Sliabh Liag Distillers have applied for planning permission - the first step in the creation of the Ardara Distillery, the first Donegal whiskey distillery in 177 years. 

County Donegal is getting ready to reclaim its distilling heritage. 

Sliabh Liag Distillers, producers of An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin and The Legendary Silkie Irish Whiskey, has acquired property in Ardara - the Show Field - formally submitted a planning application to Donegal County Council this week.

Led by company directors James and Moira Doherty and James Keith, construction for the whiskey distillery is scheduled to start later this year, subject to the planning approval, with distilling operations commencing in 2020. The new building has been carefully designed by Corner Stone Architecture to complement the village and its natural surroundings. 

The new €6m  ($6.8m) distillery aims to employ at least 40 people and will have the capacity to produce 400,000 liters of pure alcohol per annum, which equates to approximately 1700 filled casks, and over 1.2m bottles of whiskey when the spirit is finally sold. 

As well as producing whiskey, the company’s An Dúlamán gin still will be moved from its current location in Carrick to the new building, and a visitor center is also planned.  The visitor center will include a poitín museum, exhibition space, tasting bar, and shop and will be an additional reason for tourists on the Wild Atlantic Way to stop in Ardara.  There will be no café or restaurant, with visitors encouraged to make use of the village’s many offerings.

The company plans to create a number of brands, including the Ardara and Sliabh Liag single malt and pot still whiskeys, heavily peated and authentic to the style of 19th-century whiskeys from the county.    

Commenting on the news, James Doherty, Managing Director of Sliabh Liag Distillers, said: “The design of the development is a mix of contemporary and traditional finishes which complement the village of Ardara. We have put considerable thought into the visitor experience and aim to create an opportunity for visitors to park in the village, walk along the Owentocker river, across a new footbridge and into the Show Field. It is important to us that local businesses benefit from the foot fall, and if we can get visitors walking in the village, increasing their dwell time, then so much the better for the entire community.”

“Enhancing Ardara’s offering to its community and visitors has been a major consideration throughout the design process.   We intend to conserve the portion of the land nearest to the village as an open green space, with walk ways and ponds providing a beautifully landscaped area to be enjoyed by everybody,” added James.

Gavin Shovelin of Corner Stone Architecture said: “We have really enjoyed working on this exciting project and designing such a major landmark for what is my home town. We see spin offs for all aspects of the community and have designed a building that we think is truly unique but will look very much part of the town.”

Following a public consultation in Ardara on April 2 at The Nesbitt Arms Hotel, the Planning Application was submitted on the April 4.