INTERVIEW WITH PAUL DAVIS Nephin Distillery – Nephin (pronounced Nay – Fin) Whiskey Company – Irish Whiskey News


INTERVIEW WITH PAUL DAVIS Nephin Distillery – Nephin (pronounced Nay – Fin) Whiskey Company 

Nephin Whiskey Company opened the first distillery in the west of Ireland for 100 years. There are many new distilleries either in progress, or planned for Ireland in these coming years, Paul, Can I ask why Lahardaun, Mayo?   Both myself and my wife (Jude) had bought a holiday home here a number of years ago and fell in love with the location. On one side we have the peak of Nephin mountain which dominates the landscape and on the other side we have the blue of Lough Conn. In between we have the peat bogs that have been used for generations in the area for fuel for heating. It always struck us that this would be a great place for a whiskey bar, but footfall was always light. Then just over a year ago I came across this particular site in the heart of the village and I knew that it was the perfect location for a distillery. It had the history of local stills (making traditional uisce beatha albeit illegally) and a great sense of community. We both knew it was the right spot to start the business.

Opening ceremony, who cut turf, laid a stone etc?   This was a great occasion. We had An Taoiseach Enda Kenny launch the distillery. It was attended by most of the locally elected representatives, local councilors and most of the residents of the area. We had speeches from the CEO of Mayo County Council and the Local Enterprise Offfice. To be honest it was a great day with huge support for the enterprise.

Will this have any impact on the local community? (good or bad)  It will create 18 jobs locally. These will be full time. It will create a cooperage onsite whereby we will train up initially two new coopers. We will have the tourist side which will bring in over 40,000 visitors per year – currently the village would have less than 5000 visitors per year. So economically it will be very positive for the village. We are also working with a couple of the businesses on a redevelopment plan for the village itself to enhance it. You can see the proposed development in the pictures attached.

Please explain what Traditional Craft Irish Whiskey is and how it is different?  We use the word Traditional because we will be peating our whiskey. This would have been how the malted barley would have been dried previously but has since lost out to larger distilleries in more urban settings. We will also be doing small batches of single malt with a range of finishes.

Type of whiskey? Peated single malt will be the primary product, but we will be producing the first peated pot still in Ireland as well.

Do you have any plans for various finishes, ie; sherry, port, wine etc? Yes , we will be laying down a proportion of our whiskey in bourbon casks, sherry casts , port casks, and will be looking at using perhaps a malbec cask from Argentina, and rum casks as well.

Will you double or triple distill, is there a reason?  We will be triple distilling as this is how the traditional Irish Whiskey was and it delivers a very smooth whiskey.

Will you be marketing special brands? own label, or allowing cask purchasing?  Absolutely, our primary brand will be Nephin but there will opportunities for people to buy casks and have them bottled for themselves. We will be making own label brands.

What is your overall aim for the new distillery?  A centre of excellence for small distilleries in Ireland.

Can you tell me about the equipment?   We are currently in the design phase of the project and as such we are working with number of the suppliers to finalise the design of the production equipment and stills. We are also in the process of sourcing a micro-malting unit as we will be both malting and peating barley on site.

Technical time; where did you get the stills from and the other equipment?  We are currently in the process of selecting the still manufacturer as well as the other equipment. This is quite an exciting time for us as we work with a number of suppliers to innovate the production processes.

What made you select them?  The key will be flexibility of production and the ability to innovate for new products. As a small distillery we will want to have a range of innovations coming on stream and as such the more flexible the production design the better.

What will be the annual total litres distilled?  The total volume we are looking at initially is 254,000 l.p.a rising to 508,000 l.p.a. after three years. The quality of the casks is very important to any distillery, can you tell me who selects yours and where they originate? I myself will be sourcing these and I am currently in conversation with a number of companies in Spain, Portugal , Argentina and the USA.

I believe you have a cooperage and maltings on site?  Yes – this is really important to us as we will be ageing in quarter casks as well as full casks. We are also developing a market for mini-casks handmade on site for the gift market. It is critical that the malting be under our control as we wish to develop some very unique products.

How do you see Irish whiskey in relation to Scotch?   It’s a growing market place but a complimentary one. I believe that we can both gain from the interest in premium whiskeys and not to the detriment of each other. So I believe that for a small distillery like ourselves we can learn a lot from the Scottish distilleries and they too hopefully will have something to learn from us as we progress with this venture.

Who are the People involved and backgrounds?

  • Dr. Paul Davis – Managing Director • Dr. Davis qualified in Bio Technology and worked in including Coca Cola Bottlers before completing his MBA and PhD. He has developed an international reputation as a procurement expert through his founding of the MSc in Strategic Procurement in DCU and his work on the Board of the International Federation of Purchasing & Supply Management. In addition to his manufacturing knowledge,he brings obvious expertise in managing the procurement of the distillery setup and both direct & indirect supplies for ongoing operations. • Mark Quick – Sales / Financial Director • Mark Quick is a qualified Electronic Engineer with an MBA from Trinity College. He previously founded, managed & sold SourceDogg – a multi award winning software product for procurement professionals to source, negotiate with and manage suppliers and supply contracts. As a founder of SourceDogg, Mark secured early stage key clients such as Aer Lingus, Rehab, Rexam, An Garda Siochana and expanded sales internationally including UK, USA & Canada. This experience will be replicated in personally securing early stage clients and partnerships for Nephin Distillery. Mark has a strong professional focus on Sustainability and this will be at the core of the new distillery operations and integrated in the marketing of both the spirits and tourism products. • Jude Davis – Operations Director • Jude Davis has a B.Sc in Biotechnology and a Masters in Industrial Engineering. She has worked for Cadbury Ireland limited for five years and was responsible for product and process development on a number of production lines which included chocolate production, caramel production, extrusion technology, tempering and enrobing systems. From 1994 until 2007, she worked for Chivers as Technical and Quality Manager. In that time she was responsible for the operation of the laboratory, which was both a process laboratory and a quality assurance laboratory. She was responsible for all product development, packaging development, food labelling and food legislation compliance within Chivers. Jude was also actively involved in the Technical and Legislation Committee of the Food and Drink Federation.

What are your day to day tasks?  What is your least favourite part of the job? Currently this involves a great deal of co-ordination between the three of us as we develop our processes and finalise the design. The least favourite part of the job currently is not having as much time on the plant as I would wish.

How will you compete against Multinational Corporations?  Innovation of product offerings including the production of peated single malt using barley which has been malted and peated by us.

The Bottles of Nephin Whiskey? They will come in a variety of sizes, but already we have a huge interest in our mini-cask offerings.

WHEN do you think the first bottle will be sold?  We sold through some already on our Crowd Funding site although people will not be able to have them until three years from now.

DO YOU have any idea what a bottle will cost?  We are aiming for the premium and super premium so a standard bottle of Nephin will be starting at around €80 RRP, with prices increasing for the special editions and limited editions we will be producing.

Can these be purchased in cases?  Absolutely , although we are working through our pricing models now with a number of distributors.

Do you have any “special” whiskey planned?   Yes – small batch peated pure pot still – not produced on a single distillery in Ireland to date.

Where will you ship?   Globally – we aim to capture a small

What do you see as your 3 largest markets?  USA , India and continental Europe – we have not decided on single country strategy as yet as we are working with a number of partners on how best to achieve our premium positions.

How many staff do you have on a daily basis? We currently have 3, but are increasing this in January to 5, and the by August we will be employing 18 people.

As a whiskey tour operator this is an important question to me; How will distillery tours be? These will be about 1 hour in length and will take you through from cooperage, malting to distilling and maturation.  (Paul McLean’s note; we will be there in 2015 with our group from Finland!

Who will take them and what will guests discover?  A unique experience in Ireland of a small distillery with staff who are passionate about making whiskey in a time honoured tradition.

Do you intend to offer any masterclasses at the distillery? Or plan to?  We intend to start a distilling and brewing school over the next two years but our primary focus is on whiskey manufacturing.

Finally, what dram do you settle down with at the end of the day? (Scotch or Irish)  For me it will always be a peated Scotch – that is until I make my own here.


Should your group, club, or business wish to take a tour here, we can assist;

Interview by Paul; and 


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