey making. The house is absolutely majestic and is slowly and painstakingly being restored to its former glory. Dave is strongly committed to the renovations being as authentic as possible. One window at a time.
Dave on why he came to bring the distillery to Sligo ” We bought the old Hazelwood Estate in Sligo, Ireland in late 2014. It included one hundred acres of a peninsula in Lough Gill (Gaelic for Bright Lake) frequented by W.B. Yeats (and the location for his most famous work, The Lake Isle of Innisfree).
Also included was the Estate House, which was built in 1722, by one of Ireland’s most famous architects, Richard Cassels; as well as the Saehan Media factory, once the largest building in the West of Ireland. Over the past five years, there has been a gentle but ambitious transformation, as this once-upon-a-time landed estate became the home of an ambitious new distillery, rooted in the history, heritage, myth, and legend of County Sligo.
In 2016, we received planning permission to turn the factory into a single-malt Whiskey Distillery with associated warehousing. 2018 saw the delivery to Hazelwood of world-class distillery equipment from Frilli (Italy) which was then commissioned during 2019.
The Athrú team is a brilliantly talented team of locals who don’t just know all there is to know about our whiskey, they’ve been on the journey with us too – from helping to design and build the distillery to crafting our fine spirit, they’ve been with us every step of the way.”
The tour led us through the house with Dave pointing out various interesting facts about paint colours, original building materials, previous owners of the house and a few ghost stories to boot.
And then onto the distillery itself. Which was awe inspiring. The whiskey making process takes years. From the grain being delivered, to the bottling of the precious liquid, a minimum of three years and one day to be officially called Whiskey. Vast equipment spans the distillery floor, huge silos, three specifically copper pot stills (which are each named after Dave’s children) it’s a labour of love indeed.
The whiskey casks holding the whiskeys fill every shelf from the bottom to the top of the warehouse. Thousands of them and it’s a sight to behold. The casks previously held bourbon, and were chosen specifically by Athru for the distinctive taste they will attribute to their whiskey. And yes, we had a tiny taster at the end. So good.
Looking ahead, Dave told us that the revenue from Athru and the distillery would be used to finish the House renovations. His vision is a shop and restaurant in the house grounds. Think Powerscourt vibes. Undoubtably the benefits this will bring to Sligo are huge. From tourism revenue, placing Sligo further in to the international spotlight and most importantly somewhere for local Sligo folk to go and spend an afternoon. Immersed in history and culture. Sligo Hub approves wholeheartedly!
The tours are not yet open to the public yet, but plans are afoot to introduce them. So, some wonderful ideas for the future of Lough Gill Distillery & Hazelwood House – we can’t wait to see them come to fruition. Exciting times ahead. See more about the distillery and house here.