Unique Belfast Distillery Opens Doors To Public

If you’re a whisky aficionado and you’re going to Belfast anytime soon, you might want to pop into the city’s latest tourist attraction – a distillery in the wing of a former prison!

McConnell’s Distillery will welcome tourists to the Crumlin Road Gaol, which was once used to lock up some of the country’s hardest criminals throughout the infamous Troubles during the 1970s and 80s. 

One of the former prisoners at the prison, who was locked up for IRA-related crimes, Economy Minister Conor Murphy, was in attendance for the grand opening. As reported by the Independent, the government minister said the refurb was a testament to how far the country had come over the last few decades. 

“I was a resident here for a period, not voluntarily, and it’s remarkable to be back in here and see how it has transformed,” he said. “It kind of epitomises that journey. I suppose I’m the living personification of that having been resident here and I’m thrilled to be back and it’s amazing to see the difference.”

Boost For City

The distillery was built over the last two years in the A wing of the prison, which is a Grade A-listed Victorian building, which dates back to 1845.

Belfast’s latest tourist attraction is eventually hoping to welcome up to 100,000 people per year through its doors, which should make it a great money maker for the city.  Moreover, the distillery already employs 36 staff, which it hopes to increase to 50 soon. 

And let’s not forget about the main purpose of the attraction – the whisky, which the distillery is hoping to export around the world.

With all these benefits on offer, it’s refreshing to see such positivity being derived from a building that was once a stark reminder of the city’s deeply entrenched division.

Crumlin Road Prison was used throughout the Troubles, housing both loyalist and republican remand prisoners who were held while awaiting trial.

Despite being a secure prison, the violence of the era was still perpetrated behind its walls, with the IRA murdering two loyalist prisoners in a bombing in the prison canteen. Loyalists later fired an RPG rocket at the canteen as Republicans were having their meal, so the building has quite a storied past, to say the least!

After the peace deal that was brokered in the mid-90s, the prison was closed as a working jail in 1996 before later reopening as a visitor attraction and exhibition centre. And after investors secured a lease from a Stormont department to build the distillery inside the protected building, this £30m project was complete.

Whisky distilleries are interesting places to begin with, but when one is being opened in a former prison then this has all the makings of a blockbuster tourist attraction! 

With public interest growing, there are more of these unique distilleries open. If you’re involved in whisky cask ownership and you’re keen to get involved with these interesting and potentially lucrative distilleries, there are now more options than ever.