Woah! Check Out That Rackhouse!

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Hello Beautiful! 

Feast your eyes upon this lovely little building to the left. Observe, if you will, the Barrel Roll roof, a key part of the West Coast of Ireland’s agricultural architectural vernacular. A traditional style of barn you will see dotted up and down the west coast to this day. Marvel at the local stone cladding the frontage. Installed by a true masonry craftsman. The stone was salvaged from the gable end of the cottage my Grandmother was born in, and that I now live in with my husband and recycled back into this lovely Rackhouse.


P.J. My Dad and Eugene The Craftsman Installing the Doors Also my Husband Dominic Looking on….

Note with wonder the salvaged teak doors still resplendent with the seating numbers they once boasted when they were part of the benches of a local Gaelic Football Field. These were destined for the bonfire if you can believe it until my very own Father (who is 78) made a few phonecalls…..Many is the backside that clenched tightly whilst perched on these seats as they cheered on their football or hurling teams or waited for the final whistle during a close game. I have SAVED these doors from that awful fate both the bonfire and the Arse Clenching stuff.

You will have already noticed, of course, the building’s Southerly aspect, thus ensuring it gets the full force of the sun all throughout the day. The windows? An Unusual addition you say? Perhaps here in Ireland, but we want all that thermal energy flooding in and pushing up the daytime temperature so that our whiskey has just the right conditions to breathe deeply and interact with all those lovely wood sugars in our barrels. Hence the rationale behind painting it black, we need every incremental thermal nudge we can get. It gets goddamn cold here on the West Coast of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way and we want OUR maturation environment just above 7’ Centigrade for as much of the year as naturally as possible.

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We even have a Logo on there For God’s Sake! 

My 78-year-old Father P.J. takes full credit for designing the doors and I will give it to him on this occasion, we usually clash over practicality vs. aesthetic. Without him, these lovely doors would not be there. So shout out to P.J. and another big shout out to Eugene our master carpenter who constructed them so beautifully, he is a TRUE CRAFTSMAN.

Am I slightly overexcited about the Rackhouse? Could I talk about it for another 40 minutes or so? Yes, 100% Yes.  I could yammer on about the interior the finishes the floor, the planned piece of High Tech kit that will measure every minuscule barometric, humidity and temperature change inside…(there are graphs and everything!!!!!)..but I will not.

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Off to Stare at This Again Now….

The Rackhouse was in my head for a long time. It’s based somewhat on several of the Bourbon Rackhouses I’ve seen, a little on a few French Whiskey Warehouses I’ve been to and influenced heavily by the old traditional dunnage houses that were once common here in Ireland. There was a shed just like this on the property when I was growing up, but it fell over. Now its back! The Rackhouse is the first part of our Whiskey Business vision come to life. The science of distillation is amazing but the science of maturation is even more so, (at least for me) if only because so much more goes on over an extended period of time. I am super excited to see what this little building will produce.  Excuse me while I leave my desk to go and stare blankly at it and dream about the future…..(again).

Did I mention I’m Not Making Beer?


Our Lovely Rackhouse on the Wild Atlantic Way Waiting to Be Filled 

A bit of a Rant this weeks folks, Strap Yourselves In.

It’s the second week of August now and we still don’t have our whiskey here in West Clare. Its something that I have pretty regular stress dreams about. I’ve been wading through a lot of red tape in an effort to get this to happen. No-one has done what I’m doing this in this part of the world, County Clare, in living memory.  So getting all the relevant sign offs is proving slow. Slow because the various authorities have not done it before, there is no precedent and slow because that is how things are here on the West Coast of Ireland. This makes for a great quality of life but is a goddamn disaster in terms of opening a whiskey business at pace.

I was asked again only last week to produce documentation related to our beer production and our beer equipment. As I have confirmed many, many times, I’m not making beer. I’m making whiskey. I don’t know how else to explain it other than send my business plan, have you visit the facility, show our marketing materials, taste you through the whiskey spirits samples…All of which I have done. What else do I need to do to convince people that I am not and will not be making beer any time soon…..

The next hurdle is the Health Service Executive (HSE). Whiskey is classified as Food by the HSE so I’ve had some interesting conversations around its storage. Stainless steel containers and wipe-able surfaces kind of conversations….I’ve been to many, many, many rack houses and dunnage houses and have yet to see stainless steel casks (!!!!!) …or wipe-able surfaces. Even worse I have asked for the Irish HSE Guidelines on Whiskey storage and there are none…..I was told that I’m ahead of the HSE but to look at the UK guidelines…..This means I’m facing into an HSE inspection that I cannot prepare for properly. That is NOT how I like to operate. I want to know what they want from me, then I want to deliver it so we can all move on. I don’t know what they want from me because they don’t know either exactly.

I engaged the department as I was building our rack house and have kept them informed, I’ve registered now as a ‘food’ business which I have to do…and now what will likely be a series of inspections where kind of anything goes. It will ultimately be a subjective judgement of the storage conditions and the burden of proof that it won’t kill any or infect consumers falls on me. Bear in mind that my whiskey spirit I wish to store in our lovely rackouse is at 68.5% ABV or 63% ABV which like Domestos kills all kind of germs dead. The risk is basically zero. I’ve also had alarming conversations around ventilation…..The only form of ventilation necessary or wanted in my whiskey storage facility is opening the door occasionally. I need a fairly closed environment, I’m not storing Avocados. I’m storing Irish Whiskey Spirit, in wooden casks so as to produce Irish Whiskey in about 3 years.

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Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Co. Global HQ !! Note the Reclaimed Wood on the Doors

We did get a fire safety certificate last week, which was long fought. At one point I had an office/tasting room attached to the Rackhouse but separated by a wall. This triggered all manner of safety demands on the rack-house, including multiple fire exits, multiple disabled ramps and all sorts of stuff, so I decided to not build the office bit at all just so I could get on with the goddamn thing. Instead I converted a former cowshed on site into a little office. My eyes are squarely on the export market so I’m calling this our Global HQ. I left a lot of the original features of the Cowshed in situe, for example there are still chains on the walls once used to tether the cows for milking. Getting chained to your desk is a real possibility around here. I want to get on with making whiskey, it feels like forever since we put our first batch into cask and I need to get it here so that it can soak up all this sea air.  Our  first and hopefully last HSE inspection is in a timely 3 weeks….… Send me good vibes, I’ll be here at my desk…..


The Waiting Area in our Little Office 


Original Chains used to Tether Cows to The Walls 



A Tribute to Oliver Hughes

The Irish drinks industry was rocked in the past few weeks by the death of one of our most daring pioneers; Oliver Hughes. I only met Oliver once but I most certainly admired him for a long time from afar. I was working in Singapore mulling over a plan to return home and found the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company.  I read of the plans for Dingle Distillery, and looked over their founding fathers program. I knew there and then that I needed to move forward with my own plan. This guy knew what he was doing and I felt validation in the crazy ideas swirling around my head. Oliver had essentially broken open the Irish Whiskey category and paved the way for the rest of us.

In essence he founded the first modern Craft Distillery on the Island of Ireland. He foresaw the coming renaissance through the Craft lens and laid out a clear plan to make ‘true’ small batch whiskey down there and he did it with aplomb. As with the passing of anyone you admire, it gives you pause for thought.  It’s saddening that he won’t be around to see yet another business success of his come to true fruition. It also brings into clear focus that we don’t live forever. We all leave only our legacy behind.

Oliver’s legacy is and will always be far reaching in our industry. He started two craft drinks movements in this country and inspired an entire industry in Ireland to think differently. His work influenced me to take a grand leap into the unknown and I’ll always be grateful for that.

I hope he is getting his Angel’s Share wherever he is now.