A HOME-grown distillery on the Ards peninsula has taken over a prominent derelict building on the outskirts of Newtownards in a £5m plan to restore it to its former use.

Echlinville Distillery has purchased the former Ards Maltings building on the Portaferry Road and plans to restore the malting process on site and supply malted barley to distilleries and breweries around Ireland.

The investment means that Echlinville will be the only distillery in Ireland with the capacity to produce, malt, ferment and distil their spirit from field to glass, with local investment an important pillar of the business growth plans.

While the distillery team currently floor malt their barley on the distillery farm on the outskirts of Kircubbin, this latest development will enable Echlinville to malt barley on an industrial scale. 

Shane Braniff, owner of Echlinville Distillery, said it was the first new distillery in Northern Ireland for more than 125 years when it received a licence and casked the first spirit back in 2013. 

We’ve always been proud of our roots here in the ards Peninsula and we complete every stage of the production process from the ground up on site at our distillery, from growing and harvesting the barley on our family farm, right through to hand labelling and bottling the finest spirits that we produce,” he said. 

“Irish whiskey is the world’s fastest growing spirits category and locally we have a long history of quality whiskey production,” added Mr Braniff.

He said the peninsula has historically been known as one of the finest grain growing regions in Ireland, so it was no coincidence that Ards Maltings was established at the northern end of the peninsula.

In its day, Ards Malting provided malted barley to distilleries and breweries around Ireland, including such companies as Guinness, Bushmills and Comber Distilleries – the home of Old Comber Whiskey, a brand that we revived and now produce at Echlinville,” continued Mr Braniff.

We are delighted to be able to bring that particular story full circle.

 “Ards Maltings is among the Ards’ most iconic buildings, standing proudly on the Northern shore of Strangford Lough and welcoming people to the peninsula.

We are excited to be able to restore the building for the purpose for which it was first built while continuing on our journey to put County Down back on the world whiskey map.

Our focus has always been on providing quality, exceptional flavour and instilling excellence from field to glass in the production of the finest quality spirits, and Ards Maltings will play an important role in the future growth of our business.” said Mr Braniff.