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.