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.
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…..