Donegal may not be the place you usually associate with the production of premium craft potato gin but a new company based out of the famous Inishowen Peninsula is looking to change that with the launch of their exciting new craft gin next month.
Gin has enjoyed an unexpected resurgence in the last number of years and The Muff Liquor Company are confident they can entice novice and seasoned gin drinkers alike with their inventive take on a classic distilled gin.
The Muff Liquor Company is the brainchild of Inishowen born entrepreneur Laura Bonner and her business partner Tom Russell from Manchester.
This steadfast working relationship began in the world of property and was quickly cemented by their mutual appreciation for premium distilled spirits.
Laura and Tom’s entrepreneurial natures and shared international business experience has prepared them somewhat for the adventure that lies ahead.
After spending a number of years studying and working in law, property and PR in both Dublin and London, Laura still felt she was missing an opportunity and had the idea of setting up her own distilled spirits company and specifically producing a potato based spirit.
“My grandfather Philip McClenaghan was a well-known potato farmer in Greencastle, Inishowen. One of his many hobbies was to make a poitín with potatoes, so the idea of making a potato based spirit, inspired by my grandfather that could originate from Ireland just stuck with me.
"Tom loved the idea and identified with the opportunity in the craft liquor market and so, we took the plunge and I moved back home. It’s not been easy but it’s been so fulfilling to create something from scratch, with family heritage at its heart and we’re really excited to launch!”
The gin is currently being produced in Arderin Distillery in Tullamore, Co. Offaly by Eoin Bara who owns Mór Irish Gin. However, Laura and Tom are very keen to expand the business and to eventually set up their own distillery in the village of Muff on the Donegal border.
The Muff Liquor Company name is something that they believe makes them stand out from the rest and perfectly represents the fun and cheeky identity they want to establish with the company. But behind this fun and cheeky exterior, there are the core ideas of hard work, respect for tradition and making something born of the land and crafted by hand.
Laura explains: “These were the ideas Granda McClenaghan passed down through my family and it’s something I was to make sure is at the centre of everything we do. That is the reason an illustration of him adorns the back of the bottle and I couldn’t be prouder to have him as a representation of the ideas and values of this company.”
“The brand is visually very much inspired by the past. My grandfather kept journals of recipes for his poitín, food, and plans for things he would build around the farm.
Tom says that what makes the gin so unique is its potato base. “The base alcohol is made from potatoes along with Mandarin, Lemon, Rosemary and Elderflower and one secret ingredient!
"We wanted to use some ingredients that are native to Donegal such as wildly grown elderflower. The result of this is a fresh and vibrant gin that carries sweet notes and is quite smooth to drink.
Last year in the UK almost 50m bottles of gin were sold, and last year alone gin sales dramatically increased with, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, sales of over £1.2bn.
In Ireland gin is the fastest growing spirit in the spirits category among Irish consumers as the public continue to embrace the trend. This is great news for Laura and Tom who are very keen to target those who seek out and enjoy premium gin.
Tom added, “The accelerated growth of the craft drinks sector has been a reflection of the fresh consumers’ attitudes who are entering the market, these are very much aligned with my own generation’s preferences, imbued with originality; a unique identity, more experiential, personalised and fun.
Laura added that the company is keen to establish itself in international markets such as the USA, Asia, Australia, and Europe as well as having a strong presence in the Irish market, and to be available in a range of places from craft beer-centric pubs to high-end cocktail bars to specialist gin bars and higher-end restaurants.
She explains: “The eventual plan for the company overall is to be based totally out of Inishowen and have our head office and distillery located there.
"We want to have a visitor centre that will not only showcase our brand but showcase local history also. We want to give back to the community as well by hiring local people to work with us in our base of operations. Local farmers will be the source for some of our ingredients for any drink we produce and I feel this is a real connection back to my grandfather and of course the local community of Muff and Inishowen which will be at the heart of what we do.”
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