A Kerry woman quit her 25-year career as a lawyer and followed her dream to open a whiskey distillery.
June O’Connell moved from her home in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, to Dublin at the age of 22 to practice law. Two decades and four children later, she knew she wanted a change.
“It’s not a bad thing for you to check in with yourself every so often and ask ‘Why are we doing this again?’ Make sure that what was right years ago is still right now,” she told Evoke.ie.
That questioning led to O’Connell starting her own distillery, Skellig Six18, in Co Kerry two years ago.
“Some people say, ‘Why whiskey?’, well I’ve always kept strong ties to my home place. So, I started looking at what businesses would be suitable for rural Ireland. And the whiskey business is perfect because it needs a lot of space.”
O’Connell said she still lives primarily in Dublin with her family, but she knew she wanted her business to be linked to her home county.
The distillery currently creates gin and is working towards making its first batch of whiskey.
O’Connell said she and her husband Patrick Cooney commute regularly between Dublin and Kerry to manage the distillery and their brood of four children.
“You have to be proactive! So many of us nowadays do things accidentally and when your kids are young you set things up in such a way because that is the only way it works in your life at that point. Then your family life moves on, but yet the system hasn’t moved on. So you need to rethink it every couple of years,” she said.
She added that women “don’t do this often enough in our careers.” She thinks most people just keep to their routines to “keep the plates spinning.”
“Mothers and women are very efficient because we always have somewhere to be, 10 minutes ago. So that really focuses the mind in terms of really getting stuff done. That was really my mantra all through my working career was ‘Just get stuff done.’”
O’Connell is certainly not one to sit still. A new visitor center is due to open at the distillery before the end of this year, and she plans to open a gin school experience in the coming years.