Recipe for historic Belfast 1912 gin uncovered behind an old mirror

Northern Ireland entrepreneur Ian Killen has taken his first steps in reviving a historic Belfast gin brand.

By Claire Cartmill
Friday, 29th October 2021, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 8:57 pm

A launch over a century in the making, the recipe for Belfast 1912 was uncovered by chance behind an old mirror in Ian’s home.

Thanks to significant investment and ambitious future plans, the historic Belfast spirit is once again available to be enjoyed by consumers across Northern Ireland and beyond.

The team behind Belfast 1912 gin has set its sights on celebrating the rich history of the heritage spirit and has taken steps to bring production of the premium gin back to Belfast.

Founder Ian Killen with Gary Flynn, managing director, CB Drinks, Anthony ‘Soda’ Farrell of Cocktail Keg Company and Titanic Hotel Belfast deputy general manager William Robertson

Ian explained: “This epic journey started with the chance discovery in 1992 of an old recipe stowed carefully behind an antique mirror.

“Whilst undergoing some renovations in our home, I removed the mirror and discovered an aged newspaper dated from 1912 which highlighted the sinking of the Titanic on its front page. Alongside the clipping was a photograph of a young man and a piece of paper with what looked like a recipe scrawled across it.”

The discovery plunged Ian into a research project which consumed him over the coming years as he uncovered the spirit’s origins at East Belfast’s Avoniel Distillery, a turn-of-the-century distillery which has long since been erased from the landscape of East Belfast.

He continued: “I felt strongly that this discovery happened for a reason, and the more I learned about the recipe’s mysterious origins, the more I felt called to bring this heritage spirit back to be enjoyed by all.”

Gary Flynn, managing director, CB Drinks with brand founder Ian Killen

Collaborating with Gary Flynn, managing director of specialist drinks agency CB Drinks, his team of specialists and and renowned mixologist Anthony ‘Soda’ Farrell of Cocktail Keg Company, the spirit is in shops and online listings across Northern Ireland’s independent retail network. The team are also collaborating with key licensed venues ranging from the Titanic Hotel to the Garrick Bar with the help of Northern Ireland distributor Nelson Sauvin.

“We are proud of the partnership we have grown with Ian and the Belfast 1912 team as the brand has been strategically positioned for national and international distribution,” said Gary. “Through our strong partnerships with the drinks and hospitality industries and our wider brand ecosystem which supported a brand refresh, website development and marketing collateral we are delighted by the warm welcome the spirit has already received and look forward to continued growth for Belfast 1912.”

Whilst Northern Ireland boasts a wide range of premium gins, what makes Belfast 1912 unique is its historical origin in our capital city and unique process which includes a triple-grain product which is cask rested for six weeks, giving the gin a smooth, highly-drinkable flavour and adaptability which suits sipping the spirit straight as well as mixing into modern takes on classic cocktails.

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