In our new Meet the Maker series, we're shining the light on the many gifted producers behind some of Ireland's best food and drink brands. Today, we chat to Blánaid O'Hare, co-founder of Listoke Distillery and Gin School
Could you tell us a bit about the history of Listoke Distillery?
Listoke Distillery and Gin school was incorporated and opened in 2016. Initially, it was opened in an old barn on the grounds of the townland of Listoke in Co. Louth, Within a year the demand for Listoke Craft Irish Gin and the popularity of its adjacent gin school, forced the enterprise to expand into a bigger and modern state of the art industrial facility.
Why is using Irish ingredients important to your company?
It is very important to us and is very much part of the ethos here at Listoke to support local and everything Irish. As a small Irish start-up, we understand greatly the challenges of being a small business and the importance of supporting suppliers in the local community.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a food producer in Ireland?
The biggest challenge we faced thus far is market presence in what has become an increasingly competitive and saturated Irish market. As the distillery is located in a border county, the impact and challenges of Brexit have also been a challenge for us. Since the pandemic, we have been forced to suspend all Listoke gin schools.
What new trends do you see that are emerging in your industry?
The biggest trend we see is more unusual and exotic botanicals being used in the production of emerging brands. There is also a shift towards less traditional base alcohol and organic alcohol-based products. Globally there, is also a massive shift towards “non-alcoholic” gins.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your industry?
More legislative regulation and support for small distilleries as opposed to just brands. More governmental incentives and support at a global level, especially now given the change in the drinks landscape post-COVID-19.
What has running your own business taught you?
You cannot fear failure or rejection. You need to turn every mistake into a lesson. Always trust your gut, if you have a sense something is not right, it probably is not, your instincts don’t lie.
Who are some other Irish foodie brands you draw inspiration from?
We are big fans of the “Burren Smoke House” salmon products. We also love “Shines” Irish Tuna products. Locally we are big fans of Boyne Valley Cheese. As accompaniments to these products, we love anything from “The Scullery” in Tipperary. In terms of drinks, we love our local Dan Kelly’s cider. We also love “Hope” Beers. In terms of Irish Gin, we love “Beara Ocean Gin” for something unique and different.
What’s next for the company?
We hope to expand Listoke Craft Irish Gin’s presence into new and emerging markets and growing the brand to an international scale. Since COVID we have had to close our beloved Listoke Gin School. We will reopen that in the coming months also.
Find out more about Listoke Distillery & Gin School here!