Plans for a £20m whiskey emporium and distillery

Plans for a new £20m whiskey emporium and distillery in Londonderry have reached the new stage.

The brainchild of local businessman, Garvan O’Doherty, the proposal, if given the green light, will also include bars, restaurants and retail on Foyle Street and Shipquay Place.

Speaking following the launch of a community engagement as part of an application to the UK Government’s Levelling-Up fund to secure funding, Garvan said: “The whiskey project is a £20m investment project. It is one of six projects Garvan O’Doherty Group (GODG) will deliver with an overall investment of around £175m. Funding will be a mix of private sector only and public-private sector joint funding.”

GODG is proposing ‘a new landmark tourism destination and whiskey distillery for the city’. It has already secured trademarks for over 40 whiskey, white spirit, soft drink and mineral brands which will be marketed globally and available at a brand new whiskey tasting facility with bars, restaurants and shops in the city centre.

An artists’ impression of how a new craft distillery proposed by the Garvan O’Doherty Group might look

“Due to open in autumn 2023 Watt’s Whiskey Emporium on Foyle Street and Shipquay Place includes bars, restaurants, retail and an immersive brand home and visitor experience for the re-established Watt’s whiskey brands. This will be followed by a new whiskey distillery located in the city, the first for over 100 years,” the hospitality and property group states.

A GODG company, David A. Watt & Co. Ltd, has already applied for planning permission and it is now carrying out a community consultation in support of an application to the Levelling-Up fund.The company has secured the services of Derek Hardy and Aaron Flaherty, both formerly of the acclaimed Hinch Distillery in Co. Down, to drive Londonderry’s whiskey revival.

Mr. O’Doherty said: “Derek Hardy, former CEO of Hinch Distillery leads the project for GODG. He brings a wealth of experience in the drinks industry. He has been joined by Aaron Flaherty who has been appointed Head Distiller and Chief Operating Officer. Aine O’Doherty will lead the properties investment aspect on behalf of GODG, along with Sam Heaney as project manager. Both bring very significant property and development project expertise.”

If the investment proceeds it will see whiskey-making return to a former global centre of production for the first time since the Watt’s lockout when Andrew Watt of Andrew A. Watt & Co., producers of the world-famous ‘Tyrconnel,’ shut their gates on striking workers in the Bogside in 1921.

A view of how the proposed emporium will look from Foyle Street

The group predicts the legacy of distillation will be ‘brought back to life by the Watt’s Whiskey Emporium’ which will see ‘an entire Victorian block reimagined as a state-of-the-art brand home and visitor experience for the newly revived Watt’s whiskey company’.

The proposed craft distillery, headed up by Messrs. Hardy and Flaherty, will be able to produce over a million bottles a year.

It will, the groups says, ‘reintroduce the skills and craft of whiskey making to the local workforce and create a hundred new jobs with more to come.’