Crumlin Road Gaol wing to become distillery with £22m investment

A wing of the historic Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast is to be regenerated into a whiskey distillery and visitor center as part of a £22.3million investment.

orty-nine jobs will be created by the Belfast Distillery Company after the Stormont Department of Infrastructure provided a lease for the J&J McConnell Distillery project in the Grade A listed building.

The prison housed dozens of political prisoners until it closed in 1996, before reopening its imposing Victorian gates as a tourist attraction in 2012.

Stormont Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd visited the site on Thursday to welcome the investment.

The distillery will span three floors, providing 1,000 square meters of distillation space and 1,700 square meters for the visitor center.

It aims to attract over 10,000 visitors to the site each year.

Visitor experiences will include whiskey tours, cocktail masterclasses, a tasting bar and boutique.

Employment opportunities will be available at various levels in sales, marketing, operations, hospitality and finance.

Mr Lyons said: “This multi-million pound investment will see the transformation of this historic Belfast building and create 49 new jobs, bringing over £1.7 million in additional annual wages to the local economy.

“The global Irish whiskey industry has tripled in size over the past decade and Belfast Distillery Company is already a great addition to the industry.

“The J&J McConnell Distillery and visitor experience will boost our economy as an export business and tourism offering.

“I look forward to its continued growth to become a globally recognized brand in the international spirits industry.”

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The Department for Communities and Invest Northern Ireland have provided combined support of £1.9 million for the project.

Ms Hargey said: “My department, through its Urban Development Grants scheme, is providing much needed investment in North Belfast with a grant of £656,000 for the Belfast Distillery.

“The project will bring economic, social and environmental improvements, create jobs and boost tourism in the region.”

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Crumlin Road Jail is now a tourist attraction (PA)

Mr O’Dowd said: “The historic setting of Crumlin Road Gaol will enhance this regeneration project and help maximize its economic, social and environmental benefits to the local and wider community.

“I welcome the ambition of this project, the hope that the distillery will help create jobs in North Belfast and attract more tourists to the area, and that it will play a key role in regenerating a significant historic building in Belfast.”

John Kelly, Managing Director of Belfast Distillery Company, said: “We launched McConnell’s Irish Whiskey in 2020 and have already achieved significant success in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and China.

“In our home market, we are seeing great success with our product to date, enjoying strong support from our business partners in the hospitality and retail sectors.

“The J&J McConnell Distillery and Visitor Experience will become our brand headquarters and help us take our business to the next level in the global whiskey market.

“The support we have received from across government has been essential in making this ambition a reality for us.

“We are really excited to expand our distillery in North Belfast and look forward to working with and supporting our local community with employment opportunities.

“We look forward to helping our great city grow and develop in the years to come.”

The project is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs program in Northern Ireland (2014-2020).

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