Boatyard Distillery Team Photo

In Conversation With… The Boatyard Distillery

In Partners by Polly Hughes

Boatyard Distillery Team Photo
The Boatyard Distillery is an award-winning farm-to-bottle distillery located on the banks of the Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, North West Ireland. Made using organic Irish wheat grown in County Kildare, each bottle can be traced back to the farm and field it came from. We spoke to the team about why sustainability matters and what measures they are taking to become carbon neutral by 2023.

Please can you tell us a bit more about your brand and how you go about sourcing ingredients?

The Boatyard Distillery is Fermanagh’s first legal distillery since 1890. Our story begins in 2013 when the founder, Joe McGirr, started with planning. Joe had a pedigree within the spirits business, having worked at The Glenmorangie Company for 10 years. Whilst in Scotland, he had a dream to return to his native Fermanagh to set up a distillery. Move forward to 2016 and this dream became a reality with the Boatyard Distillery opening for business.

This product of Ireland celebrates the local land with the addition of sweet gale which is used as a botanical in our gin recipe. All other ingredients are 100% organic. In our vodka production, we only use organic wheat grown in Ireland in this farm-to-bottle product.

Boatyard Distillery Organic Sustainable Ingredients

Reducing waste is clearly a key part of your business – please can you give examples of how you reuse some of your waste products?

Our waste fruit has a number of uses when we are done with it:

  • We send some to be composted, we reuse the citrus juices in drinks often being dropped off to local bartenders, and we even made some chutney and Boatyard marmalade
  • Sloe berries go into a conserve.
  • We partnered with The Proper Chocolate Company to make a bean-to-bar chocolate bar using our spent botanicals
  • We send any liquid waste to anaerobic digesters which give electricity back into the grid
  • The barrels used for 'Old Tom Gin' are recycled into furniture, and also some local breweries reuse them in brewing
  • The cows at the McGirr family farm happily receive the spent grain from vodka production.

"Our philosophy on waste is to eliminate it - you will struggle to find a bin at the distillery!"

Boatyard Distillery Sustainable Gin by Sea

Please can you share details on your ‘No Blurred Lines’ campaign?

As a distillery we have no room for blurred lines and are clear in all our actions. When our founder, Joe, created ‘Boatyard Double Gin’, he used a double method of contact with juniper. Juniper is after all a part of the name gin, and thus the key flavour in ours. During distillation, we believe the juniper heads offer the best flavour. Thus, ‘Boatyard Double Gin’ includes 100% of all heads distilled in each run so that we don’t lose out on any juniper. This is a method many distilleries avoid, largely because it may cause a louching effect for the gin when mixed. It is the juniper oils that contribute to this louching so you definitely won’t ever catch us removing these by chill filtration. I don’t even think the distillery knows what chill filtration is!

Does the potential louching effect represent an imperfection? Maybe, but losing that flavour isn’t an option. We would rather just be transparent and spend our time on the why instead. To add to that, we celebrate this with activity titled, ‘No Blurred Lines' and you can purchase ‘No Blurred Lines’ merchandise on our website. We donate a proportion of the profits to Aware NI, who provide much support for our home market hospitality industry.

"Flexi-Hex is perfection... it is truly sustainable, looks great, easily reused by the final recipient, and a very strong form of protection."

What challenges did you come across when looking into bottle packaging and why did you choose Flexi-Hex?

Our main aim was to move away from plastic packing such as bubble wrap, but we found some paper packing can be quite messy. Flexi-Hex is perfection in the sense it is truly sustainable, looks great, easily reused by the final recipient, and a very strong form of protection.

As well as using Flexi-Hex packaging, what other changes have you made in your journey to becoming carbon neutral?

The Boatyard bottle itself is made from extra flint recycled glass. The cork we use is both natural and unvarnished, made from wood sourced from ecologically and sustainably managed forests in Portugal. We take a great deal of pride in our label, which is produced by the last British paper mill, James Cropper, and is made from recycled paper.

Pallet wrap is one of the largest contributors in the world to carbon emissions. We have employed new technology here to ensure we use recycled pallet wrap that is also recyclable. Even our shipping cartons are made from recycled pulp.

Boatyard Distillery in Flexi-Hex Packaging

What’s your favourite gin-based cocktail recipe?

My favourite gin cocktail is the very classic libation, 'The Martini'. I enjoy it made two parts gin to one part vermouth, with no garnish. 'Boatyard Double Gin' is bottled at 46% ABV which I see as the sweet spot for a well-made Martini!

Boatyard Distillery Sustainable Gin & Vodka