Inspired Peter set to launch new whiskey

Teetotaller Peter Lavery has a passion for Irish whiskey!

Saturday, 5th December 2020, 5:00 pm
Peter Lavery of Titanic Distillers is part of the plan to build a distillery in Titanic Quarter

While the Lottery millionaire has never tasted the spirit, he is inspired by the history of Irish whiskey in Belfast, his home city, and has invested in one distillery and now has a major role in a second.

Peter has already launched the Titanic Irish Whiskey, a 10-year blend that carries ‘Built in Belfast’ on its label in memory of the ill-fated luxury liner constructed at Harland and Wolff shipyard and launched in 1912.

Titanic Irish Whiskey, Peter’s brainchild, could soon have a new home in a distillery near where the White Star liner was finished.

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Titanic Dock Pumphouse. Picture courtesy of Tourism NI

Peter is part of a new company, Titanic Distillers Ltd, which has lodged plans to develop a new distillery at the existing Thompson Pump-House building at the huge dry dock where the liner rested for outfitting before its trip to Southampton and its first…and last… passengers. The company hopes to lease the existing site for the new distillery.

Peter explains: “While I’ve never been interested in alcohol I still find the history of Irish whiskey distilling in Belfast to be fascinating. And it’s a story that has captured my imagination and inspired me to look at how I could help in reviving the great traditions of distilling here. There were once distilleries in many parts of the city.

“Before Prohibition, for instance, Belfast was the largest producer of Irish whiskey on the Island of Ireland. Whiskey has played an important part in the history of Belfast, and we are excited to tell this story through the relaunch of our Titanic Irish Whiskey brand and the proposed development of a new distillery at Thompson Dry Dock and Pump-House. We are already selling our unique whiskey abroad and envisage the distillery becoming another important attraction on the Titanic site,” he says.

The planned distillery is within walking distance of the spectacular Titanic Building, a world recognised tourism attraction, and the Nomadic tender which ferried passengers to the liner. Opened in 1911, the dry dock was built to accommodate the massive White Star transatlantic liners Olympic and Titanic.

The proposal, which is still at the pre-planning stage, seeks permission to turn the existing on-site café/restaurant in the pump-house into a new distillery and tourist centre which would enhance the quarter’s appeal to visitors in both short and long terms.

The dry dock is an important tourism feature of the Titanic Quarter, but it also sits close to HMS Caroline and one of Belfast’s most important business and innovation hubs, Catalyst, formerly known as the Northern Ireland Science Park which owns the site.

Titanic Distillers Ltd was set up in August 2018 as a joint venture between Peter and Belfast-based investment company Norlin Events, which is owned by Richard Irwin and Stephen Symington. Peter was behind the original scheme to transform a wing at the historic Crumlin Road gaol into an Irish whiskey distillery, the first in Belfast in almost a century. Titanic Distillers owns the established Titanic premium whiskey brand. This project was subsequently acquired by US investors including Conecuh Drinks.

The pump-house is a listed building, while the dry-dock itself remains a scheduled monument.

Titanic Distillers’ planning consultants O’Toole & Starkey say the aim is “to avoid any harmful intrusive works to the fabric of the listed building”, all distillery equipment and new internal mezzanine floors would be supported by a floating structure within the pump-house.

The consultants add: “All pump equipment and associated internal historic features of the building will also be retained in-situ and available to view as part of the visitor tour.” The exterior of the pump-house would remain untouched under the plan.

A full planning application is expected later this month. If approved, the new site is expected to be open to visitors by the end of next year.

Peter continues: “We aim to relaunch of the Titanic Irish Whiskey brand in April 2021 to coincide with the departure of Titanic on its maiden voyage to Southampton in April 1912. The whiskey was first launched in Belfast on May 31 2011, the 100th anniversary of the launch of the grand liner from the Harland and Wolff shipyard. Titanic spent her final days in Belfast in the dry-dock, where workers put the final touches to the most luxurious liner ever built. And it was here that engineering brilliance reached new heights as great minds applied themselves to the massive task of building such a grand vessel.

The dry-dock was the largest ever constructed, and it represented the pinnacle of Edwardian engineering.

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